Snowbank Mushrooms

by Graham on June 29, 2011

Post image for Snowbank Mushrooms

James and I have been incredibly busy recently with our many, many projects. Unfortunately for you guys, that means we have been MIA from our blog! Well, don’t worry. That is all about to change. While searching for black morels, which have been mostly non-existent this year, we stumbled into some very interesting fungi growing along the snowbanks.

Now for all of you who have never been to the Rocky Mountains looking for mushrooms in June, many unique fungi appear during this time of year around 9,000-10,000 feet in elevation. As our early summer temperatures skyrocket, snow begins to melt quite rapidly, creating many seasonal streams and tons of water runoff. This is also the period in which black morels begin to show up, soaking up all of the water rushing down the mountains. However, this year was abnormally cool in our upper elevations, causing the spring season to progress slowly. The aspen trees, which leaf out when morels like to fruit, have already been showing their leaves for almost 2 weeks now. This is true all the way up to 10,000 feet in elevation. However, Calypso Orchids, strawberries, Osha, and other ‘signal’ plants are barley beginning to grow. Bill Windsor, who is a long-time member of the Colorado Mycological Society and a Colorado black morel expert, informed many at the recent foray about these issues. These signal plants show to many of us who hunt morels that the ground temperature stayed too cool for too long. Bill mentioned that his black morel spots are barley fruiting if at all, and that in many areas of Colorado, the window of opportunity to find morels is coming to a close.

As I mentioned above, June is when our snow begins its melt off period, and even if we don’t have many morels in June, this moisture bank that comes surging down the mountains sustains many types of interesting fungi. The pictures below this post were all taken this year, and show the mushrooms that I am about to talk about.

The fungi that is pictured at the top of the post as well as below, is the very common, but none the less beautiful, Guepiniopsis alpinus, also known as the Golden Jelly Cone. This unique fungi can be found fruiting from dead wood, and like the other fungi, is found in areas where a snow bank has just receded or next to a snow bank where the water is melting into the ground. Their jelly like texture and bright golden color make it easy to identify.

The next photo is the largest of the snowbank fungi. Hygrophorus alpinus is a stately mushroom with bright white flesh. It has gills that are decurrent (running down the stem) and a mucus-like veil when young. Their stem tends to be rather bulbous at the base. This fungi is also an edible mushroom! It is actually one of the only Hygrophorus in Colorado that is known to be an edible species. James and I cooked some of them up just in butter and olive oil, salt and pepper. They had a very unique flavor, but to me, a slightly slug-like texture. I think if you cooked them until they were crispy, they would actually be quite delicious.

The last picture is of the very common Caloscypha fulgens. It is distinguished by its fairly uniform, cup-like shape, its ‘hunter orange’ hue, and the blue staining around its underside. These fungi tend to be found growing in conifer duff in open areas. They are so bright in color that they almost look like trash at first glance.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the photos of these strange fungi. Check back with us soon for pictures of our Pink Oysters that have fruited beautifully, as well as our standard Pleurotus pulmonarius that has fruited quite nicely as well.

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