Observation 89907: Tuberales sensu lato

When: 2012-03-15

Collection location: Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania, USA [Click for map]

Who: Dave W (Dave W)

No specimen available

These nuggets each have diameter under one inch. The interior is white. When the collector first showed them to me, the context was firm but somewhat rubbery. The next day the context had become hard. Context was not flaky or waxy. The collector found these while raking last year’s dead leaves. He said they had been underneath the leaves.

I shaved a bit of the white context with a razor blade. Under the scope (400X in KOH) fibers are visible. Don’t know if these qualify as hyphae, some other organic material, or if they are inorganic fibers.

I have my doubts these are actually a type of fungus, or any type of natural organic material. Closest fungus I can find is Hydnobolites californicus, which Arora says is widespread in NA.

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So far,
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2012-04-22 22:45:02 CDT (-0500)

consistent with sclerotia. Placing the object inside a plastic bag forces the fungus to search for air, which is necessary for sporocarp formation: ergo the mycelial growth visible. At least one of the non-mycelial specimens shown in the bottom photos has elements consistent with true truffles, i.e. venae externae and venae internae. Truffles do not form sclerotia. So I will be most interested in what happens next with this obs.

By: Richard Kneal (bloodworm)
2012-04-22 21:22:45 CDT (-0500)

interested to see what comes of this.

The person who has them
By: Dave W (Dave W)
2012-04-22 21:19:14 CDT (-0500)

said that he will do exactly what you suggest, Richard. He may also try a few other types of substrate.

By: Richard Kneal (bloodworm)
2012-04-22 20:54:18 CDT (-0500)

i would bury the contents of that bag in some wood-chips and leaf litter.

Two photos taken 4/22
By: Dave W (Dave W)
2012-04-22 20:51:59 CDT (-0500)

show the result obtained by the collector of the objects (seen in this obs) after he placed them into a plastic bag and left them there for an extended period of time…. white fuzz. Are these things (sclerotia?) sending out mycelium?

Also, the collector reports that when he frist found the objects, they were quite spongy. The ones I took home became hard after they sat out on a table overnight.

A few more observations made by the collector…
By: Dave W (Dave W)
2012-03-31 09:01:50 CDT (-0500)

Quote below comes from the person who made this collection.

“I will dig up the area and under my mulch pile in search of more. The mulch pile is 8 years in the making and is located at the base of an old partially dead very large red oak. At the base of the tree and the 4 foot square fenced in mulch pile is a thick layer of black organic soil composed of stuff coming out from the rotting interior of the tree and the lower most layers of the mulch pile. The soil looks granular as if it was piled up from passing thru the bodies of earth worms, of witch there are lots of. If I find more I will bring them to the next meeting in the soil they formed in.
There was also a very large Grifola Frondosa growing from that same area. That was one delicious mushroom!”

Black morels are known to occur in mulch/compost. I know a few such observations here in PA/NY.

My bad, Dave.
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2012-03-30 07:49:17 CDT (-0500)

Sorry. Still trying to fit the facts to the obs. at hand.

I’ve grown morels several times, starting with my neighbor in 1987. Buried some old, maggoty pieces of fresh morels in “Beauty Bark” produced by a local composter here in Portland. As I recall, innoculated bark used as a flower bed mulch in May, 1987; production of sporocarps noticed by April, 1988. “Beauty Bark” had large quantity of actual bark dust fortified by about 30-40% fresh-chipped green branches, possibly from Christmas trees. In 1987 almost no one locally used plastic Christmas trees, so debris from them after Christmas made a big problem for recyclers.

Your initial description of “…the context was firm but somewhat rubbery. The next day the context had become hard.” plus “…found … (under) dead leaves” strongly suggests sclerotia to me. Leaf mulch can be a food source for many saprophytic fungi, and many Morchella species are currently considered saprophytic. Those same dead leaves could also be the source of the fibers seen, so cannot be conclusive.

I remember reading that it takes 7 years for and individual Douglas-fir needle to be broken down sufficiently that they can no longer be recognized.

Daniel, I was not the collector of these.
By: Dave W (Dave W)
2012-03-30 07:00:24 CDT (-0500)

If you read the comment which is directly below your 03-29 comment, you will find a quoted comment taken directly from the person who did collect these.

Regarding sclerotia
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2012-03-29 17:26:39 CDT (-0500)

Sclerotia is a storage unit of energy for fungi. When conditions are too dry, too hot, too anything, sclerotia can be formed by certain fungi. Usually these last for a year or two, but some sclerotia may fruit a decade later. Some fungi which form sclerotia include Psilocybe (Philosopher’s stone); and Morchella.

When first collecting truffles back in 1985, had several collections identified by Dr. James Trappe as “tuberculate mycorrhizae”, which means material is from a truffle-like fungus, but is extremely immature. I learned to hate “tuberculate mycorrhizae” on my identification cards, when I was “sure” I had found something new and exciting. Oh well.

