The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 11, 2002


Biodiversity Corner Honey Mushroom

Name: Honey mushroom or Armillaria mellea. The Armillaria mellea complex is a group of species. Professional mycologists are still not clear on all the diagnostic characteristics within the group.

When and where found: In my yard on School Street on and near oak stumps, from mid-September and continuing prolifically with new clusters of up to 30 or 40 mushrooms every few days. There are also some small clusters of 10 or 12 mushrooms.

Distinguishing characteristics: The cap is yellowish, ochre, or honey-colored and anywhere from 1.5 to 6 inches across. It is button-shaped at first and later flattens out. The gills and spores are whitish, the stalk is whitish at first and becomes brownish in age. There is a thick white or yellowish ring on the upper part of stalk which may disappear early

Growth: This fungus grows on living plants and on dead wood. It is capable of attacking and killing trees, especially oaks, and is a virulent parasite of mixed hardwood forests causing large timber losses every year. It has shiny black cordlike filaments called rhizomorphs which can spread along tree trunks and tree roots seeking new food sources. These rhizomorphs can transport food long distances and thereby allow the fungus to bridge across nutrient-poor areas and grow into a "humongous fungus".

Edibility: The usual warning about eating wild mushrooms definitely applies here. Do NOT eat any mushroom that you cannot identify with certainty. In addition, other fall mushrooms, like the appropriately named Deadly Galerina, sometimes grow near the Honey Mushrooms so it's important to take care when collecting. Some people get gastric upsets from Honey Mushrooms so don't eat a lot the first time you try them.— and, always cook them thoroughly. I cooked a nice big batch on Sunday and left them on the counter for a few hours. During my absence my dogs ate as many as they could reach — no gastric upset.

References: Mushrooms of North America by Roger Phillips, Tom Volk's Fungi on the web at and for recipes try the Mycological Society of San Francisco at

Submissions for the Biodiversity Corner are encouraged from everyone. The organism doesn't have to be unusual. The only requirements are that it exists in the wild and was seen in Carlisle. Send a note to Kay Fairweather at 392 School St, Carlisle MA 01741 or to

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito