Art + Botany: Fruiting Bodies
In Fruiting Bodies, UK-based photographer Julia Claxton captures the beauty and mystery of common mushrooms.
Depicted in vivid color on an appropriately dark background, Julia Claxton's fungi portraits are coy and bewitching. Using her titles, we add some notes to elucidate mycologists and mushroom hunters. The series, Fruiting Bodies (2010), was awarded a silver medal in Kew's International Garden Photographer competition. (Despite the photography award, the images are not photographs—they're actually made by scanning the specimens.)
Plums and custard (Tricholomopsis rutilans or Tricholoma rutilans) is a handsome species, whose common name is derived from the purple cap and cream-colored stem. Albeit edible, the mushroom is not considered very tasty. It can be found on and around conifer tree stumps in North America and Europe.
Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina) is a small, edible mushroom found mostly in temperate zones. Its characteristic bright purple color fades with age, hence the common name, 'Deceiver.' It is a mycorrhizal species, which means it grows on the roots of a vascular plant. It grows with a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees—in Central and South America, it is associated with oak trees.
There are about 750 species in the Russula genus, most of which are large, edible, and brightly colored. Russula olivacea is named for an olive cap that often becomes brown, purple, or red with age. Like all Russulas, this species is mycorrhizal, and is often associated with spruce and beech trees. Unlike other Russulas, known for strong notes of pepper or seafood, Russula olivacea has a mild flavor.
There are close to one thousand species in the Cortinarius genus. They can be recognized by the cap and threads, which become reddish brown as falling spores accumulate. They grow in coniferous and hardwood forests, and are common in the summer and fall. Many are poisonous, and it's difficult to identify all species, so beware!
The wood blewit (Clitocybe nuda, also recognized as Lepista nuda and Tricholoma nudum) is generally edible, though known to cause an allergic reaction. It can be identified by a lilac cap, stem, and gills, and a distinctive odor that has been compare to frozen orange juice. Wood blewits are found in Europe, North America, and Australia, where they grow on decaying leaf litter.
Mushrooms in the Pleurotus genus are characterized by the frequent absence of a stem. If there is a stem, it is often far to one side, with gills fanning along it. Its Latin name, pleurotus, means 'sideways,' referring to the relationship between stem and cap. You've probably seen Pleurotus scaling tree trunks in tropical and temperate climates the world over, or in your favorite mushroom dish—the delicious oyster mushroom, P. ostreatus, is in the genus.