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Bay Nature magazineJanuary-March 2017

Brightly Colored Parrot Mushrooms Love the Damp Dark Days of Winter

by Anna Towers on January 01, 2017

Just when the skies gray and the cold rains begin to fall in the Bay Area, legions of tiny fungi start to grow, bursting with color. The rain signals underground networks of white filaments, called mycelia, that it is time to reproduce.

The parrot mushroom (Gliophorus psittacinus) in particular loves the damp dark days of winter. It’s a flash of color amid redwood and bay forests if you can spot the tiny fruiting bodies. They often start out green and then mature to the orangish-pinkish yellow shown here. But they can also be bright yellow and red, and there’s a rare blue variety from Humboldt County, hence the name.

German mycologist Jacob Schaeffer described the parrot mushroom in 1774, but the species didn’t settle into its current genus Gliophorus until 2013. And it could be in for more changes, as scientists now believe with further study G. psittacinus may turn out to be a complex of more than one species.

The term “Gliophorus” is derived from the Greek words glia meaning “glue” and phoros meaning ”bearing.” G. psittacinus is slimy! With a viscid cap a mere 1 to 4 centimeters across, the parrot mushroom is common in the Bay Area, growing alone or in groups, in moist soil, moss, or humus, from late fall to early winter through spring. It is odorless  and, while not toxic, not particularly tasty either.

Anna Towers is an amateur mycologist and photographer who runs the blog thefriendlyfungus.com.

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one comment:

Debbie Viess on January 23rd, 2017 at 8:28 am

Wax caps of many different species grace our wet winter woods in the Bay Area. The Parrot Mushroom, so called because of its typically bright green cap, is also known as the Chameleon Wax Cap, because it comes in many colors, and changes from one to another as it dries out and then rehydrates! As to that “infamous” blue-green form, you do not need to head on up to Humboldt to see it! As Noah Siegel should have mentioned, since he found it on a walk with me at Huckleberry Preserve in the East Bay, they also occur right here in the BA! You can see my photo of this beautiful form up on MushroomObserver.org:


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