Mushrooms, if you don’t know it yet, are FRUITS. They bear the spores that keep the cycle of the fungi to continue (like an apple is a fruit of an apple tree.) If that is the case, then where is the tree that produces these fruits? They are underground, which we call MYCELIUM. Wikipedia defined it as the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae.
It seems like I am going too deep with these terms so before I forget my main topic, I would like to present the general parts of a mushroom, particularly an agaric one. I used several terms for each part as people tend to use different terms to describe a mushroom:
CAP/PILEUS: can be of different colors but the most common are white, brown or yellow. This protects the gills. The identification of a mushroom would not be so easy if we rely on the cap as it changes while it grows and is subjected to wear and tear.
GILLS/LAMELLAE/HYMENEUM: Located under the cap are the fertile spore-producing gills. Gills are very important in identification of mushroom species. The spacing of the gills, how crowded or spaced they are, the attachment of gills to the stem and the color are important features. Not all mushrooms have gills, as you can see in the gallery, some has sponge underneath the cap which are actually tubes that bear the spores. (The spores also play a very important role in identification. One can know the color of the spores by cutting the stem from the cap and letting the cap sit on a white paper or a glass and cover it. This will leave a print which is cool but I wasn’t able to get a whole print so I have no photos of it.)
RING/ANNULUS: Looking closely at the stem, one will find a ring or membrane under the cap which was a part of the cap when it was still a button. As the cap grows, the membrane ruptures exposing the gills and the indication that the spores are ready to be distributed. Rings are also used in identification. Its location on the stem, its shape and texture can be useful.
STALK/STEM/STIPE: This part supports the cap of the mushroom and evolved for the purpose of spore dispersal (bear in mind that not all mushrooms have stems.) It grows fast as it can absorb a lot of water. Just like the other parts, this plays an important role in identifying mushrooms – The shape, size, how it change in color when bruised, and its texture. On the practical side, as my co-worker and the one who introduced me to mushroom hunting said, the stem can be used to tell if the mushroom is bugged. If the cross-section is clean then it is good!
CUP/BASE/VOLVA: This part is actually a remnant of a membrane that covers the immature mushroom and this ruptures as the stem grows. Under the cup will be the mycelium.
The next time you see a mushroom, do not hesitate to pick it up as it doesn’t hurt the tree. It is more like a bird pecking on an apple and leaving a trail of apple seeds. In mushrooms’ case, you’ll just spread the spores. Be sure to wash your hands if the mushroom is not familiar. I usually carry with me some wet wipes to be sure. I may have known the parts and a bit of what it signifies but I am still not bold enough to pick up wild mushrooms by myself. I believe in the saying that,
There are two types of mushroom hunters – the old mushroom hunters and the bold mushroom hunters but there are no old bold mushroom hunters!
Let us part with that saying for now. The more I know about mushrooms the more fascinated I become. My last walk was very exciting because I found a chantarelle and was verified by a fellow mushroom hunter!
Some terminology used:
HYPHAE: Long, branching filamentous structure of a fungus