Spring mushroom indicator species
While hunting morels, we often find other fungi fruiting in the same habitat. True, it is disappointing not to find morels, but other interesting mushrooms reassure us that we are in the right place at the right time. Maybe the morels are just not in this spot.
One of my favorite indicator species is Tricholoma vernaticum, the Cuke Trich. It is a large white mushroom with a distinct smell of cucumber. Note the evanescent ring on the lower stem. To me, smelling this mushroom is like a breath of spring – like the spring flowers and lilacs in my yard. It puts me in that exciting place where I can feel the aliveness of earth as life blossoms all around me. I love to find it in the woods and share the intense aroma with others. All the literature I have says it is not an edible species. Okay with me.
Another frequent fruiter during morel season is Hygrophorus subalpinus. This large white mushroom is nearly underground early in the season and has a coating of dirt when picked. If you look at the gills under the cap, you will notice they are very thick, almost like they were made of wax. Rubbing a piece of the gill tissue between your fingers gives you the impression that your fingers are being coated with a thin layer of paraffin. Yes. This is a Waxy-cap, Subalpine waxy-cap. No, it is not edible unless you like to eat wax, and David Arora (Mushrooms Demystified) says it will coat your mouth. What I notice most about Hygrophorus subalpinus is its whiteness. I mean, this mushroom is so very white WHITE that is seems unnatural, especially since it seems to get covered in dirt! When you turn it over to look at those waxy gills, note the beautiful white mushroom through and through! I wonder if they could make lotion from that waxy coating!