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Winter Mushrooms in the Northeast from “Sam’s Corner” in Maine to New York City’s Central Park

by Gary Lincoff 2005


Between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox, more than 100 mushrooms can be found outdoors somewhere in the Northeast. Most of these can be identified with just a mushroom field guide, a tree and shrub field guide, a pair of binoculars, and a hand lens or magnifying glass.

If you find a Black Locust tree, for example, and they are common in Central Park, and you look up and see a large shelf fungus or two, about 10 feet over your head, you can bet it’s Phellinus rimosus (= Phellinus robineae). If you go over to the many red maples in the park, and look for wounds near the base of the trees, you will find in a few of those wounds a white polypore covered with green moss, and it’s Oxyporus populinus. The Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) is one of the most common trees in Central Park. It’s spread by birds eating the late summer fruits. If the ends of dead branches on some of them have an unsightly hard, blackish lumpy tumor-like growth, you’ve got Black Knot of Cherry (Apiosporina morbosa). You can identify these mushrooms and more without even bending down or taking off your winter gloves.

Just as people go “birding” all winter long, so people can go “mushrooming.” True, birds might seem to be easier to see than little mushrooms, but trees are bigger and more obvious than birds, and the mushrooms that are specific to particular trees can be found by finding the trees. It’s also true that people like to look for edible mushrooms and, except for some oysters and the winter mushroom (Flammulina velutipes), you can’t really go out hunting edibles in the winter. Of course, birders are also out there and they are most definitely not hunting edible birds.

Over winter in Central Park there are at least 50 mushrooms that anybody, even beginners, can find and identify with little or no difficulty, If 50 different mushrooms can be found in a piece of landscape art, an artificial woods composed of a curious mix of natural and introduced trees and shrubs, imagine how many can be found in our native woodlands. And there are some that should be in Central Park but just have not been reported or confirmed yet.

If you want a challenge, go to Central Park during the winter and find a single fruiting body of the conspicuous orange-red polypore, Pycnoporus cinnabarinus. It’s got more color in it than one of Christo’s “Gates,” but I have never come across it in the park. Or, find a specimen of the clinker fungus (Inonotus obliquus); that’s the black, roughened burned area that can be seen in wounds of white birch. This mushroom has been reported in Central Park, but I have never seen it or white birch in the park. There is the European Weeping Birch, but that is something else. There is white birch that can be seen from the city – across the George Washington Bridge, along the Palisades, just below Greenbrook Sanctuary. And I know the clinker fungus occurs there because I collected it there, but not in the park. If you want a real challenge, the most common mushroom in Central Park is Trichaptum biforme. It occurs everywhere on wood. If you use a hand lens and look at the top of the caps of any thousand fruiting bodies, you should see a mass of thin, little black hairs on top of some of them. These are the fruiting bodies of an ascomycete, Phaeocalicium polyporaeum. Find it, collect it, and report it to me. Another good challenge is a fungus that attacks the Turkey Tail, Trametes versicolor. That mushroom is also very common throughout the park. Look at the underside of the cap. If there is a white, gauzy covering over the pores near the rim of the cap, it is probably the imperfect stage of Hypomyces polyprinus. The perfect stage is yellowish orange. This Hypomyces has been reported from the Bronx. It must occur in Central Park. Find it, collect it, and report it to me. If you find all four of these mushrooms in Central Park, you’ll win a prize worthy of your accomplishment!

Now, there is an absolutely marvelous, priceless, and inexpensive publication called “Sam’s Corner: the public journal of a mushroom guru.” It is by Sam Ristich. It was originally published in the Maine newsletter, “Mainely Mushrooms,” but it is now being published by V.F. Thomas, Co., P.O. Box 281, Bar Harbor, Maine, 04609-0281. The url is: http://www.vfthomas.com. It runs from 1986 to 2000. You can order one copy for $20, plus $4 shipping and handling, plus 5% sales tax. Also go to the Sam’s Corner Central website. There, you’ll find 5 more years of journal entries – free on the web – that you can read at your leisure. Check it out: it’s a treasure!

