Witches butter - Professor Beaker

Witches butter

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While I will try to answer questions related to the content of www.ontariowildflower.com, please do not ask me questions about fungi, because I am not an expert on fungi.  This page is added only to illustrate some of the more common fungi that grow in the Sudbury area.

Click here to go to an excellent web site describing Fungi (George Barron's Website on Fungi: http://www.uoguelph.ca/~gbarron/).

Dr. Barron is a Professor Emeritus at University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Another excellent site is entitled "The Fungus Among Us".

What is a fungus?

A fungus is an organism that grows mostly below the ground.  Only a small part of the fungus grows above the ground.  A mushroom represents a small part of the fungus organism.  Perhaps as much as 90% of the fungus grows below the ground.  The underground part of the fungus consists of a network of very thin "threads".  Individual "threads" are called hypha.  A network of hypha are called mycelium.  The fungus, with its mycelium, spread throughout the soil.

The mycelium remain in the ground year round, where it feeds on soil nutrients and expands continuously.  Under certain conditions, usually annually, the mycelium produce mushrooms, which we see above the surface.  The role of the mushroom is to produce and disperse spores.  New fungi develop from these spores.  The mycelium feed by producing enzymes that break down organic in the soil, or dead log.  That broken down organic material is the source of food for the fungus.

So, when we speak of fungus, we are really describing both that part of the organism that grows underground - as much as 90% of the organism - and that part we see above ground - the mushroom.  These two components comprise the fungus.

Fungi grow in a range of organic material - soil, live trees, dead trees, and scat.  The fungi that grow in coniferous trees differ from those growing in deciduous trees.  Saprotrophic fungi feed on dead organic matter.  Parasitic fungi feed on living organisms.

Mycorrhizal Association

Some fungi live in a special, co-dependent relationship with other plants. This relationship is called symbiotic and these fungi are called mycorrhizal fungi.  The mycorrhizal fungi obtain some of their nutrients from the plants that photosynthesize their "foods".  The plants provide carbohydrates formed by photosynthesis in its leaves.  In return, the root fungi provides nutrients derived from the soil to the photosynthetic plants.  The root fungi do not harm the plants.   There are several plants that grow in bogs that live in a mycorrhiza association.  Heaths, Labrador tea, Leatherleaf, laurels (plants in the order Ericales) are examples.  Similarly, many orchids depend on Mycorrhiza fungi to germinate seeds and to grow after germination.

There are some common mycorrhizal mushrooms.  The edible Golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) is one example that is commonly picked for culinary purposes.  The Black Truffle (Tuber Melanosporium) is another example that is harvested in Europe.

 Click here for expert information on fungus.

Fungi are cool.  Have you ever wondered if mushrooms (fungi) can help restore a state of balance to the Earth?

Paul Stamets presents several mycological solutions, based on fungi mycelium, to help improve the state of the Earth and at the same time achieve other benefits to humans.  He points out that fungi mycelium: a)  infuse all landscapes; b) holds soils together; c) is extremely tenacious; and d) holds up to 30 thousand times its mass. They generate humus soils and facilitate multi-directional transfer of nutrients between plants. The solutions discussed by Paul Stamets include the use of mushroom mycelium to:

  • bio-remediate soil saturated with diesel and other petroleum waste to create an environment where the fungi spores attracted insects, the insects laid eggs, eggs became larvae, birds then came, bringing in seeds, and the contaminated pile became an oasis of life;

  • bio-remediate soil contaminated with coliform bacteria or other wastes that leads to habitat restoration;
  • destroy certain types of viruses;
  • kill (entomopathogenic fungi) or repel certain types of damaging insects, such as carpenter ants;
  • make ethanol from cellulose using myceliuma.

Have a look at this video of Paul Stamets:

Paul Stamets: Fungi to save the Earth (TED.com)



Mushrooms grow in various habitat, including:

  • woodlands or associated with trees

  • on the ground in grasslands
  • on trees, stumps, or woody debris
  • bogs or marshlands
  • on burnt ground or burnt wood
  • on other fungi


Some fungi are deadly poisonous. Please follow these rules if you seek out fungi:

  • always be absolutely certain about fungus variety you touch

  • always wash your hands after touching fungi
  • learn to recognize the deadly poisonous species, such as Death Cap and then avoid these species
  • if you suffer any ill effects after touching fungi, seek medical attention immediately, especially if there is a delay in the onset of the symptoms


Fungi can be difficult to identify with certainty. I cannot guarantee that I have correctly identified the fungi illustrated on this page.  Please do not use these images as a guide to identify edible fungi.

When did fungi appear on land?

Fossil evidence of an ancient fungus, named Prototaxites (pronounced pro-toe-tax-eye-tees), was discovered in 1859.  The fossils lived on Earth from 420 to 350 million years ago, spanning the Silurian and Devonian periods of geologic time.  Prototaxites may have been up to 5 metre tall, taller than the tallest plants that co-existed on Earth at that time. Prototaxites has been classified as a conifer, a lichen, and a tree. The suggestion that Prototaxites was a fungus was fist made in 1919 by Francis Hueber of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C..  Recent research published in the journal Geology by Scientists at the University and the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., reaffirms that Prototaxites was a giant fungus - a giant mushroom.

