July 5, 2021
Good afternoon friends,
I hope Mushroom Monday finds you well on our country’s observed Independence Day. This week’s mushroom is Artomyces pyxidatus (art-oh-my-cease pix-ih-daht-us), commonly known as the Crown-tipped coral fungus. This mushroom was found on 6/14/2021 in the ramble growing on a dead branch on the ground.
A. pyxidatus grows spring through fall and can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia. Curiously, it is not found on our west coast though – only appearing in and east of the Rockies. It is saprobic – consumes the dead wood – to hardwoods and I believe this was growing on serviceberry (Amelanchier). There are a couple interesting features about the shape of the mushroom – the first being that it looks like coral you’d find in the ocean. This is a bizarre occurrence of convergent evolution where two organisms that are not remotely related end up with similar physical features based upon similar ecological influences. Why it has this unique structure is unknown, but the common thinking is that the greater surface area of the mushroom allows for increased spore dispersal and a subsequently greater range over where the spores can be dispersed. The crown-like shapes at the top of the mushroom not only give it its common name but also help distinguish it from other coral fungus in the area like Ramariopsis kunzei and Clavulina cristata.
Additionally, A. pyxidatus is edible and apparently tastes peppery when consumed raw (remember last week we talked about not eating mushrooms raw because we can’t digest chitin, but some people do anyway so more power to them). In China, it has traditionally been used to treat indigestion and gout. In modern medicine, they found three novel sesquiterpenes – terpenes with a base of 15 carbon and 24 hydrogen atoms (C15H24 for all the chemistry folks) – that could be used for medicinal purposes down the road. We won’t get into the nitty gritty of sesquiterpenes on this lazy summer Monday (mostly because no matter how many times I read the Wikipedia page I can’t begin to understand them – but fortunately someone does).
Have a calm week,
1) Kuo, M. (2007, April). Artomyces pyxidatus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/artomyces_pyxidatus.html