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Outside » Natural World

A New Fungus Among Us?: A somewhat shocking discovery in Sisters

Habitat of (what could be) a new species of "mushroom" and close up of "fruiting bodies."With all this unseasonable rain we have been experiencing throughout

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Habitat of (what could be) a new species of "mushroom" and close up of "fruiting bodies."With all this unseasonable rain we have been experiencing throughout Central Oregon, I thought it would be advantageous to go out in search of mushrooms. I understand it is during damp periods like these that mushroom fruiting bodies come to the surface, and being a person who enjoys a fresh mushroom from time to time, well, I thought, you can never tell...

I was driving slowly on the road from Sisters High School to town watching intently for mushrooms along the way, when suddenly I was excited, (and almost shocked) to see what I thought were a small group of inky caps, but what they really turned out to be is a new species, perhaps one of the most electrifying experiences I've ever had in my years of searching for new edible forms of mushrooms.

Now, I know the deadly Amanitas; some of the amanitas are so colorful you can't miss them, while others are quite common looking, but can still kill you dead, or give you a terrible stomachache. For that reason, I'm very jumpy about what mushrooms I consider "safe," or "unsafe" for consumption. Unless I see someone still walking around an hour or so after eating a wild mushroom, I stick to the ones I find in the grocery store, but sometimes I even look at them a little sideways...


Anyway, these small, round (inch-to-an-inch-and-a-half), fruiting bodies that I saw in Sisters were grouped in a normal inky-cap pattern, but in strange habitat, right on the edge of a large CEC electrical distribution area. In spite of that, they seemed to be in a perfect state of preservation with very little sign of decay (but I did wonder what the micilium was feeding on).

The caps were still firm, even though I did not see any gills beneath the caps, but then the delicious morels don't seem to possess gills. As I got out of my VW van for a closer look at these interesting mushrooms, I wondered if they might have been exposed for some time without being noticed.

In fact, that's one of the characteristics of this species that I found so interesting; they can be overlooked so easily, seemingly loose in the soil it appeared they would be easy to extract from their substrate. And yet as I stooped to yank on them, I thought that if I were to break them open while pulling them up the spores could cause serious damages to animal and plant tissue.

Looking at the green transformer box nearby, the thought entered my mind that the energy found on the interior of those innocuous-looking mushrooms may cause heart-stopping reactions to anyone partaking of their substance. With that thought in mind, I didn't want to fool around with them; in fact, I felt that doing so could bring about a shocking reaction, or at least strange hallucinations. With those thoughts uppermost in my mind, I decided to leave them where I found them and share my observations with others.

I was going to leave it up to the Central Oregon Mycological Society to name this new species, but then I got to thinking about that; perhaps the name should be: Plasticus electrofii (CEC), that may well describe them perfectly.

I searched further for this unique habitat around Bend and Sisters for evidence of these mushrooms, and low and behold, I discovered similar, if not the same, species poking their electrifying fruiting bodies above the surface adjacent to transformers and various other electrical apparatus.

While searching for these other sites and similar habitat, I received what was (almost) another shock; just south of the post office in Sisters I observed what must be a gigantic sub-species along the sides of the road that could be named: P. electrofii giganticus. This bunch was about three to four inches in diameter, and they are growing on both sides of the road!

So, be warned. The signs you see around Central Oregon, "Call before you dig" that inform contractors to call public utility companies before excavating, may also apply to mushroom-hunters, especially if you see those white, PVC-looking fruiting bodies near electrical apparatus.

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