|SOME FUNGI OF THE BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON METRO AREA
When these mushroom are mature the brittle balls are filled with dark
brown or black spores. Puffballs are named for the puff of "smoke", actually
spores, released when the puffballs are touched. There are many different
species of puffball, coming in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. When
these mushrooms are young, before the spores ripen, they are said to be
good eating. I do not recommend eating any wild mushrooms unless you do
your homework thoroughly first.
The familiar mushrooms are really the fruit of fungi, producing microscopic
spores that are released into the air. Each species of fungus has its own
characteristic fruit, or sporing body, that can often be used to identify the
fungus. Some of the fungi on this page are growing in fallen branches or trees,
helping to break down the wood into soil. These fungi play a vital role in
breaking down the dead wood and ultimately returning the nutrients to the soil
where they are recycled by living plants. The body of the fungus that grows
through the wood is called the mycelium. The mycelium is made up of individual
strands, called hyphae. The sporing bodies, the mushrooms, grow outside the
wood so the spores are released to the air, where a breeze can carry them to a
Some fungi are parasites on forest trees. Parasitic fungi are often found
growing under their host trees, where they may feed from the roots of the host.
The wide variety of mushrooms and other fungi can be challenging to identify. I
am providing a short description of some of the more distinctive fungi on this
site, as well as showing a sample of the various growth forms we encounter.
Even in the dead of winter, fungi, like the two below left, can be seen on dead
logs and forest debris.
These fungi are often called Jelly Fungi because they are jelly-like to the
touch. These are often seen growing on dead branches and logs on the
The Morel is considered a delicacy by many. It is found on forest floor in the
spring. From my experience, these are not abundant in our area, but I
occasionally come across a small patch of these in damp woods in the spring.
These mushrooms are distinctive, but could be confused with the False Morels,
some of which are poisonous.
Fly Agaric?? (Aminita muscaria) ??
The Fly Agaric got it's name from an ancient role as a fly killer. The
mushroom was put in milk to attract and kill flies. Fly Agaric contains
Muscarine, Ibotenic acid, Muscimol and Muscazone which cause
psychotropic effects when ingested.
I have found this mushroom in various places throughout our
piedmont zone. I am not sure that this is the infamous Fly Agaric
mushroom. I usually find it near Oak Trees.