If it is possible for a fungus to be cute, then Mycena corticola is the hands-down winner. If it has a common name, I haven’t found it yet…
What makes it cute? Well, first there is size. It is tiny. Which is not to say that large things can’t also be cute… Baby elephants are not tiny and they are adorable, don’t you think?
Second, it’s choice of places to live: on bark, usually with moss. (Is that cute – to want to live in a mossy green place? I dunno. I imagine little fairies sitting on the tops of these – using them as chairs from which they observe the forest.)
And third (good writing always gives three reasons for something, doesn’t it?)… third… I dunno. They’re just cute, that’s all!
My favorite thing about this adorable little mushroom is that it taught me a new word: Marcescent. (It might be a new favorite word!) It means withered – but not fallen, shrivelled – but still attached. For example, these beech leaves are marcescent:
In the context of Mycena corticola, when this little fungus dries up and shrivels it has the ability to come back to life when there is sufficient moisture, unlike the beech leaves, which are actually dead and will be pushed off when the spring buds burst forth…
Which leads me to a little mystery… According the Mushroom Expert (link below), Mycena corticola is found in late summer and fall – and occasionally in spring. I found this mushroom in February. It was during a thaw after a couple of days of rain when the temperatures were between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I wonder… Are these new fruits or old marcescent fruits that came back to life? Something to ponder!
By the way, thanks to The Marvelous in Nature blog for pointing me in the right direction to find the name of this darling little ‘shroom.
You can read more about this fungus at the Mushroom Expert’s site, which is where I learned the word marcescent:
If you leave a comment to this post, suggest a common name for this mushroom! (Most fungi don’t have common names, so if they are going to get common names, somebody has to come up with them, right? Why not you?)
Update (2/11/08): After Fred left his comment below, I had to check out what his blog said about marcescence. Here are two posts: