The Rattray Marsh temporarily has a wide wood-chip covered path very close to the Old Poplar Row parking spot. The path has been used while the crews have been removing the dead and dying Ash trees. I don’t normally walk on it but I did step off trail onto the wood chips recently to let a large group of joggers pass (and to keep an eye on several Kinglets that had been adjacent to the main path until the noise startled them.) To my surprise, right in the middle of this temporary path was a cluster of small white and off-white fungi which had been drizzled with clear, bright ruby red juice!
A Fungus That Looks Good Enough To Drink?
Although I’ve never had the slightest interest in eating wild mushrooms, these ones actually looked rather appealing. They looked vaguely like a sweet dessert of some kind, at least at first glance.
I wasn’t quite sure what the juice was or where it had come from. It was a dry, sunny day after several other dry days so it was unlikely to be rain water. Yet the “mushroom” was dripping with not just beads of cranberry-coloured juice but also some small puddles of it.
I’ve never seen a fungus that was wet like this before but I did think I remembered seeing photos of one.
Strawberries and Cream Anyone?
A quick search on the internet found what is probably the correct type. (I would NEVER eat any mushroom or fungus based only on an internet identification, though! Please do not ever use my attempts at id to make a life-threatening decision either!)
The most pleasant common name for it is “Strawberries and Cream.” The formal name is Hydnellum peckii.
It’s a good thing I didn’t try to eat or drink them. They are not particularly toxic but they are supposed to be incredibly bitter.
The juice is also NOT something to muck around with. It may contain a chemical similar to blood thinner medications!
This Is a Toothed Fungi
Several of the common names for this fungus include the word “tooth.” I wasn’t sure why since the ones I saw were vaguely popcorn shaped or big cushy blobs.
Apparently, I was looking at the wrong side of them. The “tooth” or to be more accurate, the “teeth” is or are on the underside. Instead of the “gills” I know many mushrooms have underneath, this type of fungus has little pointy “teeth” hanging down. The spores are produced within them. There are fewer types of “toothed” fungi than of gilled or pored types, apparently.
Do These Fungi Grow Directly from Wood Or….?
The ones I saw seemed to be growing from the stumps of small trees which had been cut off flush to the ground. I had assumed that they were small Ash trees but now I’m not so sure. All of the info I’ve seen says these fungi grow in some sort of relationship with trees in the Pine family.
The various websites also say that they do not have to grow straight from wood but are often found on the ground under pine trees.
Where in the World Do Strawberries and Cream Fungi Live?
These are very widespread. Specimens have been found throughout much of North America and in parts of Europe and Asia.
Where Did the Orange – Red Fungi Fluid Come From?
There are many websites that mention these colourful fungi but don’t explain why they have juice.
I finally found an interesting article online by Erast Parmasto and Andrus Voitk that provides a clearly explained hypothesis. They think the moisture is just a by-product of rapid growth. The excess water is exuded from the fungi in a process called “guttation.” In their photo example of a Hydnellum peckii from Gros Morne, they point out that the fungus is soft and light in colour, signs that it is freshly growing, which is likely why it still has fluid on the outside.
The authors say that the red colour to the juice is from “terphenylquinone dye (or a derivative), a pigment produced by this genus of mushrooms.”
When I was looking at these small fungi at the Rattray, I noticed several nearby ones did not have the red juice on them. (In fact, I also did a quick check to see if there was an empty Kool-aid container anywhere around or a toddler in a stroller!)
Now I wonder if the “drier” fungi were simply older or much younger and growing more slowly. Given that the day after I visited, the rains began and continued for several days, I guess I wasn’t able to check.
I will keep an eye out for these strangely appealing fungi in the future, though!
Have you seen some of these juicy fungi? Please share your sighting with a comment.