Good evening, friends,
This week’s fungus is the ever-enchanting Eyelash Cup (Scutellinia scutellata). I misspelled the Latin name every time I typed it, it ran circles around me. I mean double L’s in both names how often do you see that? I found these little cups yesterday while mushrooming up in Kerhonkson, NY after the heavy rain we got Saturday. We can’t be certain that these orange eyes are S. scutellata without checking them out under the microscope, but calling them eyelash cups is good enough for a field ID. Let’s learn a little more about these hairy saucers and if you read all the way through I’ll even provide some details at the end about the Central Park mushroom walk this Sunday, 5/28.
One interesting study that looked at the composition of the clay walls used in traditional Japanese buildings and found Scutellinia living inside them. The walls are a fermented mix of rice straw, clay, and sand, and the researchers noted that Scutellinia and a few other species of fungi helped digest the plant cell walls of the rice husks. This aided in the fermentation and subsequent solidification of the wall. This study gives helpful insight into how we can turn biomass and organic waste into usable, buildable materials - and fungi have a vital role.
The fungus is named after the eyelash-like hairs adorning the perimeter of the cup, noticeable below. If you’re like me and have asked yourself during deep contemplation, “do the mushrooms look back when I look at them?” - well we now have an answer. Both the species genus Scutellinia and species epithet Scutellata are derived from the Latin scutella which means “like a small shield” or “like a small dish”.
The whitish grey blotch nearly touching the eyelash cups above is from a different fungus entirely. That is the anamorphic fruiting body of Kretzschmaria deusta (DNA barcoding now says there are several distinct species that look like K. deusta but we won’t let that muddy the already murky waters). The fungus produces the “anamorphic fruiting body” to send out asexual spores (genetic clones of the parent). Later in the summer, the fungus will produce a black, crumbly, charcoal-like fruiting body - the teleomorph - that sends out sexual spores genetically different from the parent fungi. I wrote about Kretzschmaria back in the early days of MM but didn’t use the fancy anamorph and teleomorph terms - we’re learning something folks.
S. scutellata is saprobic, decaying wood and other organic material. These were popping up gregariously in a wetland area that was littered with dead ash trees. The cups were growing from the dead trees and from the rich, damp soil nearby. They seemed to love damp wood so looking in a wetland where all the wood is saturated with water is probably a good spot to find them. Species of Scutellinia can be found on every continent (aside from Antarctica) where they grow spring through fall, although it seems they prefer the spring.
We’ll meet at 10AM on Sunday near the toolboxes at the entrance of the Ramble. The blue dot on the image below has the specific GPS coordinates - just off the West drive across from the CPC yard. Bring water and snacks if you think you’ll need them because we might be out for a few hours, but you can come and go as you’d please. All are welcome :). The New York Mycological Society is doing a walk in Prospect Park at the same time so we’ll have folks looking for mushrooms in both of New York City’s iconic parks.
Right now there’s a less than 50% chance that it is raining that AM, I’m feeling like it’ll just be overcast, but we’ll go out rain or shine regardless. My number is 203-252-9421 if you need to contact me.
The rain was a nice relief. Hopefully we can get some more this week and build up a nice base hydration for the summer,
1) Kuo, M. (2009, April). The eyelash cup: Scutellinia scutellata. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/scutellinia_scutellata.html
2) Kitajima S, Kamei K, Nishitani M, Sato H. Analysis of the eukaryotic community and metabolites found in clay wall material used in the construction of traditional Japanese buildings. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2010;74(10):2083-6. doi: 10.1271/bbb.100475. Epub 2010 Oct 7. PMID: 20944400.