Sam not only tells you what mushrooms he and his club are finding, but how to look for them, where to look, and when, and what’s special about them. He includes several winter mushroom walks in this journal, and they are very helpful to see, even if you live at the southern end of the northeast corridor. One reason for this is that not only can many of the same mushrooms be found in both places, Maine and New York City, but sometimes they can be found fruiting on the same day of the week – and not seen in either place the day before! Because Sam and his gang collect in natural woodland areas, they have a different mix of native trees and shrubs than you would find in a predominantly introduced tree and shrub area like Central Park. This limits what you will find in Central Park, but because there are still so many mushrooms out there, there’s more than enough to satisfy the most avid collector.

So, back to winter mushrooms in Central Park. Here are 50 or so that can be seen and easily identified between December 21 and March 20, no matter how cold it gets or how much snow is on the ground. All you need is some time to walk around the park and the patience to look for winter mushrooms.

Photos can mostly be found in the Audubon Guide; also check Google:Images. (See above and below.) A single location is given for each mushroom even though some are found throughout the park.


 Mushrooms with gills or gill-like folds under the cap:

  1.     Flammulina velutipes. Look for this little yellowish orange gilled mushroom with a short velvety stem inside stumps or in wounds in deciduous trees, like maples [Location: tennis court area]

  2.     Galerina autumnalis. This is the deadly Galerina. It’s a hanger-on that is easier to see in December than February. Growing scattered but numerous on decaying logs. [Location: waterfall area at 102nd]

  3.     Lentinellus ursinus. A small oyster-like gilled mushroom with a hairy cap and jagged edged gills. The winter fruitings I see have a darker cap than the fall ones. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

  4.     Panellus stipticus. This is the little luminescent Panellus. It grows in clusters, like a very small oyster mushroom, has brownish gills, and a short, stubby stem. [Location: Ramble near Boathouse]

  5.     Phyllotopsis nidulans. This is another small oyster-like mushroom that has an orange-yellow color and bad odor.  [Location: between the 2 waterfalls]

  6.     Pleurotus ostreatus. The oyster mushroom can be found every month of the year in Central Park, in just about every part of the park.[Location: Ramble]

  7.     Plicaturopsis crispa. This is a small, cream to whitish (in winter) oyster-like mushroom with crimped gills. It grows in masses on fallen branches, like birch. [Location: Ramble]

  8.     Schizophyllum commune. This is a small, oyster-like mushroom that is snow white on top and has “split” gills that appear to be filleted. [Location: Ramble]


Mushrooms with “teeth” or spines under the cap:

 9. Climacodon septentrionale. Normally, a large, thick, shelving off-white polypore-like mushroom with spines. But this winter it appeared stuck inside a tree wound, atypical. [Location: near the west drive at 102nd St.]

10. Hydnochaete olivaceum. A conspicuous brown, toothed crust on fallen oak branches. [Location: between the 2 waterfalls]

11. Irpex lacteus. A conspicuous white, toothed crust on both standing trees (dead) and fallen branches. [Location:along the bridle path]

12. Steccherinum ochraceum. A startling bright orange toothed crust fungus on fallen branches. [Location: between the 2 waterfalls]


Mushrooms with a pore layer (regular or irregular) under the cap:

13. Cerrena unicolor. Grayish, zoned, hariy, algae-covered, stalkless caps on wood with mazelike pore surface. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

14. Daedalea quercina. A thick whitish polypore with thick maze-like pore surface. On oaks and oak fencing. [Location: fence along running circuit shortcut at 102nd St. on west side]

15. Daedaleopsis confragosa. A flat polypore shelving along or up tree branches and trunks. Pore surface is maze-like and reddens on touching when fresh. [Location: Ramble]

16. Ganoderma applanatum. A broad, flat brownish capped perennial polypore that is known as the Artist’s Conk because you can write or draw on the pore surface. [Location: Ramble]

17. Ganoderma lucidum. A red-lacquer polypore at the base of hardwood trees, such as maples, and on stumps. [Location: 72nd St. in area of the John Lennon memorial]

18. Inonotus dryadeus. A large, deformed polypore growing at the base of oak trees. [Location: Ramble]

19. Oxyporus populinus. A white polypore covered with moss found inside wounds at the bottom of Red Maples. [Location: The pool at 102nd and CPW]

20. Perenniporia medulla-panis. Crust on dead hardwoods with yellowish pore surface. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

21. Phellinus gilvus. A small, shelving dark brown, hard, polypore with mustard yellow context. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

22. Phellinus igniarius. A blackish, hoofed, hard polypore on deciduous wood. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

23. Phellinus rimosus (= Ph. robiniae).  Large, shelving brownish polypores high up on black locust trees. [Location: between. 99th & 100th & CPW, just inside park]

24. Schizopora paradoxa. Spreading whitish crust on fallen deciduous wood branches, with strikingly irregular pore surface. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

25. Trametes (Poronidulus) conchifer. Very common at times and appearing as thin whitish cups on fallen branches. [Location: woods near ball fields at 100th St.]

