Dog Day Delectable

By Jason Beale, Manager, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center

I look forward to summer thunderstorms in August for two reasons.  First, they provide a welcome respite from the heat and second, they bring the Meadow Mushroom, Agaricus campestris.

 

Meadow Mushrooms and a toddler, in their natural habitat.  Sasha examines the chocolate brown spores on her left hand.
Meadow Mushrooms and a toddler, in their natural habitat. Sasha examines the chocolate brown spores on her left hand.

 The Agaricus mushrooms are well known to most people through  Agaricus bisporus, the cultivated button mushroom.  The genus is fairly easy to identify.  Many are white and possess a ring on the stalk or annulus.  The gills are pink when young and dark when mature, producing a chocolate brown spore print.

The pink gills darken with age.  Note the fading rings on the stalks.
The pink gills darken with age. Note the fading rings on the stalks.

 They can be readily told from the Amanita genus which is responsible for 80-90% of mushroom fatalities though they share a superficial resemblence.  Amanitas possess an annulus, but the stalk usually emerges from a cup-like volva.  They are associated with tree roots and aren’t common in lawns.  Additionally, they always possess pale gills and produce a white spore print.

 

Another common lawn mushroom that the would-be mushroom-eater should know is the Green-spored Parasol, Chlorophyllum molybites.  It is one of the most common causes of mushroom poisoning (severe gastrointestinal distress) in the United States.    It has an annulus the conical cap is flecked with brown scales.  The gills are whitish to yellow and ripen to gray and green in old age. 
Easily overlooked, the Meadow Mushroom is a widespread and choice delectable.
Easily overlooked, the Meadow Mushroom is a widespread and choice delectable.

 

The Meadow Mushroom is also known as the champignon in France.  They are delicious raw or cooked.  Young, pink-gilled specimens are the most highly regarded.  They are widespread throughout the world in grassland habitats, but in the U.S., they have declined with the increase in chemical lawn and farm field treatments. 

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