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Desert Shaggy Mane (Old)

Podaxis pistillaris

Description:

I've seen so many of these guys hanging out in our city that I've memorized the scientific name (seven syllables, 'tis a feat for me) by heart. I've uploaded yet another one to show that, while they may fruit relatively fast during heavy summer monsoon rains, they are built to last. The tough cap skin protects the spores from the merciless desert heat, while the thick cell walls of the spores allow for more water to be gathered than a fungi in normal conditions. It is already December and this particular species is most likely a couple of months old, and is still releasing spores via wind (note the areas that are rusty-brown; that is what the cap is sheltering, the grand spore mass). His friend is not looking so well (last picture), as his role is coming to an end. It's curious to see these even after the cap has fallen off and the spores have been carried away, as the stalk still remains intact! I can only imagine what non-fungophiles imagine when they see a sidewalk surrounded by yellow-white "fingers" sprouting from the ground.

Habitat:

Everywhere and anywhere in this arid Sonoran desert. I have found two of them 126 miles apart (from Tucson to Glendale, both in Arizona). They thrive in disturbed, loose, sandy soil, from adobe, clay, vacant lots, and have been found in every continent except for Antarctica. While they usually develop between April and October, their survival skills make it so that they can be found any time of the year.

Notes:

This one is 13 cm tall overall, the stalk is 1 cm thick while the enlarged sandy base as well as the cap's width is 2 cm. The stipe and cap are both 5.5 cm tall. Looks like a shaggy mane, except that it completely lacks gills (instead image a brown dusty cotton ball inside of an elongated yellow eggshell), seems related to Agaricus due to the stalk, and releases spores like a puffball (not by force). "Controversial" would be an understatement. I want to say this is P. microsporus, which apparently is a species whose spores have more of a red tinge instead of the dark-brown to purple spores of P. pistillaris. But, out of the 50 species in the genus Podaxis, it's a mess with taxonomy right now and some say most are extreme variations of P. pistillaris. While I can't find any more information on P. microsporus, I'll leave it as the other... for now. For a short review of the many uses of this widespread fungus, see the notes to my first spotting of this species -- http://www.projectnoah.org/spottings/732...

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Tucson, Arizona, USA

Lat: 32.22, Long: -110.96

Spotted on Dec 29, 2011
Submitted on Dec 29, 2011

Reference

Related spottings

Podaxis pistillaris Podaxis Stalked puffball Stalked puffball

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