Good evening, friends,
This will be the last traditional MM before I take the next month to craft the first ever Mushroom Monday book report. That means next week will be the first week without an email in over three years. It feels like a good time to take a break, though. I’m excited to mix it up and I have lots of fun ideas to kick around for next year (like a group field trip/camping trip).
To close out November we’re going to look at one of my favorite fall mushrooms, Coker’s Lavender Staining Amanita (Amanita lavendula). That common name is a mouthful, sure, and I’ll usually just call this the “lavender amanita” because of the subtle shades of lavender that contrast with the pale yellow cap. There isn’t too much known about this species and it’s very similar to the false death cap (Amanita citrina). In fact, the mushrooms are part of the same “species complex”, but there is one colorful characteristic that separates A. lavendula from the rest.
When I brought this mushroom to the New York Mycological Society zoom ID session there was not a consensus on whether this was a separate species from A. citrina, or whether it was just a variant/subspecies that happens to display lavender tones. Fortunately, Mical from NYMS was able to reach out to leading Amanita expert, Rod Tulloss, to help with the investigative leg of this publication. Through Mical via Facebook messenger, Rod confirmed that the species are distinct and referenced a study he helped publish in 2018.
Rod went on to explain the difference between the two is that A. lavendula will turn purple when exposed to low temperatures while A. citrina does not. For clarification, the mushroom doesn’t fully turn purple, but will exhibit subtle lavender shades on the remnants of the universal veil, along the stipe (stem), and at the base (volva) when the mercury dips. However, there have been findings of purple specimens where the temperature has never dipped below 50 degrees Farenheit, so who knows (Reference 5).
Mical even did her own field research by placing what she believed to be A. citrina in the fridge to see if she could evoke those lilac tints. She found no change in color which, per Rod’s rule, suggests she does in fact have A. citrina.
The other fun feature of these mushrooms is that they smell like raw potatoes. It’s one of my favorite mushroom smells and I’m always eager to inhale when I find this species. Some of the A. citrina mushrooms smell like raw potatoes too, so it’s not a species-specific trait, and some of these mushrooms don’t smell at all so the trait is variable. That’s mycology folks. It’s nice when it’s present, remember to smell your mushrooms.
The common name of the fungus is named after the botanist and mycologist William Chambers Coker, who also has Amanita cokeri and the genus Cokeromyces to his name. It should be noted that he didn’t name these himself, they were all named after him. It’s a bit of a faux pas to discover a species and name it after yourself - you gotta name it after your heroes. Maybe one day I’ll discover the genus Aragornomyces.
The fungus is mycorrhizal with either pines or oaks or both. It’s found in mixed woods, which is what we have in Manitou, and I find it quite frequently in the fall. However, I don’t think I’ve seen the non-purple A. citrina. The fungus grows late in the fall in North America east of the Rockies, ranging from Canada down into Mexico. The pale yellow color of the cap separates the species complex from other Amanitas and then you have to determine if there are any purple tones or not.
On his website (Reference 1), Rod writes that there are two nearly identical species that one might see at the same time of the year - both end of the season Amanitas. The first is the A. americitrina (a tentative name for the North American species of A. citrina) which doesn’t turn purple. The second is A. mappa which also doesn’t turn purple and isn’t found in North America. For all intents and purposes, they’re all physically identical so the purple test is what we have to rely on at this point in time. It is still unclear how reliable that test is, but it’s somewhere to start. The spores on A. lavendula are also smaller than the aforementioned species.
Full moon tonight - the Beaver Moon. Take care until we speak again and have a lovely holiday season,
Kuo, M. (2013, March). Amanita citrina f. lavendula. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/amanita_citrina.html
Hughes KW, Tulloss RH, Petersen RH. Intragenomic nuclear RNA variation in a cryptic Amanita taxon. Mycologia. 2018 Jan-Feb;110(1):93-103. doi: 10.1080/00275514.2018.1427402. PMID: 29864000.