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8 Types of Coral Mushrooms

Coral mushrooms yield fruiting bodies that resemble branching or stalked marine corals, as its popular name implies. These unusual and wonderful mushrooms are members of the non-taxonomical clavarioid fungi group, together with club fungi.

At the moment, there are hundreds of species and more than 30 genera of coral mushrooms, distributed over all continents save Antarctica. These colourful mushrooms grow in a wide variety of habitats, including temperate, alpine-arctic, tropical, and subtropical areas. Numerous coral mushroom species can be difficult to identify in the wild and necessitate microscopic examination of the size, shape, and arrangement of the spores.

This book will introduce you to eight different species of coral mushrooms found in North America, each with unique distribution patterns, colours, forms, and ecological functions.

Coral mushroom types: Clavaria zollingeri, or violet coral

The violet coral (Clavaria zollingeri, family Clavariaceae) is a remarkable mushroom that can be found while strolling in the forest. It has a branching fruiting body that is ombred in a wonderful purple colour. The temperate regions of eastern North America, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Europe, and Asia are home to a large population of violet coral.

Being saprobic, this beautiful forest fungus gets its nourishment from decomposing organic waste. It usually fruits in mossy places, which are frequently seen in hardwood forests. From July through autumn, it can produce fruits either alone or in clusters.

The fruiting body of this branching fungus can grow up to 4 inches tall, and it usually splits further into rounded points. The Clavaria zollingeri spore print is white, whilst the flesh is purple.

Ivory Coral Mushroom (Ramariopsis kunzei)

The densely branched fruiting body of the ivory coral fungus (Ramariopsis kunzei, family Clavariaceae) has a beautiful ivory-white hue when it is young. This mushroom usually changes from off-white to cream-tan as it ages. The fruiting body can grow up to 5 inches tall, with branches that have a thickness ranging from 1 to 5 millimetres. The meat is fragile and whitish. Moreover, the spore print is white.

Across temperate, forested parts of North America, Asia, Australia, and continental Europe, Ramariopsis kunzei is extensively spread. This is probably a saprobic species that develops mostly from the severely decomposed material along the forest floor, but it can also occasionally sprout from completely decomposed pieces of hardwood or conifers.

Types of Coral Mushrooms: Yellow-Tipped Coral (Ramaria formosa)

When the yellow-tipped coral (Ramaria formosa, family Gomphaceae) is young, its thick, stalk-like branches have a delicate cream-pink colour that contrasts with the yellow tips, making it very noticeable. The yellow-tipped coral mushroom ages and becomes somewhat more uniform in colour, however the tips of the branches usually continue to be noticeably yellow.

When young, the flesh of Ramaria formosa is delicate and ranges from off-white to cream-pink. There is a yellow-orange spore print. The fruiting body has a maximum height of 8 inches. This kind of fungus is mycorrhizal, which means that it benefits both parties by obtaining nutrients from plant roots. In the case of yellow-tipped coral, sugars and carbon are exchanged for nutrients such as phosphate and nitrogen by the fungus’s underground structure, or mycelium, which is mainly found in the roots of hardwood trees.

In temperate, forested, mostly hardwood parts of Europe, Ramaria formosa grows. It is especially prevalent in nations in the south. It bears fruit from June to autumn. Although it is listed in some field guides as being found in North America, it is most likely a genetically separate species despite having extremely similar appearances.

Types of Coral Mushrooms: Red Coral (Ramaria araiospora)

The red coral mushroom (Ramaria araiospora, Gomphaceae family) is a brightly coloured coral fungus with a smooth, highly-branched fruiting body that ranges in colour from pink to vivid scarlet. When young, its flamboyant crimson fruiting body is a breathtaking discovery during a mushroom hunt or woodland stroll. Ramaria araiospora usually fades to a paler pink-orange or pale pink-red as it ages. All things considered, the fungus is stunning during its whole life cycle.

