Honey Fungus (Armillaria Mellea) Identification

Honey Fungus / Autumn / Edible

How to Identify the Honey Fungus Mushroom

A mushroom that has a bad name as a tree or woodland killer, when it’s out and about you will surely know about it as it absolutely covers its host with masses of mushrooms / fruit bodies. It’s also a great species to get a visual idea of how mycelium threads work.


Scientific Name

Armillaria Mellea


Common Names

Honey fungus, Bootlace Fungus


Family

Physalacriaceae


Habitat

On dead wood, logs and stumps, they typically grow in large clumps. They sometimes appear on the ground as their rhizomorphs search out other trees to infect.


Description 

An easy to identify a mushroom, they are very common some years and can be found in large numbers. They are parasitic and can cause serious issues in commercial woodlands.


Identifying Features:

Cap:

Conical when young they flatten out with age. They are ochre to brown in colour and have a raised umbo in the centre which tends to be darker. The caps are normally covered in darker ‘scales’.

AnemoneProjectors, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Stem:

They are fairly long up to 20cm, they are more bulbous towards the base and generally white to yellow in colour.

They have a skirt which is near the top of the stem.

Michel Langeveld, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
This image was created by user (hríb) at Mushroom Observer, a source for mycological images.You can contact this user here.English | español | français | italiano | македонски | മലയാളം | português | +/−, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Gills:

The gills are white when young, darkening with age, fairly crowded and are slightly decurrent.

 

Bernard Spragg. NZ from Christchurch, New Zealand, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Smell:

Mushroomy.


Spores:

White to pale cream.


Uses

In food

They have a nutty almost sweet flavour and work well in most dishes. The stems can get tough with age so are often discarded.

They must be thoroughly cooked before consumption and even then they aren’t tolerated by everyone.

If it is your first time trying them you’re advised to thoroughly cook a small part and wait 24 hours to see whether there is any adverse reaction.


Harvesting                       

The younger caps are best as they can get slightly bitter-tasting with age. This can be removed if you boil them for a few minutes before frying them.


Known hazards

Tasty for most but they can cause gastric issues in roughly 1 out of 5 people.


Potential lookalikes

The Funeral Bell (Galerina Marginata) can look similar but is darker and has a distinct smell that is not pleasant. As the name suggests Funeral Bells are toxic so care should be taken.

The other main one to keep an eye out for is something called The Scaly Cap (Pholiota squarrosa) – which grows in a similar fashion – the easiest way to distinguish, amongst other features is that the scaly cap produces brown spores whereas honey fungus produces white spores (which can often be seen powdered on the caps growing under one another)


Extra Notes

As well as producing spores, Honey Fungus also develops rhizomorphs or ‘bootlaces’ these root-like structures can be found just underneath the bark of a host tree and they spread underground looking for more trees to infect.

There is a species of Honey fungus (Armillaria Ostoyae) in the USA that claims to be the world’s largest and oldest organism. Scientists believe it covers up to 4 square miles and is possibly up to 10,000 years old.

Lamiot, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

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