נובמבר 18, 2022

Leucocoprinus cretaceus and the Complications of Identifying Leucocoprinus Species After Heavy Rainfall

Like other scaly mushrooms such as Amanita and Chlorophyllum species, the appearance of the caps of certain Leucocoprinus species are prone to much change as a result of these scales washing away in rain. A good demonstration of this is Leucocoprinus cretaceus since it is quite distinct and retains characteristics that often enable it to be identified without too much confusion even after heavy rainfall. For instance in this photo we can see that the caps have largely become smooth with only the center scales being retained. White debris from the caps is visible on the wood below, as is the dry spot on the wood where it has been sheltered by the caps. Also sheltered are the stems which have retained their distinctive white scales.

Observation 138735331 - Leucocoprinus cretaceus after rainfall Credit: @geovane_siqueira

Despite losing some of their distinctive features it is still clear that these mushrooms are Leucocoprinus cretaceus, however for other Leucocoprinus species rainfall may pose a greater issue for identification and result in them looking like another species.

The species most commonly confused with Leucocoprinus cretaceus on iNaturalist appears to be Leucocoprinus cepistipes. The two are similar with both displaying clustered, caespitose growth behaviour often on woodchips, rotting wood or compost. Both species have some degree of white scales on the caps, however these are far more pronounced and warty on L. cretaceus and much finer on L. cepistipes. Additionally L. cepistipes has a distinct, brownish central disc which is broadly umbonate in immaturity and a smooth stipe that is often prone to clear exudation collecting towards the base. These droplets can be mistaken, at a glance (or by the image recognition app) for the scaly white stem base of L. cretaceus. L. cretaceus can display some brown or yellowish discolouration at the centre of the cap and the white coating may rub off the stipe revealing a brownish or yellowish surface which may result in confusion with L. cepistipes.

When rainfall removes the features of either species they can more closely resemble each other and are easier to mistake. The caps of both are prone to splitting as they become heavily saturated resulting in scales and white debris from the cap littering the ground around. Additionally a slight brown tone at the centre of the cap on Leucocoprinus cretaceus may become more noticeable.

Observation 86218038 - Soggy L. cepistipes Credit: @churley_25

Observation 73094381- Soggy L. cretaceus Credit: @hughianni

Leucocoprinus cretaceus

There is a possibility that observations for L. cretaceus may include a number of more obscure, less well known species. For instance Leucocoprinus elaeidis and Leucocoprinus nanianae are described very similarly but note some yellow discolouration. The spore sizes described for all three species are virtually identical however and it seems likely that these may just be synonyms that have yet to be reclassified due to them being forgotten in such obscure books. No information exists for either online beyond the initial description and some old sketches for L. elaeidis and their listings in Mycobank and Species Fungorum as current species.

The book L. nanianae was described in turned out to be so uncommon that in the end I only managed to find it by reaching out to a rare book shop in France which happened to have a copy so I am très grateful to Etienne at Arcala Livres Anciens for the assistance in sending me photos. It is of course very likely that plenty of organisations do hold this book although I did note that every species described in it lacks any information online so it may indeed be rare. Due to the entirely broken copyright system we have which stipulates that work arbitrarily remains in copyright until 70 years after the authors death, the Biodiversity Heritage Library only have digitised volumes of Bulletin de l'Académie Malgache up to 1925. These nonsensical laws driven solely by corporate greed result in old, boring scientific texts which are not in print, will never again be put in print or turn a profit for the likely dead authors (and often defunct organisations) being essentially hidden from the world for absolutely no reason. A constant thorn in my side when attempting to research these old species is finding that Google books has a fully digitised and searchable copy of the book online but will not let me see it because 'it is still in copyright' with any requests for content being ignored. But I digress...

Leucocoprinus breviramus also has some similarities to L. cretaceus in the description but enough that it might be possible to distinguish it from L. cretaceus. This species was more recently described and was compared to L. cretaceus so does seem likely to be distinct and there are possibly some observations of it on iNaturalist which need exploring. Hopefully by collecting everything that appears to be L. cretaceus in one place it will become easier to find distinctions. Already I have collected a number of observations together which I am not satisfied to just identify and dismiss as L. cretaceus which I suspect may be L. breviramus or another species due to the excessively floccose details.

Other mushrooms that are often mistaken for L. cretaceus by the image recognition algorithm include some members of Amanita sect roanokenses, some of the white, scaly Leucoagaricus, Chlorophyllum and Cystolepiota species and some puffballs. These are generally simple enough to separate out under normal circumstances however when very immature or when rainfall has removed cap features these species are likewise easier to confuse.