26. Trametes hirsuta. On deciduous wood, with grayish, hairy, zoned upper surface with white to tan to gray pores. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

27. Trametes pubescens. On dead deciduous wood, with buff, hairy, unzoned upper surface and cream to ochre pore surface. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

28. Trametes suaveolens (?) If correctly identified, distinctive by its anise odor when fresh. [Location: in woods near Lasker Skating Rink]

29. Trametes versicolor. Brightly colored zones on upper surface separated by hairy zones, and pore surface cream to gray. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

30. Trichaptum biforme. Whitish overwinter, covering stumps and tree trunks, with irregularly toothed pore surface. [Location: between the 2 waterfalls]

31. Tyromyces chioneus. Soft, whitish shelf on fallen logs. Look for orange mold near edge of cap (Hypomyces aurantius). [Location: between the two waterfalls)


Mushrooms that are parchment-like or crustlike:

32. Stereum complicatum. Small, shiny, leathery, cinnamon-buff, fan-shaped, and overlapping, with smooth insides. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

33. Stereum hirsutum. Shell-like, overlapping, hairy, concentrically zoned, golden upper surface, yellowish, smooth under surface. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

34. Stereum ostrea. Brightly colored zones on upper surface, like the turkey tail, but smooth under surface.[Location: waterfall area]

35. Stereum striatum. (AG # 574) Small, silvery, silky-shiny upper surface with smooth under surface, on wood in swampy area. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

36. Aleurodiscus oakesii. Fused masses of small, pinkish  discs on fallen deciduous wood. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

37. Corticium (Laeticorticium) bombycinum. (AG # 576) Irregular, whitish, sheetlike crust, with cottony white margin and smooth surface, but cracking irregularly. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

38. Corticium (Laeticorticium) roseum. Similar to C. bombycinum but rosy pink crust. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

39. Hymenochaete sp. Brown crust with thin, shell-like or scale-like overlapping caps and brown smooth undersurface. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

40. Laxitextum bicolor. A dark brown upper surface and smooth, white undersurface, on rotting deciduous wood. [Location: between the two waterfalls]

41. Tomentella sp. A dark, brown crust with roughened surface. [Location: in woods above and south of waterfall area]


Gasteromycetes (Puffballs & their look-alikes):

42. Calvatia cyathiformis. Winter view is of a torn softball, dark gray outside, dull purple inside, feltlike to the touch. [Location: near Tavern on the Green]

43. Cyathus striatus. Small, dark cuplike vases, lined within, on wood or on wood debris on the ground. [Location: Tree pulping area, 102nd]

44. Scleroderma lycoperdoides. Tiny false puffball on wood with long rootlike attachment. [Location: rotten log near waterfall]


Jelly Fungi:

45. Tremella mesenterica. Little amorphous yellow jelly like bumps on deciduous tree logs and branches. [Location: between the two waterfalls]


Ascomycetes:

46. Apiosporina morbosa. On dead branch ends of black cherry, a hard, blackish, tumor like growth, 1-4” in length. [Location: near Lasker Skating Rink]

47. Ascocoryne cylichnium. A small, inconspicuous, purple-maroon disc on a well rotten trunk. [Location: by waterfall]

48. Bisporella citrina. Very small, yellow shallow cup like discs on fallen deciduous wood. [Location: near Reservoir]

49. Daldinia concentrica. Small, hard, blackish carbon like balls on fallen deciduous wood. Cross section is concentrically zoned. [Location: park opposite Museum of Natural History]

50. Nectria cinnabarina. Tiny, reddish orange discrete pustules set in bark of still living deciduous trees. [Location: along lower running path around Central Park Reservoir]

51. Hypoxylon sp. Small, dark brownish, ball like, on fallen deciduous wood. [Location: along west side bridle path]



There are other mushrooms collected in Central Park over the winter, but these need to be identified with a microscope and chemicals. The ones listed above are relatively easy to find and identify. How many can you find? Look around and let me know. Email me at: Gary@noahsquark.com

last revised March 2005