Moisture in Southern California, is like Santa Claus--it comes just once a year--so I feel compelled to post about mushrooms once again (and possibly for the last time this year), before they become unfashionable.
(1) The earliest mushroom I found this season is pictured below, next to a standard-sized plastic spoon (used as a makeshift trowel). It popped up alongside several others of the same kind in January, in a patch of landscaped wood-shavings near an intersection that I drive by on my way to work every day. My hectic schedule, combined with the awkward location of the mushrooms, prevented me from getting to it before it had dried out, and thus made it virtually impossible for me to identify. As I wrote in my last post, mushroom identification can be hard enough as it is, even when spore prints are made.
(Here's a top view of the same mushroom pictured above):
Based on similarities in structure and habitat, I suspect that several other mushrooms I've seen during March and April were the same species. Here they are, in fresher form than the above:
Curiously, notice that the one in the background has been chomped on a bit. (If you read my last post, then you'll know why the culprit could not have been me.)
Since these mushrooms were fresh, I was able to make a spore print from them, which turned out to be the color of cocoa:
(2) This next mushroom is the first one I encountered that I feel somewhat confident in having identified. If I'm right, this is an Orange Spring Amanita, Amanita velosa. These mushrooms especially prefer the leaf litter found under live oak trees, which is exactly where I found them (Wilderness Glen Park, Mission Viejo):
Notice the elongated acorn of the live oak tree which was near this mushroom. Such strangely-shaped acorns are exotic to my Midwestern eyes! Also surrounding the mushroom are the dried, dead leaves of years past. Live oaks, although evergreen, nevertheless do drop old leaves--I imagine much as an evergreen pine still drops its needles.
The photo below clearly shows three features possessed by Orange Spring Amanitas: 1. the white spot on the cap (here somewhat soiled), 2. the ridges along the edge of the cap, and 3. a cup-shaped bulb around the base:
As willing as I am to shift around the subjects of a scene in the interest of making a photograph more glamorous (I confess that above I moved the acorn a few inches closer to the mushroom!), I swear the scene in this next photo was as is. It's a darkling beetle on an Orange Spring Amanita (Caspers Regional Park):
What a fun shot. Darkling beetles like to eat decaying vegetation. Perhaps he's attracted to the smell of the mushroom??
(3) Two mushrooms popped up from the soil around my potted lime tree here in Irvine in early April. No positive ID, but they left dark brown spores. (See below sketch and spore print.) I left one of the mushrooms to drop its spores in the soil, in the hopes that it will fruit again.
(4) Last week (mid-April) I encountered several small, whitish puffballs in the hills above Three Arch Bay (in Laguna Beach). They were by that point extremely dried up and had already released their spores, so identification would have been very hard. And alas, I did not have my camera with me!
(5) And, of course, there were the false morels (or maybe black morels), as featured in my last post.
I'll be very curious to see what, if any, other mushrooms I encounter in the weeks ahead, and when will mark the end of the season! The weather's been awfully dry of late...