Sunday, December 06, 2015

Water lovers

At the top of the beaches all along the Campbell River shore, a barricade of logs divides land from sea. It's the ocean's doing; humans have erected an inner rock barrier between logs and paths. In spots, they clear away the logs, but the water always brings them back. Following a trail down to the beach entails scrambling over a dozen or more piled logs.

At this time of year, with alternating bouts of rain, frost, rain, chilly sunshine, more rain, the logs are always wet and often slimy and treacherous underfoot.

Picking my way carefully back to land, Friday afternoon, I found a colony of wooly mushrooms on one of these wet logs.

Tiny split gill mushrooms

One of the larger mushrooms, about 3/4 inch across.

A fuzzy, lacy top, but tough; even tougher than the wood they grow on.

These are Split Gill mushrooms, Schizophyllum comune. The Latin name means "Common Split Leaf". They are named for the fruiting structure on the underside of the mushroom. Except that they are not gills, nor are they leaves, but simply folds in the surface to protect the spores.

Very fuzzy photo taken from underneath the log, where only the camera fit, plus one finger to press the shutter. But the split "gills" are visible.

These mushrooms grow on dead hardwoods. I've seen them on logs in the summer; shrivelled, hard, and dry, looking dead.

When the weather is dry, the mushrooms fold inward, protecting the fruiting underside. And the rays underneath close tightly. In this state, they can tolerate long dry spells, even several years without rain.

And then it rains. The mushroom expands, flattens out. All those rays split themselves open down the middle, sort of like a dry bean pod, opening to spit out the beans. (The split rays are visible in the photo above.) Inside each ray, spores are formed and released as long as the wet continues.

They can repeat the cycle several times, opening and closing, resting and fruiting, without harm. Even in the dead of winter, they are still capable of producing viable spores, as long as they have moisture.
... Schizophyllum commune. It is probably the most widespread fungus in existence, being found on every continent except Antarctica, where there is no wood to be used as a substrate. There is a single common worldwide species, although there are a few less common species of Schizophyllum. (From

My mushroom books, and half the websites I found, say that this mushroom is not edible.

Inedible; too small and leathery to be of culinary value. (Mykoweb)

These bracket-like fungi are often tougher than the timber from which they sprout, and so they are of no culinary interest. (First Nature)

But Wikipedia explains that this is probably due to different tastes. It is "widely consumed" in Mexico, in India, and elsewhere. I never saw it in Mexico, but I did eat other "non-edible" fungi there.

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