The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 16, 2008


Fuzzy Foot mushrooms

This Fuzzy Foot mushroom was found in Great Brook Farm State Park..

Name. Fuzzy Foot mushrooms are classified as Xeromphalina campanella. The root xer- means dry, omphal means navel or umbilicus, and the suffix -ina means small, so the genus name suggests a small, dry navel. Campan means bell and the suffix -ella is another way to indicate small, so altogether we have a little bell with a little dry navel – and not to forget the common name, it also has a fuzzy foot.

When and where seen. I found a colony of Fuzzy Foot on a very old stump (the bark was gone and the wood was soft) along Heartbreak Ridge in Great Brook Farm State Park on May 10. They grow on conifer wood and can sometimes be found in hundreds.

Distinguishing characteristics. Fuzzy Foot has a yellowish orange cap up to an inch across with a small depression in the center. This depression would be the innie version of a navel. You could say that the cap is shaped like a small bell (campanella) but no more so than many other mushrooms and not as perfect a bell-shape as some.

The stalk is slender, about 1.5 to 2 inches long, yellow at the top, purplish brown at the bottom, and it ends in a bulbous “foot” covered with yellow-orange fuzz. The gills are yellow, rather widely spaced, and they run a little way down the stalk. Unlike most mushrooms, these have some ability to revive after having dried out.

The fuzzy foot is more visible here.The mushroom sits in Kay Fairweather’s palm.

Spores. Characteristics of spores can help one identify mushrooms. The most accessible feature is the color of the spores en masse. You can’t assume the color of the spores will be the same color as the gills, but you can bring the mushroom home and make a spore print on a piece of paper, or sometimes, especially with mushrooms growing in a tight cluster, you will find that one of the upper mushrooms may have dropped enough spores on the cap of a mushroom below it that you can see the color.

But size and shape are useful too. Consider the situation in which your only sample is stomach contents pumped out in the emergency room. The mushrooms have lost a lot (okay - all) of their charm and no longer look like the ones in the field guide. The spores however retain their size and shape and can be used in conjunction with the victim’s description of the mushroom to arrive at a possible identification.

The Fuzzy Foot has white spores which make a nice-looking spore print because the gills are so widely spaced. Under the microscope at 1000x, I could see that the individual spores were elliptical and about seven to eight microns long and three to four wide. On some, I could also see the little nipple where the spore had been attached to the basidium which produced it.

Fuzzy Foot mushrooms are described in most of the field guides as inedible which is different from poisonous. This generally means that it is not known to be poisonous, but if I wanted to start eating things inedible, I doubt I’d choose this when I have so many other options.

Spring mushrooms. The best-known spring mushroom is the morel. It is not common around here but can be found where there is limestone and around old apple trees and elms. False morels are also up. They are poisonous but easy to distinguish from true morels. On Lowell Street, near the North Road intersection, there is a nice cluster of mushrooms called Dryad’s Saddle (sans Dryad) – a topic for another day.

References. Mushrooms of North America by Alan Bessette, Arleen Bessette, David Fischer; Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora.

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