Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Amanitas on Roan Mountain

Amanita flavorubescens or Yellow Blusher
Amanita sinicoflava
Amanita flavoconia or Yellow Patches
Amanitas are unique mushrooms that truly stand out in highland areas like Roan Mountain, whether enjoying the mycorrhizal nutrients that a spruce-fir forest has to offer (like the Amanita sinicoflava mushroom at the top left) or desperately trying to thrive in mowed lawns (like the panther cap on the bottom). And it is hard to believe that the deadliest mushroom, as well as some of the most edible mushrooms, come from this same genus. The thing that makes most people stop in wonder at patches of Amanitas, though, are the regal characteristics that make identifying the mushrooms so easy. The imposing, ornamental ring, along with the strange, ovate volva at the base, and some times even patches on a viscous cap. Interestingly enough, the ring, patches and volva, all are remnants of an early stage of the Amanita's growth. At first, the universal veil covers the whole mushroom. As the mushroom grows, however, the veil splits, either forming the volva and patches, or just a volva. The ring, on quite a few amanitas is the result of the remaining veil on the inside of the mushroom. So other than that, an Amanita grows like many other gilled mushrooms. But not only are Amanitas a dark fear looming over new mushroom hunters, a pride for the experienced mushroom hunter or culinary artist, or a beautiful addition to the natural landscape, they are needed by forests to allow them to survive. The well known Showy Lady's Slipper, a highly endangered orchid, relies on mycorrhizal fungus to survive. In fact, a whole group of plants need fungal symbiosis, and they are called mycotrophs. In fact, some scientists believe that American Beech trees are somewhat mycotrophs! But as well as helping a handful of plants by symbiotic relationships, the Indian Pipe plant and Coralroot Orchids all parasitize the mycorrhizal fungus. These factors are a big help in biodiversity, and that is very important to Roan Mountain. So as summer and fall turn to winter, if you see these amazing mushrooms, remember what all they do for the forests, indirectly and sometimes even directly helping humans. Happy Trails, Critter Cade
Amanita pantherina var. velatipes or Panther Cap

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