The Cutest Little Fungus Ever

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…

Mycena corticola

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!

Mycena corticola


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:

Beech Leaves

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:

5 thoughts on “The Cutest Little Fungus Ever

  1. Oooh! I don’t think I’ve ever run across the term “marcescent” outside the riff I made on the term in regards to Beech leaves, I think it was.

    And I’d call them Pixie’s Parasols. I especially like the translucency you can see in this view of them on your page.

  2. My dear, what a joy to discover your site! LOL…I was looking to identify an unknown (to me, anyway) species of fungus, lichen or moss–haven’t decided definitely which it is–and found YOU. I love the pictures… and the narratives… and, of course, the identifications. Now, if only I can figure out what I have found. I don’t have a pic to show you, but it looks like some form of Coral Fungus, only black in color. It comes from a a solid node underground, then branches above ground into five to six, finger wide projections that stand upright. When broken, they look white and fleshy inside with the black skin on the outside. Don’t know if that is much help, but if you have seen something like it I’d appreciate knowing. Thanks so much for your informative site. Keep up the good work.

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