Leucocoprinus cretaceus without rain damage

Observation 26249347 Credit: @teodoro_chivatabedoya | Observation 26249347 Credit: @teodoro_chivatabedoya | Observation 68176921 Credit: @hughianni | Observation 139959458 Credit: @loonathegarden

Leucocoprinus cretaceus after rain

Observation 51654912 Credit: @conservation_partnerships_ipswich | Observation 132191704 Credit: @parahuaco | Observation 112907030 Credit: @markwheatley | Observation 139959098 Credit: @loonathegarden

הועלה ב-נובמבר 18, 2022 05:21 אחה"צ על ידי mycomutant mycomutant | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

אוקטובר 17, 2022

Favourite finds of today 17/10/22

I've spent most of the day combing through unidentified fungi in Costa Rica looking for anything which might be another unusual coprinoid. Some results were found:


However more interesting for me were all the things I found along the way.

Myrmecopterula velohortorum

Observation 36167883 Image copyright: @sarahkuppert

I had never seen this before outside of the photos in the paper describing it [1] so this was a lucky find. Unfortunately the taxon doesn't exist on iNaturalist yet so for now it is just identified as Myrmecopterula (I don't know how long it takes for a curator request to be approved). This species was classified as Pterula velohortorum in 2014 [2] and reclassified under the novel genus Myrmecopterula in 2020 [1] however the old name is not in iNaturalist either and the species is largely unknown so this could be one of the first identifications of it on iNaturalist outside of the small number of observations of nests of Apterostigma. I suppose this raises the question of whether such an observation is better identified as belonging to the ants or belonging to the fungus. In this instance I would suggest fungus since only one ant is faintly visible in the shot however for mutualistic species such as this it would be nice if observations could be identified as both species to aid in the identification of them.

I only know anything about Myrmecopterula because I stumbled upon it whilst trying to research the potential association between some Leucocoprinus species and leaf cutter ants. The most commonly farmed ant fungi was reclassified as Leucoagaricus gongylophorus and I was unable to find much definitive information (which wasn't out of date) on any current Leucocoprinus species which are farmed. However in the process I ended up writing the Wikipedia pages for the Myrmecopterula genus and the three named species and learning about that instead.

M. velohortorum is a fungus cultivated by ants belonging to the Apterostigma dentigerum subclade. The nests are suspended under logs or from trees and covered by a mycelial veil woven from the fungus. The nests only have one hole to enter and exit which is seen to the left of this image complete with an ant in the doorway. So the identity of this species is certain (barring any future discoveries or classifications of related species, there are some species of Myrmecopterula that have yet to be formally classified).

M. nudihortorum is similar but it is not found cultivated in hanging gardens but rather in shallow recesses in the ground. It also is not covered by a mycelial veil so the two are easily distinguished and in turn this distinction helps identify the ants. Neither species has been observed to produce fertile mushrooms and they are therefore thought to be dependent on the ants.

Myrmecopterula moniliformis

This related species has been shown to produce both fertile and infertile forms and is hypothesized to have escaped cultivation in the past. The fertile fruiting bodies may resemble the fine coral shapes of Pterula species whilst the infertile ones give it the specific epithet moniliformis meaning bead or necklace shaped. Again, barring further discoveries and reclassifications of unnamed Myrmecopterula species this is a relatively simple mushroom to identify but it is simply fairly unknown.

Observation 97520272 Image copyright: @ale_vasquez

Observation 31675982 Image copyright: @andreagreening

These two observations seem certain and the first even appears to be growing from an ant mound. This species is observed growing from abandoned ant mounds and is thought to play a role in breaking down the residual matter left from a dead nest, although there is some speculation that it may also grow parasitically on living ones. Unlike the two other named species in this genus, M. moniliformis is not dependent on the ants and may grow from the ground with or without ant nests being present.

The third observation I identified as Myrmecopterula moniliformis is less certain.

Observation 108207690 Image copyright: @rkostecke

The trouble is that the same area which hosts Myrmecopterula also appears to have a startling diversity of Xylaria species, far more than I am used to in the non tropical habitat that I call home. The shape of the sterile form of M. moniliformis can appear similar to some of these such as Observation 119753999 and Observation 108775547 which appear more likely to be Xylaria owing to the apparent black colouration where the white surface is scraped off and the hint of black towards the stem base. Whereas when the surface of M. moniliformis is damaged it seems to show a brownish-red colour and sometimes exhibits the same towards the base. The white, chalky surface is otherwise similar so when M. moniliformis is not exhibiting its chaotic branching bead like structure and is in a more simple form it may be easier to confuse. However this particular observation looks very similar to the exceptionally picturesque one made by @teodoro_chivatabedoya only without additional beading on top of it.

It seems possible that a search for identifications of Xylaria species in these regions may yield some misidentified specimens of M. moniliformis owing to it not being commonly known.


[1] 'Reclassification of Pterulaceae Corner (Basidiomycota: Agaricales) introducing the ant-associated genus Myrmecopterula gen. nov., Phaeopterula Henn. and the corticioid Radulomycetaceae fam. nov.'

[2] Phylogenetic Placement of an Unusual Coral Mushroom Challenges the Classic Hypothesis of Strict Coevolution in the Apterostigma Pilosum Group Ant–fungus Mutualism

הועלה ב-אוקטובר 17, 2022 03:20 אחה"צ על ידי mycomutant mycomutant | תגובה 1 | הוספת תגובה