Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of usually a substrate or wood dwelling fungus. These structures primarily serve as spore dispersal systems, usually for members of the group Basidiomycota. (However, there are notable exceptions to this rule in regard to some mushrooms such as the prized morels and true truffles.) Although mushrooms vary widely in shape, size and color, even among members of the same species, many generic mushrooms are characterized by the presence of a stem, cap and some sort of surface which spores are released from. These can range from the common gills, to pores (As in the prized boletes), to spines (as in the genus Hydnum, or the hedgehog mushroom), to folds (as in the chantrelles) to smooth surfaces which are indistinguishable from the rest of the fruiting body. There are some notable exceptions, such as the jelly fungi and coral fungi, the former lacking a stalk, and the latter lacking any sort of cap. Even within the archetypal mushroom type there is great diversity.
It is perfectly safe to touch any mushroom, even deadly poisonous species; one must ingest a poisonous mushroom to be harmful. People are often terrified of fatal mushroom poisoning, but in reality, only a tiny handful of mushrooms can kill a person. In Davis, three species of deadly mushrooms have been found: Amanita ocreata, Galerina marginata, and Pholiotina rugosa group. Two of these are small, less than 2cm across and thin fleshed, and are very unlikely to be eaten. That being said, take classes, learn from a wild mushroom expert, and be absolutely sure of your identification before eating a wild mushroom (or for that matter, any mushroom, other than the boring Agaricus bisporus from the supermarket). Unfortunately, tragic instance of mushroom poisoning occur regularly in Northern California, such as this occurrence in 2012: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/12/02/5024170/death-cap-mushrroom-looks-good.html and these in 2010-11: http://science.kqed.org/quest/2011/03/09/life-threatening-mushroom-poisoning/
The cool damp climate of Fall and Spring in Davis is perfect for the growth of fungus. In the Arboretum and all around the city mushrooms can be found at this time of year. Hopefully a mycologist will join the wiki and enumerate them all for us. However, if you are hunting edibles, one must go the the Sierras or Coast.
For information on mushrooms available in stores in Davis, visit Commercial Mushrooms in Davis.
Mushrooms found in Davis
- Agaricus xanthodermus - Probably the most common cosmopolitan lawn mushroom in Davis. Extretreamly prolific in fall.
- Agaricus californicus - Poisonous
- Agaricus campestris (Meadow Mushroom) - Edible, but take care not to confuse it with A. xanthodermus or A. californicus
- Agaricus cupreo-brunneus (Brown Meadow Mushroom) - Edible, similar to A. campestris
- Agaricus bitorquis (torq) - Edible, compare with A. bernardii. Occasional in lawns and hard packed soil.
- Agaricus bernardii - Edible, briney to some.
- Chlorophyllum brunneum. (Shaggy parasol) - Some are edible, though some people are allergic. Common in 'ignored' areas in davis, ie overgrown landscaping.
- Coprinus comatus (Shaggy Mane) - Edible. Pops up immediately after rains, especially in fall and early winter.
Coprinopsis atramentaria (Inky cap)
- don't drink alcohol for the next couple days, Coprinus mushrooms have Coprine, a Disulfiram like toxin that is used to treat alcoholics; it is safe to eat if you aren't planning on drinking
- Common in fall and spring after rains, often near rooting tree roots and stumps.
- Coprinellus spp. (Inky cap) Does not contain coprine, unlike some in genus coprinopsis
- Conocybe spp. - Should not be eaten, some contain amatoxins.
- Pholiota spp.
- Pholiotina spp. - Deadly poisonous
- Inocybe spp. - Most Inocybe are poisonous.
- Psathyrella spp.
- Psathyrella candolleana - Reported edible, but can be difficult to distinguish from some other Psathyrella spp.
- Volvopluteus gloiocephalus - Extremely common in Davis grassy areas. Slimy gray/white top
Armillaria mellea (Honey Mushroom)
- use caution - these can resemble a deadly species, which also grows on wood at the same time of year - some people are made sick by these so if you decide to eat it please try only a very small amount the first time and cook it well, otherwise choice edible
- Amanita ocreata - Deadly poisonous, under oaks in winter and spring
- Hebeloma spp. - All Hebeloma species should be considered poisonous.
- Hypholoma fasciculare (Sulfur tuft) - Poisonous
- Omphalotus olivascens (Western Jack O Lantern) - Poisonous
- Lactarius alnicola - Inedible, strongly latently acrid (Peppery)
- Lactarius pubescens - Inedbile, strongly acrid.
- Leucoagaricus leucothites - White mushroom, grown in lawns. One of the first to show up in the fall.
- Laetiporus gilbertsonii - aka chicken of the woods - edible to some. Easily identifiable yellow, orange mushroom common on Eucalyptus and other hardwoods. Early season fruiter, common in Davis September to October.
- Trametes versicolor. (Turkey tail) - Inedible, but used in Asia to make medicinal tea
Those looking for edible varieties should check out the Farmers Market, as there is one table full of nothing but various mushrooms. Those looking for the mood enhancing varieties should contact their local drug dealer. In case you are curious, the most popular active species are Psilocybe cubensis, Psilocybe semilanceata, Psilocybe cyanescens, Psilocybe stunzii and Gymnopilus spectabilis. Most of these are indistinct brown mushrooms which resemble billions of other uninteresting brown mushrooms, and a couple of deadly poisonous ones.
If you seek the absolute best edible mushrooms, your best bet is to somehow head to Coast during the late fall to early spring after the rains. The Sierras are also very fruitful in the late spring through fall, after the snow has melted. Some prized edibles you may find may include oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), chantrelles (Cantharellus californicus and Cantherellus subalbidus), boletes (Boletus sp.), candy caps (Lactarius rubidus), and morels (Morchella spp).
Those interested in a more scholarly knowledge of mushrooms can enroll in PLP 40 and learn how to grow your own. This class is given winter quarter.
Visit our Town Flora page for more information on plants and fungi found locally.