The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 18, 2005


Yellow-stalked Mycena

photo by Kay Fairweather
Name: The yellow-stalked Mycena is Mycena epipterygia. There are hundreds of different Mycenas and it is very difficult to identify most of them. David Arora in Mushrooms Demystified refers to them collectively as YAMs — Yet Another Mycena. The yellow-stalked Mycena is one of the more distinctive ones. The species name, epipterygia, means "surmounted by a small wing" but none of the field guides mention anything about a wing. It may be descriptive of a microscopic feature, or it may be that you need more imagination than I have.

When and where found: On November 13 there were many clusters of yellow-stalked Mycena under the white pines in the triangle of land defined by Brook Street, Maple Street and the Maple Street pond. You find them among the pine needles near the base of a tree or in mossy beds on dead pine. Tom Wilson sent me a photo of what is probably the yellow-stalked Mycena that he found on November 11 at Great Brook Farm State Park. It was growing in the dark inside a rotting log. The yellow-stalked Mycena is one that likes the cold weather and it can be found in the late fall right up until the heavy frosts set in. It is common in conifer forests throughout the northeast.

Distinguishing characteristics: Dainty, delicate, and fragile are words that are often used to describe Mycenas. They are tiny mushrooms with white spores and gills that are attached to the stem. There is no prize for guessing that the yellow-stalked Mycena has a yellow stalk. The stalk is two to three inches long, extremely slender, and translucent. It doesn't seem as if it would have the strength to hold up the cap. The cap is yellow-gray and conical to bell-shaped. It can be up to an inch in diameter. You can usually see radial lines around the edges. As the mushroom ages, the edges of the cap flare out. The gills are so widely spaced that an ant could swing a proverbial but little cat between them.

Competitive advantage: Experiments in the lab have shown that chemicals in decaying plant material can increase the rate of growth of some fungi but not others. Mycenas are among those that can be stimulated to grow faster if tiny quantities of chemicals extracted from pine needles are added to the nutrient medium. The most effective of these chemicals is taxifolin glycoside. Non-saprophytic mushrooms that occur in the same habitat are unaffected by the glycoside. It seems as if Mycenas have developed a competitive advantage over other species that accounts for their success in pine litter.

photo by Kay Fairweather

References: David Arora, Mushrooms Demystified; George Barron, Mushrooms of Northeast North America; Carlile, Watkinson & Gooday, The Fungi.

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

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito