The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 7, 2005


Sharp Scaly Pholiota

(Photo by Kay Fairweather)

Name: The scientific name for this mushroom is Pholiota squarrosoides. To understand the name, you have to start with the related mushroom Pholiota squarrosa, the Scaly Pholiota. Phol- means scale and the suffix -ota means furnished with or possessing. Squarros- means the scales are upright with a rough scurfy appearance. The suffix '-oides' means resembling or similar to. So, Pholiota squarrosoides is similar to Pholiota squarrosa which is a scaly mushroom with upright scales. I find that scientific names formed from Greek and Latin elements are much easier to remember when I know the translation.

When and where found: I found several clusters of these Pholiotas on a log in the Towle Woods on October 1.

Distinguishing characteristics: The most prominent characteristics are the scales on the cap and the stem, and the stickiness of the cap. Pholiota squarrosa, which I have also found in the Towle Woods, has a very dry cap. The caps are pale brown to ochre and can be up to four inches in diameter. These ones were still in the button stage and were only about an inch across. The stalk is off-white or very pale brown. Both the Scaly and the Sharp Scaly Pholiotas grow in clusters.

Edibility: The Audubon Field Guide lists this mushroom as edible. Its relative, Pholiota squarrosa, is poisonous and other Pholiotas are listed as "edible - with caution." I don't eat any of them. I like my food to be "edible — with confidence." Besides, the sliminess of the cap of the Sharp Scaly Pholiota is not very appealing.

Spore print: The color of the spores is a very useful characteristic in narrowing down the identification of a mushroom. The Pholiotas have brown spores. You can't assume that the spore color will be the same as the color of the cap or the gills. Some brown mushrooms have white spores and vice versa. Sometimes you can find a dense enough spore deposit around a mushroom in the field to see the color. The rest of the time, you need to make a spore print. To do this, you slice the cap off the stem so that it can sit more or less level, with the gills facing down. Place it on a sheet of paper (newsprint is good if you don't know whether to expect white or colored spores). Cover the mushroom with a bowl to keep air currents from blowing the spores around. Sometimes you will have enough spores in an hour or two to see their color; sometimes it may take many hours.

References: David Arora, Mushrooms Demystified; Gary Lincoff, National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mushrooms.

Submissions and ideas for the Biodiversity Corner are encouraged on any wildlife in town. Send a note to Kay Fairweather at 392 School Street, Carlisle MA 01741 or to

Footnote: If you are interested in learning more about mushroom identification, check the Trails Committee walk on page 24. We will go into the Towle Woods tomorrow and use the mushrooms we find to illustrate different identifying features. Pray for a soaking overnight rain on Friday.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito