Shelf Mushrooms

By William T. Hathaway

Shelf Mushrooms

In furthering our understanding of the term “mushroom,” we could say that the shelf fungi broadly fit within this definition. (Scientists may frown on such a haphazard name as “mushroom” for just any member in the massive kingdom “fungi.”)

This rainy spring has been a monumental growing season for mushrooms. However, I photographed these two specimens in 1990 while walking a trail at Pittsylvania Wayside Park, just south of Hurt.

False Turkey-tails can be identified by looking at the underside of the specimen. The Birch Maze-gill Polypore has a distinctive gill-like under surface. This specimen, usually bone-white in color, is suffused with the surface growth of green algae. In general the shelf fungi are tough, often colorful, with overlapping rows growing on rotten hardwood logs or stumps. The shelving masses survive through summer and winter seasons. Dozens of so-called shelf mushrooms must be studied in detail in order to determine their genus and species.