The glossy, colourful fruiting body can reach a height of 5 inches, and the thickness of each branch can range from 1 to 5 millimetres. There is a yellowish spore print.

It is thought that this species interacts mycorrhizally with conifers and hardwoods, especially western hemlocks and tanoaks. The red coral fungus is most prevalent in North America in the Pacific Northwest, coastal western Mexico, and along the California coast. In addition to its native North America, Ramaria araiospora can also be found in the lower Himalayan regions, though further DNA sequencing may alter our understanding of this.

Crown-Tipped Coral Mushroom (Artomyces pyxidatus)

The crown-tipped coral, Artomyces pyxidatus, belongs to the Auriscalpiaceae family and shares the same order as Russula. It is a species with a unique point. is, once you look closely, one of the simpler coral mushrooms to recognise. This species’ branch tips have a somewhat squared-off depression encircled by three to six distinguishing points.

A dense cluster of off-white to yellowish crown-tipped branches is the growth form of Artomyces pyxidatus. The fruiting body may reach heights of 5 inches and widths of 4 inches. The saprobic crown-tipped coral typically grows alone or in clusters on the deadwood of hardwoods such as maples, tulips, aspens, and willows. It fruits from spring to autumn and is almost always seen growing on fallen logs.

This species of coral fungus is widely dispersed and can be found in temperate, forested parts of the Northern Hemisphere. It is generally common in North America, yet it may be rare or nonexistent on the West Coast.

Types of Coral Mushrooms: Green-Staining Coral (Phaeoclavulina abietina)

Although it appears modest at first, when cut or bruised, the green-staining coral (Phaeoclavulina abietina, family Gomphaceae; it was formerly in the genus Ramaria) stands out clearly from imitations. This properly named coral mushroom turns bruises bluish-green when the flesh comes into contact with air. The branches occasionally take on a greenish tint as they age.

The fruiting body’s non-bruised sections range in colour from cream to yellow. It has a yellowish-brown spore print. The tips of the branches are many, slender, and sharp, and they are separated irregularly. The fruiting body has a maximum height of approximately 3 inches.

The Northern Hemisphere’s temperate coniferous woodland zones are home to Phaeoclavulina abietina. The Monterey cypress and redwood woods on North America’s west coast are home to the largest populations of green-staining coral mushrooms.

Pink-Tipped Coral (Ramaria botrytis)

Pink-tipped coral (Ramaria botrytis, family Gomphaceae) is a thick, short-branched, and gorgeous species with cream-white basal branches that give way to exquisitely rose-pink higher branches and tips. The fungus ages by lengthening its branches and turning yellowish or yellow-brown at the base. The spore print is yellowish, and the meat has a creamy white colour. This species has a sponge-like appearance as well.

At its largest, this amazing coral fungus reaches heights of 8 inches and diameters of 12 inches.Mycorrhizal in nature, Ramaria botrytis is usually found in mixed hardwood forests. In temperate locations, it bears fruit from summer to autumn, but in subtropical regions, it does so all year round. This species is found in large numbers in Australia, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, North America, and North Africa.

Types of Coral Mushrooms: Lentaria micheneri

Lentaria micheneri, a member of the family Lentariaceae, does not yet have a common name; its scientific name is all that is known about it. This beige coral mushroom stands out due in part to its pronounced base and stalk. Before the fruiting body starts to branch, the stalk can make up up to half of the total height, especially in young specimens. With thin, forked branch terminals, the branches are vertically oriented and densely developed. Usually, the branches are beige to very pale orange, and the stalk is off-white. The flesh has a lot of toughness. This little species is barely a couple of inches tall.

Mycologists are still trying to determine this Leptaria micheneri’s ecological function. Growing under oaks, beeches, and pine trees seems to be its thing. Nonetheless, a saprobic identity might be suggested by its mycelial growth style and dissemination. Additionally, this species may display saprobic and mycorrhizal behaviours at various stages of its life cycle.