Sclerotia can look similar to a bulb, corm, Jerusalem artichoke, etc. Unlike those examples, fungal sclerotia are capable of producing fungi at a later date.

Interesting that at least one of the specimens was found by Dave W in a hanging basket. Was there a food source for fungi in that basket, Dave? Compost, wood chips, sterilized dung?

Thanks to each person who contributed
By: Dave W (Dave W)
2012-03-29 17:06:47 CDT (-0500)

the informative commentary regarding the possibility that this obs represents sclerotia.

The collector of these “globs” has provided additional information regarding another possible specimen of the same type…

“Oddly enough I was emptying the dirt from 6 hanging flower baskets into a wheelbarrow at my home in Laurel Run to reuse the dirt which I mixed up last year from some native soil and 70% rich stuff from the bottom of my mulch pile when I found another fine specimen of the same truffle like nugget.”

So, if the newly discovered object is another example of what is seen in this obs, then it appears these things have remained intact over the past winter.

The collector also reports that these masses were somewhat spongy when they were first collected.

I don’t know much about mushroom sclerotia. Do Blewits emerge from sclerotia? The habitat from which these were collected is described by the collector as “leaf litter.” Last year out local Blewits persisted into late December. So I’m just wondering…

I’ll ask the collector about the date when the potted soil was collected (see quote in first part of comment).

The (Portland, OR) Oregonian
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2012-03-18 19:50:20 CDT (-0500)

ran the first article I remember seeing. Had a bunch of people combing the devastation area immediately after the eruption(s), and combing the ash piles for signs of life. The first sign of life after the May 18 eruption was found a week later, May 25 as I recall, several fruiting sporocarps of Morchella.

Should also be in Washington newspapers: Seattle Times/Intelligencer. The Intelligencer (Vancouver, WA) probably also ran it. Once it was picked up by the news services, I suspect 30-50 different newspapers across the country carried the initial story.

By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2012-03-18 18:11:18 CDT (-0500)

the first life forms seen after the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens were morels, arising from buried sclerotia over 10 feet deep in ash.

This is a very fun fact. Do you have a source?

Nancy Smith-Weber
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2012-03-18 16:49:02 CDT (-0500)

thinks Morchella sclerotia can survive a century in the soil before fruiting. It’s kind of a long-term storage solution for fungi which may not always have ideal fruiting situations. That’s a good reason for checking your morel beds for several years after innoculating them: they don’t always fruit on the schedule you thing they will fruit on.

You could be right about these not being Morchella: usually have a lot of brownish fibrils covering sclerotia in my opinion, which tends to keep them dry until totally saturated (underwater sometimes). I’d guess these were at least 5 years old, and many of the fibrils could have been eaten by soil organisms by now. In terms of long-term survival, sclerotia is a smart idea. BTW, the first life forms seen after the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens were morels, arising from buried sclerotia over 10 feet deep in ash. Morchella mycelium grows faster than almost anything: can cross a 3.5" Petri dish in a single day at 77 degree F.

I’ll try to track down
By: Dave W (Dave W)
2012-03-18 14:46:05 CDT (-0500)

the person who collected these, and get some additional habitat info from him, including nearby types of trees. I don’t have much background knowledge about sclerotia and their formation/development. But my gut feeling is that the ones seen here are not morel sclerotia, as it’s just so early in the season… although it has been a warm late winter/early spring. Could these be leftovers form last Fall that have maintained structural integrity throughout this mild winter?

By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2012-03-18 14:08:29 CDT (-0500)

Look like they are waiting for a good rainfall to enlarge and expand. Possibly Morchella sclerotia. Found under leaves. May be either saprophytic or mycorrhizal. Any idea what tree they were found under? Some Morchella are now known/suspected as being mycorrhizal. Observation of the tree they were found under important.

If not hyphae, at least similar. Sclerotia by definition can be a long-term waiting packet of food: waiting for the right growing conditions to produce sporocarps. Look rather uniform for Morchella IMO, but I haven’t collected in PA.

“Sclerotia” looks like a good proposal Darvin.
By: Dave W (Dave W)
2012-03-18 12:28:26 CDT (-0500)

Doubtful these are new sclerotia; I would think the that sizes, more or less 1 cm^3, would seem like a lot of growth for this early in my post – winter season. Perhaps our mild winter helped to preserve them?

Thanks for the suggestion/explanation.

By: Darvin DeShazer (darv)
2012-03-18 11:04:06 CDT (-0500)

Old and wrinkled, it should have spores by now. The 3 photos have zero evidence leading toward asco vs basidio. The “fibers” look like hyphae, so maybe these are over wintering sclerotia.