Mushrooms may be deadly or delicious, beautiful or bland, magical or mundane but one thing’s certain: the fungus among us are anything but anonymous! These 10 strange & beautiful mushrooms span the imagination while spanning the globe when it comes to location.
Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey Tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) are common worldwide and often are seen growing in quantity on the trucks of dead trees. They get their colloquial name from their appearance, which resembles the fanned tail of a wild turkey. The colorful banding on the leathery “fruit” of this fungus can sometimes appear green due to algae colonizing lighter areas.
Turkey Tail mushrooms aren’t edible in the usual sense though they are often used to prepare a number of traditional Chinese medicinal formulas. Those traditional Chinese just might have been on to something: recently scientists investigating Turkey Tail mushrooms have isolated Polysaccharide-K (PSK), an immune system booster that has been approved in Japan as an adjuvant for cancer therapy. (images via Leslie Seaton)
Bleeding Tooth Fungus
Bleeding Tooth fungus (Hydnellum pecki) is commonly found in pine forests of the American Pacific northwest and in central Europe, though it has also been noted recently in Korea and Iran. It’s easy to notice: the bright red liquid oozing from the mushroom’s pores can make one think they’ve stumbled onto some botanical crime scene in miniature!
Also known as Devil’s Tooth or Strawberries and Cream, Bleeding Tooth fungus are not poisonous but instead manage to put off predators both human and animal by their extremely bitter taste. As for the striking “blood” young specimens exude, analysis has revealed it contains an anticoagulant called Atromentrin which exhibits properties similar to the natural organic anti-clotting agent heparin. (image via Forest Service Alaska Region, USDA)
Earthstars (Geastrum triplex) are a type of puffball fungus found in a range of locations and elevations around the world. This unusual mushroom changes its appearance after emerging from the ground, with a series of “rays” curving downward and lifting the round fruiting body into the wind into which it releases its spores.
Looking somewhat like the Earth sitting upon a star, Earthstars were prized by several Native American tribes for both their medicinal properties and also as omens said to forecast upcoming celestial events. (image via Bernard Spragg)
False Morels of the species Gyromitra esculenta display an odd organic appearance likened to that of a dark purple or brown exposed brain. Found in sandy soils from North America’s great Lakes region to southern Finland, these gruesome ‘shrooms are sometimes known as Beefsteak Mushrooms and are considered good eating when prepared properly… if prepared improperly, they make a great Last Meal if you know what I mean.
Hungry zombies on the warpath? Lay out some fresh False Morels for ’em! Unlike actual brains, False Morels of the species Gyromitra esculenta are poisonous when eaten raw and careful parboiling must be employed before using them in recipes. (image via Lucas Large)
Bearded Tooth Mushroom
Shagginess, here I come… or is that “Hericium”? Bearded Tooth mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) look nothing like any other mushroom you’ve seen, even if you’ve seen more than a few. This eminently edible mushroom grows on both living and dead trees (usually hardwoods) and when cooked is said to have a seafood-like color and texture.
Bearded Tooth mushrooms (also known as Hedgehog mushrooms or Satyr’s Beard) aren’t just tasty, it seems they’re good for you too! Used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicines, these mushrooms have recently been found to have anti-oxidant properties and can reduce glucose levels in the blood. Scientists are currently investigating whether mushrooms of the genus Hericium may harbor compounds that can be used to formulate anti-dementia drugs. (image via Katya)
Freaky fungi not quite funky enough for you? Check out Fungi 4 Feet: Mushrooms Make Sustainable Sneakers!