1" tall mushroom including stipe. Many Marasmius species are tiny, and often overlooked by collectors. However, they play an essential role in forest ecosystems, helping to break down the litter layer of the forest floor. In fact the litter layer, particularly in oak-hickory woods in eastern North America, is often teeming with Marasmius fruitbodies, even when conditions are extremely dry and hot. Despite their tiny size, many Marasmius species are tough little mushrooms. In dry conditions they simply shrivel up and wait for the next rain. You can find them in this state if you drop to the ground and sift through the leaves or needles carefully, searching for hair-thin stems with tiny, dried-out mushroom caps attached. If you then take the mushrooms home and drop them in water, they will often assume their normal proportions. Aside from their "marcescence" (the mycological term for their reviving ablility), species of Marasmius are recognized by the white spore print; the tiny to small, flat-to-convex (not conical) caps; the often wiry stems; the habitat on needle duff, leaf litter, or woody debris; and microscopic features. Identifying individual species of Marasmius sometimes hinges on microscopic examination, though some species have distinctive colors, textures, odors, and tastes to help narrow down the possibilities. Whatever you do, don't pick one tiny Marasmius and expect to identify it. You'll need several--many, even--in order to assess various features. And be sure to take note of your mushrooms' ecology; many Marasmius species are limited to certain substrates and ecosystems.
Cumberland trail, Obed section
Lat: 36.10, Long: -84.59
Spotted on Aug 11, 2012
Submitted on Aug 13, 2012
and 4 other people favorited this spotting