Mushroom Season

Fly agaric

It’s mushroom season!!!

Fall is almost here which means it’s time for mushrooms!!! Mushrooms come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours and you can’t help but appreciate their diversity while hiking through the Alps this time of year.

A mushroom is actually the fruit of a much bigger fungus growing under the ground. Only when the circumstances are just right (think of humidity & temperature for example) mushrooms pop up. The purpose of a mushroom is to drop millions of minuscule spores into the air, so the wind can spread them. After the spores land on the ground, they start forming new fungi.

Below you’ll find 5 easy to recognize species you can see on the Tour du Mont Blanc. It’s a very divers list showing you some of the incredible features of mushrooms. 

Fly agaric – poisonous or hallucinogenic?

The fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) is one of the most recognisable toadstools growing in our forests. Some say eating the mushroom can have a hallucinogenic effect, but you are more likely to get sick. Either way, I think it’s incredibly pretty!

(Pictured above as the featured image. Photos by Simone van Velzen.)

Shaggy ink cap – a melting mushroom

This shaggy ink cap (Coprinus comatus) looks like it’s melting. Ink caps autodigest their gills in order to release their spores. In other words, the mushroom liquifies itself. It creates a black ink-like liquid that oozes of the mushroom’s cap until eventually only a melting mass of black goo is left.

Shaggy ink cap mushroom
The shaggy ink cap mushroom has got a fitting name.

Yellow staghorn – little rays of sunshine

On a rainy fall day, the bright yellow stagshorn (Calocera viscosa) might remind us of little rays of sunshine on the forest floor. Its striking colour really makes it stands out in its habitat, because it grows on dead conifer wood which generally isn’t a very colourful environment. Yellow stagshorns might pop up year-round, but are most common in the fall.   

Yellow stagshorn mushroom
The yellow stagshorn looks similar to mule deer antlers, don’t you think?

Chanterelle – picking edible mushrooms

Chanterelles (Cantharellus) are among the most popular of wild edible mushrooms. I picked and ate the one in the picture (delicious!), but I stopped picking mushrooms a while age. In the Alps, picking mushrooms is becoming more and more popular and this puts lots of pressure on easy to recognise species like chanterelles while fungi play an unimaginable important role in our ecosystems. Chanterelles for example are mycorrhizal fungi and form important symbiotic relationships with plants.

Chanterelle mushroom
Chantarelle are edible – only eat if you’re wholly confident in your ability to properly identify mushrooms.

Elf cup – A spring mushroom

Fungi don’t only fruit in the fall, for some species spring offers the exact right conditions. This elf cup (Sarcoscypha) grows on dead wood and pops up in early spring just after the snow melts. First, I thought I spotted a piece of rubbish on the forest floor, but then I realized it was a tiny brightly coloured fungus! This colourful specimen was about the size of my fingernail. 

Elf cup mushroom
It is easy to see how the Elf Cap got it’s name! There must be a hat-less little creature running around!

Read more about plants in the Alps

Flora in the Alps – Why are mosses so special?

Flora in the Alps – Why are lichen so special?


Simone van Velzen

3 Replies to “Mushroom Season”

  1. Noah Smith says:

    I love the photos. Mushroom have their own way of showing their beauty. They are not only good in giving good nutrients but also they have beautiful appearance. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Those mushrooms look so beautiful. I see that there are lots of varieties of mushrooms, so it is important for us to know which one is edibles and which are not to avoid unnecessary circumstances. It is better to ask for experts always. Let’s not take a risk that we can’t quantify.

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