Sunday, 16 March 2014

Winter Mushrooming in the Alder Swamp III: Plicaturopsis crispa and Plicatura nivea




Plicaturopsis crispa has gill-like spore-bearing folds
The gill-like folds of Plicaturopsis crispa often have a green tinge.

Plicaturopsis crispa is a sweet little sessile mushroom that often grows in large, overlapping numbers on dead deciduous trees. The species part of its name, "crispa," comes from the Latin word for "curly" and refers to the wiggly, often forked, spore-bearing folds on its underside. I've found these little guys many times in late summer and early fall on forest trees. It was only when I started mushrooming in the dead of winter that I started finding them down by the creek on dead alders.

Plicaturopsis crispa is shrivelled up in the winter
Though tiny and shrivelled in the winter, Plicaturopsis
crispa
will produce spores if reconstituted indoors. 

But wait! Not only did I find Plicaturopsis crispa, I also found her sister, Plicatura nivea, which I've been looking for for years with no success, and which, because I hadn't found it, I'd decided was terribly rare in my neighbourhood. Well, it's not.
Plicatura nivea looks unimpressive in the winter
Plicatura nivea is an unimpressive
mess in cold weather.

















First I'll have to admit that I've avoided looking for anything on those wetland alders for more than twenty years because a) the hip-waders I bought at a lawn sale way back when only lasted one season, and b) there are a whole lot of bloodsuckers swimming around in the water those alders stand in. So that's my excuse for not knowing that all I needed to do to find Plicatura nivea was to wade into the alder swamp in the late fall where I would have found plenty of fresh ones since there certainly are an awful lot of frozen ones in there now.


Close-up of spore-producing hymenial surface of Plicatura nivea
This reconstituted Plicatura nivea has less defined, more serpentine
folds than Plicaturopsis crispa.
In their frozen desiccated state both Plicaturopsis crispa and Plicatura nivea look pathetic—P. crispa all shrivelled and tiny and dull, and P. nivea smeared over alder bark like cake batter. But if I've learned anything about winter mushrooming this season, it's that appearances can be deceiving out in the cold. It turns out that a lot of fungi, these two included, are not dead and done and over with, which is how they look, but are merely dormant. All they need is a little TLC—a short soak in warm water indoors—and they not only plump up into fresh-looking specimens, they also display an admirable commitment to self propagation by producing spores—and often copiously. Presumably, if the weather around here ever warms up, if spring ever comes, there will be an absolute spore-fest out there in the woods.

close-up of Plicaturopsis crispa hymenial surface and cap
Close-up of Plicaturopsis crispa.

Plicaturopsis crispa and Plicatura nivea, which are both wood decaying saprobes, are similar enough both genetically and morphologically that many now think they should share the genus Plicatura

Plicaturopsis crispa and Plicatura nivea are so closely related they can grow side by side
Plicaturopsis crispa and Plicatura nivea are so closely related,
they sometimes grow together. 



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