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Natural Perspective

The Fungus Kingdom: Aphyllophorales

(Last modified: 4 May 2015)
[icon order aphyllophorales1][icon order aphyllophorales2][icon cantherellus]

Unlike the order Agaricales, the Aphyllophorales are quite varied in shape. In general, the mushrooms of these fungi do not have a stereotypical mushroom form and many are not recognized as mushrooms by the neophyte mushroom lover.

Like the Agaricales, however, many of these species provide beauty to the forest and delight to the intrepid epicurean. The following species represent the more prominent families of this Order.

Polypores (Polyporacea et. al.)

[photo laetiporus] Polypores are the primary forest recyclers. They typically inhabit living or dead trees, slowly converting them back to the basic nutrients needed to fertilize living forest trees.

The polypore is so called because its underside is covered by many pores which produce the spores. The mushrooms are often shelf-like and fan-shaped, growing on stumps or fallen logs.

Most of these mushrooms are fairly non-descript and easily overlooked. A few, however, such as the Sulfur Shelf (Laetiporus sulfureus) pictured here are quite distinctive. The Sulfur-shelf is also known as Chicken-of-the-woods and for good reason. Tender young specimens can be cooked up just like chicken into a very satisfying dish. And, like chicken, it has both light meat and dark meat!
[photo schizophyllum]

Split-Gill (Schizophyllaceae)

The Split-Gill (Schizophyllum commune) mushroom looks like a polypore from the top but it has gills underneath. The gills are split lengthwise and often curve in a rather decorative pattern, as depicted in the spore print to the right.

A spore print is obtained by letting the fresh mushroom rest on a flat surface. The mushroom produces spores as long is it remains moist and, in the case of the Split-gill, will even resume spore production if it is rehydrated. As the microscopic spores accumulate underneath the mushroom they form a powdery print in the shape of the spore-producing surfaces.

Parchment Fungi (Stereaceae et. al.)

[photo thelephora] Parchment fungi are similar to polypores in looks but they don't have pores underneath.

One of the most interesting of these is the rosette-shaped Earth Fan (Thelephora terrestris). This mushroom is the master of camouflage, hiding itself in and among the pine-duff until it is nearly invisible.

Coral Fungi (Clavariaceae et. al.)

[photo ramaria] The Coral-shaped fungi can be slender and non-branching like the Fairy Fingers (Clavaria vernicularis) pictured at the top-center of this page or they can be bushy, with many branches, such as the Pink Coral Mushroom (Ramaria formosa) pictured in this section.

Many of these mushrooms are edible (though not this particular Ramaria) and, at the very least, they add wonderful color and character to their outdoor habitats.

Coral fungi produce spores along most of the surface of their fruiting body.

Toothed Fungi (Hydnaceae et. al.)

[photo hericium][photo laetiporus] The toothed fungi can be coral-like -- as with the Toothed Coral Fungus (Hericium coralloides, left) -- or umbrella-shaped -- as with the Hawk's Wing (Hydnum imbricatum, right) mushroom. Unlike the mushrooms they resemble, however, the spore-producing underside of the toothed fungus is packed with soft spines. (The inset in the right photo shows the Hydnum's underside.)

These two particular species are among the authors' favorite edible fungi.

Chanterelles (Cantherellacea)

[icon cantherellus] The Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius), and its close relatives are among the most prized mushrooms in the field and one of the few wild mushrooms commercially available.

The mushrooms are as tasty as they are elegant and, more importantly, several species are virtually maggot-free. A fact which contributes to their overall popularity, no doubt.

Chanterelles produce spores on gill-like folds along the under (or outer) surface of the vase-shaped cap.

Phylum: Basidiomycota (spores produced on basidia)
Class: Homobasidiomycetae (substantial mushrooms)
Subclass: Hymenomycetes (release spores gradually)
Order: Aphyllophorales (non-agarics)
Families: various
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