The featured mushroom for July 2011 was...
the Crown Coral Mushroom
Clavicorna pyxidata is one of the few coral mushrooms that grow directly on deciduous wood. Most of the coral mushrooms grow from the ground. The coral mushrooms in the genus Ramaria and those in the genus Lentaria that grow from wood do not have the crown-like branch tips that characterize the crown coral. Clavicorna avellanea which has crown-like tips grows on conifers in the Pacific Northwest.
Clavicorna pyxidata is a many-branched whitish to pale yellow coral mushroom that grows on hardwoods. With age the mushrooms tend to darken to a dull ochre or tan sometimes with pink highlights. The upper branches often arise in groups from the enlarged tips of lower branches. The tip of each upper branch is cup shaped and crown-like usually with 4 little points forming the crown. The crown coral is ¾ to 2 ½ inches wide, 1 to 5 inches high with a short sterile base colored like the branches. This coral is quite wide-spread in our area growing frequently on dead wood particularly on willow, poplar or aspen, and cottonwood. The raw mushroom has a peppery flavor. Ramaria stricta, a yellowish coral that grows on wood, has a metallic and disagreeable taste when raw.
Crown coral mushrooms are edible though not choice. (Note the slug in the picture to the left. It is eating this Crown Coral.) They are common and are easy to recognize so they are a good beginner’s mushroom. When old they become stringy and the flavor deteriorates .I do still use these mushrooms in mixed mushroom dishes.