Prototaxites existed across the Earth's landscapes for tens of millions of years. There is mounting evidence that fungi survived several major extinctions of life on Earth, including the big one at 65 million years ago, when the Earth was hit by a huge asteroid.  This event is called the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, or the K–T extinction event for short. The mass extinction of animal and plant life on Earth was attributed to the ejection of a huge amount of debris into the atmosphere. Sunlight was reduced or cut off.  Interestingly, fungi survived because fungi do not need light to survive!  Fungi use radiation as a source of energy, much like plants use light.

Interestingly, Canadian paleontologist Charles Dawson published the first research on Prototaxites in 1859, based on specimens found along the shores of Gaspé Bay in Quebec, Canada.

Fungi List:


Bracket Fungi

Birch polypore or razor-strop fungus

Found: on living or dead birch trees.

Identification: Smooth, rounded caps.

Cap: 5-20 cm diameter, round, hoof-shaped with narrow attachment to tree; surface is white.

Season: all season.

Location: Burwash
Date: October 14, 2007

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Birch polypore, copyright 2007 Andy Fyon, www.ontariowildflower.com

Soft slipper toadstool

Jelly crepidotus or Soft slipper toadstool

Found: on dead or rotting branches.

Identification: Elastic layer observed when cap is pulled apart.

Cap: 2-7 cm in diameter, kidney-shaped to shell-shaped with narrow lateral attachment; pale yellowish brown, drying to paler colour.

Gills: Radiating from lateral point.

Stem: None.

Season: Summer and fall.

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Turkey Tail

Fruitbody: Like shelving, overlapping, thin, tough, 3-8 cm long and up to 5 cm wide, 1-3 cm thick; variable colour from light brown to brown.

Stem: None; bracket fungi

Other: Common on hardwood logs and stumps.

Location: Burwash
Date: May 20, 2001

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Turkey tail fungi

Turkey tail fungi, Copyright 2003 Andy Fyon.

Turkey Tail on rotting log.

Location: Paddy Creek
Date: September 29, 2002

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Artist's conk

Found: Living trees or on recently cut hardwood stumps or logs.

Identification: Bracket-form, up to 50 cm long by 30 cm wide, woody.

Fruit body: smooth, and concentrically grooved; grey-brown to dark brown zones; underside is white to cream coloured; underside becomes brown when bruised; narrow 4-6 mm layers on upper side.

Stem: None, broadly attached to the tree.

Other: A favourite for children to draw on the cream coloured underside. The stumps are about 40 cm or 15 inches in diameter.

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Artists conk fungus

Light-spored Mushrooms

Oyster mushroom, copyright 2009 Andy Fyon, www.ontariowildflower.com

Oyster Mushroom or Oyster Caps

Found: On dead hardwood logs, stumps, and rarely standing trees.


Cap: 5-20 cm across, convex to flat, shell-shaped to semi-circular, smooth, white to grey-brown in colour; thick flesh; gills close to well-spaced and white in colour.

Form: Grows in overlapping clusters.

Stem: Short, white, hairy near base; often stems are absent.

Fruiting time: June to October in this area.

Interest: The dead logs that support Oyster mushrooms are rich in sugars, but deficient in nitrogen and other nutrients.  These mushrooms capture and digesting worm-like animals called nematodes as a source of nutrients.

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Rufous milk cap or Red hot milk cap

Found: On soil under coniferous trees or in sphagnum moss.

Identification: Reddish brown cap.

Cap: 4-10 cm diameter; convex to flat or depressed core with raised centre; dull red colour.

Stem: 5-8 cm tall x 0.5-1 cm diameter; purplish-brown with white base.

Interest: This is a Mycorrhizal mushroom.

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Rufous milk cap

Scaly lentinus

Scaly Lentinus

Found: Forms groups on decayed conifer wood.

Identification: Whitish toadstool.

Cap: 3-15 cm diameter; firm, convex to depressed core; white to pale yellow; dry, smooth or breaking into fibrous scales; margin in-rolled initially.

Stem: 2-11 cm tall x 1-2 cm diameter; cylindrical, solid, white coloured.

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Eyelash fungus, Copyright 2003 Andy Fyon

Red Tree Brain fungus

Fruitbodies: Brown to red-orange; flat, scattered, 1-2 mm thick, 2-4 mm wide; raised edge and wrinkled surface.

Gills: None.

Stalk: Not obvious.

Other: A common bracket fungus that occurs on dead branches of poplar and willow.

Location: Burwash
Date: October 19, 2003.

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Sac Fungi

Sac fungi

Sac fungi - variety Ascotremella faginea

Fruit body: Swollen, gelatinous, purplish to brown, violet tints, tightly clustered.

Form: Complex, lobed mass up to 5 cm across and several cm tall.

Stem: None

Other: Not common. This specimen occurs in an area that was logged and contained mixed hardwood and conifers. The soil was clay-rich and moist.

Location: Burwash
Date: April 15, 2001

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Sac fungi - variety Devil's Urn

Fruit body: Black coloured, up to 12 cm tall and 3-8 cm across; circular mouth and goblet-shaped; toothed margin; supported by a slender stalk that is seldom seen because the stalk is often deep in moss.

