Good afternoon friends,
This week's mushroom is Xylaria liquidambaris, commonly known as Sweetgum Xylaria. This specimen was found today, 6/14/2021, in the Ramble. It is physically (morphologically, if you will) similar to the Xylaria polymorpha - aka dead man's fingers - featured a few weeks ago. What is unique about this species is that it grows exclusively on the seed pods of sweetgum trees (Liquidambaris styraciflua).
X. liquidambaris grows spring through fall and is found everywhere sweetgum trees are found. Traditionally that includes the eastern US, down into Texas and Mexico, and in Asia where the mushrooms grow on seed pods from the Chinese sweetgum (Liquidambar formosana). The fungus is saprobic - consumes dead organic material - exclusively on sweet gum seed pods. In a similar fashion to the Xylaria of a few weeks ago, this Xylaria also produces asexual spores (the white powder coating the tips of the mushrooms, best seen in the second picture) called conidia. Later in the summer it will develop a firmer exterior that is pimpled with perithecia - structures that produce spores born of sexual reproduction. What's pretty cool is if you can find a sweetgum tree then you can find this mushroom. It may take a couple minutes, but they tend to grow on the older, more decayed seed pods. Go out and find some!
Have a satisfying week,
1) Kuo, M. (2020, July). Xylaria liquidambar. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/xylaria_liquidambar.html