We’re sadly coming to the end of the mushroom season now, here in Wales. Although I’m very cautious about eating fungi I find in the wild, my Small Child and I love collecting specimens, taking spore prints, and doing our best to use all the clues to identify them.
Last week, we were both excited — and a little spooked — to find a rather good destroying angel… it looked so innocent, and yet is so deadly.
Back at the end of August, I featured the name of one of my favorite mushrooms (to look at, and use for catching flies, anyway) — Amanita muscaria, a.k.a. fly agaric.
But lots of other lovely mushrooms have interesting names. Here are some of my top picks, mostly of the genus names on offer:
Agaricus — the genus of the wood mushrooms, many of which are edible. Among them is the popular horse mushroom and the good old field mushroom. Its name derives from that of the fly agaric.
Aleuria Aurantia — a beauty of a mushroom; the common name is “orange peel fungus,” and it is edible. Greek aleuron “white meal” and aurantia “orange.”
Cantharellus — it is a shame the scientific name of the Chanterelle is not feminine, as Cantharella is pretty splendid. Still, it’s perfectly grammatical, so if you like it, go for it. Chanterelles are some of the tastiest of mushrooms. Both the scientific and everyday names derive ultimately from Greek kantharos — a type of drinking vessel, and a reference to the mushrooms shape.
Clavaria — acquiring its name from the Latin clava “club,” these interesting fungi often have a club-like appearance, though soemties they look more like pencils, and one or two distinctly coral-like. Some of the vernacular names include golden spindles, rose spindles, and smoky spindles.
Galerina — from the Latin galea “helmet.”
Grifola — a diminutive of Latin gryphus “griffin”, so: “little griffin”; an appropriate name for a genus which includes the fairly well-known hen-of-the-woods.
Lactarius — the milkcaps. So named, because the exude droplets of “milk” when damaged.
Lepista — genus of the wonderful wood blewit. from the Latin lepista, the name of a type of goblet, a rederence to the almost goblet like shape the mushrooms develops with age.
Loreleia — a small genus, related to Omphalina and named after the mycologist Lorelei Norvell.
Omphalina — a name deriving from the Greek omphalos “navel.” A genus of very pretty, but inedible mushrooms.
Morchella — the genus of the Morel, one of the yummiest of mushrooms. The scientific name derives from its German name Morchel, while the English is from the French morille and ultimately from Late Latin morus “black.”
Mycena — the Mycena genus is characterised by small mushrooms with bell-like caps, that exude juice if broken. Their common names often feature Bonnet, which has a certain ring to it. From the Greek mukês “mushroom.”
Psathyrella — like “psychology,” pronounced without the “p.” Generally known as brittle-caps, the genus name comes from the Greek psathuros “crumbling.”
Psilocybe — often pronounced with three syllables, correctly, it should be four. In British English, the first syllable is pronounced “sigh”, while in American English, “sil” might be heard. Either way, with four syllables, it makes quite a good name, I think. It is the genus of the famed liberty cap — a.k.a the magic mushroom. From the Greek psilos “smooth” and “bare” + kubê “head.”
Ramaria — an unusal genus of rare and beautiful, coral-like fungi. They get their name from Latin ramus “branch.”
Russula — as the name suggests, the Russulas are characterized by their red caps — though not all Russulas have them; some have yellow, brown cream or grey caps. They often look pretty — but they effects won’t be. Russula emetica, for instance, is “the sickener.”
Suillus — the genus of one bunch of the boletes, many of which are edible and very good. The name derives from the Latin sus “pig” and means “little pig.”
Tazzetta — “little tazza”; a tazza being a type of ornamental bowl or vase. The rare Tazzetta scotica looks a bit like an egg with a nibbled shell.
Telamonia — a subgenus of Cortinarius (the webcaps), deriving from the Greek telamon “belt” and “strap.” Telamon, for the record, is also the name of a Greek hero, father of Ajax and Teucer.
Thelephora — has the charming vernacular name of Earthfan (though stinking earthfan is perhaps a bit too vivid). From the Greek phêlê “nipple” + phoros “bearing.”
Xylaria — a number of non-edible fungi, which have less than attractive vernacular names such as “dead moll’s fingers” and “dead man’s fingers.” The name derives from Greek xularion “twig.”
I’ll return to mushrooms in later posts — there’s plenty to pick from, when it comes to mushrooms.