Good evening, friends, and happy first day of May.
This week’s mushroom is the the Common Brown Cup. A snoozer of a common name, and a doozy of a latin name (pronunciation is something like phil-o-sigh-fuh phil-ah-jenna). I’ve also seen it called the “pig-ear cup” because the mature cups bear a resemblance to the inside of a dog ear (and presumably a pig ear, I just have had limited interactions with pig ears up to this point in my life so I’ll leave it to the experts). I found these cups a week ago growing around a dead ash and, like morels, these are a common spring time mushroom you may encounter when walking in the woods. Also, stay tuned until the end (or just scroll all the way down) for mushroom walk announcements :).
P. phyllogena is known as a “cup fungus” (as are most members of the Family Pezizaceae) because of the fragile, rubbery, cup-shaped fruiting bodies. It is thought that the fruiting bodies are shaped like cups to help channel rain drops into the cup which subsequently helps eject spores. P. phyllogena is an ascomycete so the spores are developed internally, in a sac called an ascus, before they’re ejected into the world. Perhaps the most important thing to know, and the only thing worth remembering in this whole article, is that if you blow directly into the cups you can see the spores discharge. I’ve brought this up before, and that the large spore release could be a result of the sudden humidity change, but watching it happen is still as neat as ever.
This fungus has gone through a litany of name changes. It has previously been known as Peziza badioconfusa and Peziza phyllogena before Nicolas Van Vooren used DNA sequencing to move this species over to the genus Phylloscypha (Reference 3). Phyllo- comes from the Greek “phýllon” which means “leaf” and -scypha is derived from the Greek “skúphos” which translates to “cup”.
The fungus is saprobic, decomposing dead organic material and wood. It can pop up on the forest floor or on well-decayed logs and stumps. Fruiting bodies can pop up solitarily but usually you’ll find several clustered and scattered around the area. They grow in the spring, in the same ephemeral window as morels from late April into early May, and are found in temperate regions across the northern hemisphere.
As alluded to in the first picture, a distinct characteristic of P. phyllogena fruiting bodies is the purple tones mostly observed in the “inner surface” of the cup, but sometimes visible externally as well. As is the case with almost all fungi, this trait is not an absolute and color varies from specimen to specimen. Other cups ranged from dark red to brown.
The 2023 mushroom season is picking up steam and with that we’ve got a few walks on the docket. Some more walks will likely get sprinkled in but here’s what we have at the moment:
5/28/2023: Central Park mushroom walk at 10AM. We’ll meet in the Ramble near my old toolbox, I’ll post the exact location the week before. All are welcome.
6/10/2023: Stamford Land Conservation Trust mushroom walk at 10AM. Will post the meet-up point the week before, but it’s the same as last time. All are welcome.
7/30/2023: New York Mycological Society walk at Manitou Point Preserve (where I work). New spot for the club and I’m excited to show folks the land I steward. All are welcome.
If you’re interested in private walks you can book them through Catskill Fungi, and if a fungal retreat is what you’re looking for well we’ve got one of those too on the weekend of 6/4-6/5. Come on up and get myceliated.
Have a great week and let it rain,
1) Kuo, M. (2007, May). Peziza badioconfusa. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/peziza_badioconfusa.html.
3) Van Vooren, N. 2020. Reinstatement of old taxa and publication of new genera for naming some lineages of the Pezizaceae (Ascomycota). https://ascomycete.org/Portals/0/Archives/AscomyceteOrg%2012-04%20179-192.pdf