Also known as the Horse Dung Fungus (Australia) and Bohemian Truffle (Europe), this is the first time I have encountered such a bizarre mushroom. On the outside, it appears like some discarded potato (not good news when you've been out for hours searching for fungi in the winter), yet the inside reveals another universe (first and second shots). P. tinctorius is set apart from other fleshy fungi by its unique capsules that rupture and release spores onto the wind. This process begins from top to bottom; the brown sections were once small peridioles as well. This is what it appears like when young, and upon maturity the capsules are gone, where it turns into a massive brown mess resembling a tree root or stump. Thankfully, these were small and interesting; their range is up to 30+ cm high and up to 20 cm wide! At that point, they can just be called "Dead Man."
Usually found in various soils, of the poor, sandy, loose, gravelly, or tightly-packed variety. They can be found singly or in groups spread out over a large area. Chiefly occuring during summer and fall, it does not decay quickly which means it can be found any time of the year. Dead Man's Foot can pop up within the range of various host plants.
Its ability to share a mycorrhizal connection with many trees and shrubs renders it valuable in reforestation projects. Not exactly praised in the kitchen, they are instead used as a medicine (as an immunosuppression agent) and as a dye for clothes. In this particular spotting, the largest mushroom is 6 cm tall and 5 cm wide, the smaller one (found disconnected from ground) is 4 cm tall and wide. There is no volva present in this species. When I sliced the large one, it had a typical "mushroomy" (like wood) scent, yet the small one was foul and reminded me of a severly burnt tortilla. The large one contained yellow capsules while the smaller one had few remaining that were brown to black, and both produced the same chocolate brown spore print (last photo -- obtained by smearing the capsule-side of the fungi on nearby concrete).
Lat: 32.21, Long: -110.92
Spotted on Dec 29, 2011
Submitted on Dec 29, 2011