Form: Goblet-shaped and circular.

Stem: Stalk is not often observed because the stalk is buried in moss.

Other: Develops on buried wood and fruits in spring.

Location: Killarney Highway
Date: April 28, 2007

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Half-free morel

Fruitbody: up to 15 cm tall; head is brown to dark brown; up to 5 cm tall, bell-shaped; margin of cap is free from stalk.

Stalk: Yellowish; up to 10 cm tall.

Other: Widespread and common in deciduous forest.

Note the small spring beauty wildflower at the bottom left for scale.

Location: Burwash
Date: May 13, 2001

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Half-free morel mushroom

False morel mushroom.

False morel

Fruitbody: Up to 25 cm tall; heads are dark brown, folded and wrinkled like a brain and red-brown to brown.

Stalk: Paler brown compared to cap and up to 15 cm tall.

Other: Widespread in spring in deciduous and coniferous forest. Poisonous. See following photograph.

Location: Burwash
Date: May 13, 2001

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Several individual false morel growing in a area that was recently logged. The size of the cluster is about 20 cm wide.

Location: Burwash
Date: May 13, 2001

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False morel mushroom

Lemon drops sac fungus, copyright 2003 Andy Fyon

Lemon drops

Fruitbodies: Bright yellow; 3 mm across; saucer-shaped; smooth.

Gills: None.

Stalk: Short and not obvious.

Other: A common woodland cup fungi; the fruits may occur in large numbers.

Location: Trout Lake Road area
Date: October 11, 2003.

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Orange Peel

Fruitbodies: Bright orange; up to 8 cm across; cup-shaped; wavy margin as they age.

Gills: None.

Stalk: None.

Other: A common cup fungi; occurs on disturbed soil at the edges of roads in summer and fall.

Location: Paddy Creek Road
Date: October 11, 2003.

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Orange peel fungi, Copyright 2003 Andy Fyon.

Gill Fungi

Fly agaric mushroom, copyright 2009 Andy Fyon, www.ontariowildflower.com

Fly agaric; Also known as Fly Agaric or fly Amanita.

Caps: 7-20 cm across; looks warty; hemispherical to convex initially and becomes flat; covered with white to buff patches; cap is pale yellow to orange-red in the boreal forest, but is reported to be bright red in colour on the west coast.

Gills: Free, close, white to cream coloured.

Stalk: Up to 15 cm tall and 2-3 cm wide, white or yellowish, scaly near base.

Habitat: Common in coniferous and deciduous open woods.

Other: Poisonous.

Interest: The common English name may have been derived from: a) the use in European as an insecticide, because of the fly-killing agent named ibotenic acid; or b) delirium that results from eating the fungus, based on the medieval belief that flies could enter a person's head and cause mental illness.

Location: Elbow Lake area.
Date: September 1, 2001.

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Fly agaric mushroom profile.

Fly agaric profile.

Location: Elbow Lake area.
Date: September 1, 2001.

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Fly agaric mushroom, new button, copyright 2009 Andy Fyon, www.ontariowildflower.com.

Fly agaric fungi - new growth

Location: Elbow Lake area.
Date: July 27, 2009.

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Jelly Fungi

Witches butter

Witches butter or Yellow brain fungus

Found: Dead branches of deciduous trees

Identification: Orange-yellow colour, gelatinous flesh, and irregular brain-like shape.

Fruit body: 1-8 cm across, folded and lobed; drys to dark orange colour and horny shape.

Stem: None

Season: Fall and winter.


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Black Witch's Butter

Found: Found on twigs and branches of hardwoods.

Identification: Olive-brown to black in colour; forms a series of cone-shaped, gelatinous masses that coalesce; masses may extend up to 25 cm.

Stem: None

This example was growing on Speckled Alder.

Location: Burwash
Date: January 3, 2004.


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Black Witch's butter, Burwash, Ontario, Copyright 2004 Andy Fyon.

Coral Fungi

Coral fungi

Coral fungi, possible Grey Coral

Found: Found on the ground in conifer and mixed forests.

Identification: Fruitbodies are branched, up to 5 cm tall, pale grey; masses may extend up to 10 m.

Stem: None

Location: Highway 69, south of Sudbury, but north of Estaire.
Date: August 2001.


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Coral fungi, possibly Variety Clavariadelphus sachalinensis

Family: Clavariaceae

Found: Found on the ground in hardwood forests.

Identification: Yellowish, club-shaped bodies; fruitbodies are unbranched, up to 12 cm tall and up to 6 mm wide; occurs in dense clusters; pale flesh-coloured to pale grey.

Stem: None

Location: Burwash.
Date: October 15, 2005.

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Coral fungi, Clavaria fumosa, Copyright 2007 Andy Fyon, www.ontariowildflower.com

Coral fungi, Clavaria fumosa, copyright 2007, Andy Fyon, www.ontariowildflower.com

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For more information email: ajfyon@vianet.on.ca
© 1999-2009 Andy Fyon

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Date last modified:

Andy Fyon

November 7, 2009

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