Sunday, February 7, 2010

Redlead Roundhead

More mushrooms in our backyard, this one with a common name, Redlead Roundhead. The Latin name is Leratiomyces ceres.
It was not easy for me to identify this one. I began with my one slim mushroom guide, which has a simple key to identify fungi. It told me I had to take a spore print to discover what color the spores were. It also identified the parts of the mushroom and told me how to make a spore print. Here's my spore print:
I decided these were purplish brown. Then I had to look closely at the gills and stem to decide if the gills were waxy, free, adnate, adnexed, decurrent, or a mixture of several of these. I had to examine the stipe (stem) to see if it had an annulus or a volva (don't ask). It was very interesting to look closely at a mushroom but all this examination did not lead me to anything that looked like these mushrooms. I finally ended up online at mykoweb, clicking through all the photos of mushrooms with purplish-brown spores. Finally I ended up at Leratiomyces ceres (which likes to grow on wood chips).
One thing I learned from my mushroom research is that quite a few genera have been split into two or more genera in recent years, due to microscopic differences. So my 1971 mushroom guide is quite outdated, but I am fond of it for sentimental reasons and so I'll keep it anyway. It was published by University California Press as part of the original California Natural History Guides series. When new, it cost $1.85. I think it looks pretty good for a nearly 40-year-old paperback.
This book belonged to my in-laws. When they were cleaning out books they gave us a boxful and all the original natural history guides from this series focusing on the S.F. Bay region were in it. I nabbed them, since I really love to read natural history guides. They are a very special kind of book that reveals both what is known and what is not known about the natural world. They are written for those of us who are walking along contentedly one day and suddenly come upon an amazing butterfly, or wildflower, or rock, or mushroom, and cannot rest until we find out more about it. The original California Natural History Guide series included books on butterflies, rocks and minerals, mushrooms, seashells, early uses of plants, evolution of the landscape, a classic on weather by Harold Gilliam, and more. They are mostly under 75 pages and very clearly and succinctly written.
Now the California Natural History Guides have been reissued, mostly completely rewritten by other authors, although Harold Gilliam did the weather one. I am a big fan of the new ones and have three of them: butterflies, trees and shrubs, and spring wildflowers. (I have written about the butterfly one, which I particularly adore, in this post.) But at 300+ pages, they are a whole different undertaking. I find myself turning to the older guides if I come back from a walk and have a burning need to read about, say, seashore plants of Northern California, before I tackle the bigger, newer one.

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