A Guide to Christmas Mushrooms

Mushroom wearing a Santa cap.

Christmas fanatics anxiously count down the days to the Holiday Season.  To fill the time, they excitedly post Facebook countdowns.  They restlessly create, re-do and edit Christmas playlists on Spotify.  Waiting for the first Yuletide sign, they frantically assemble armies of gingerbread soldiers. 

Marking the days off the calendar like prisoners waiting for parole hearings, the first Christmas symbols call the Noël devotee to action. 

For many, the earliest Christmas signs appear in corporate form.  For example, big box home improvement stores fill the garden section with poinsettias.  In addition, Christmas tress occupy valuable parking spaces.

However, attitudes are shifting towards eco-friendly practices and organic lifestyles.  Therefore, Yule enthusiasts now look to nature to find the Christmas spirit.

To illustrate, the first blooms of the fruitcake tree in early December signal that it’s time to put up the tree.

A fruitcake tree.
Platanus doorstoppus: The Fruitcake Tree

In addition, the berries of the vodka holly that fruit in mid-December let us know we need to wrap some presents. 

Vodka bottles on holly bush.
Ilex drinkintheparkinglot: The Vodka Holly

On the other hand, nature also provides us with ample Christmas omens throughout the entire year.  We only need to consult the humble mushroom to notify us that a Santa house call looms.  And, the definitive book for Yuletide fungus education is “Christmas Mushrooms: A User’s Guide” by renowned mycologist Kinoki Hongo. 

Below you’ll find mushrooms reminding us all year that Christmas is just around the corner.

Conocybe earwormus Common name: Play Something Else!

Identification marks:   The caps are conical at first, becoming bell-shaped with very faint marginal striations.  C. earwormus has gills that are narrowly attached to the stipe.  Mycologists have compared the tight gill structure to the limited Christmas music playlists in outlet malls.

When and where:    C. earwormus fruits in mid March, usually around Saint Patricks Day and continues blooming until New Year’s Eve.  It is commonly found in close cropped manicured grassland and dollar store P.A. systems.

Observations:  When released, the spores of C. earwormus have a hallucinogenic effect.  The result of inhaling the spores creates the impulse to play “Jingle Bell Rock,” “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” and “Wonderful Christmastime” on an endless loop.  C. earwormus is a neat little mushroom, but toxic for children.  Youngsters who consume C. earwormus have been known to sing “Jingle bells, Batman smells” until they lose their voices. 

Xerocomellus secretsanta Common name: Oh, A Sweater

Identification marks: Has a shallow, convex grey-yellow or brownish cap that sometimes crazes to reveal a thin layer of cash register receipt ink below the skin. The pinkish tubes terminate in large, angular pores that are lemon yellow at first but turn a dirty olive yellow as they age or the gift is exchanged.

When and where:  X. secretsanta begins to fruit with the first “Christmas in July” sale and suddenly dies at closing time on Christmas Eve.  X. secretsanta is often found mainly beneath conifers but occasionally beech trees or the clearance rack at Walmart.

Observations:  The first appearances of X. secretsanta coincide with gift givers hoarding socks, wrinkle cream and bathroom scales.   The caps have very little substance, mirroring the thought that goes into most white elephant gifts. 

Parasola gaudyandtacky Common name: The Garland Inkcap

Identification marks: The cap of P. gaudyandtacky is heavily ribbed. It is initially egg shaped, then convex and finally forms the nativity scene from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  The stem of P. gaudyandtacky is faintly fibrillose, allowing it to wrap around streetlights and telephone poles.   

When and where:  P. gaudyandtacky  first appears mid-October and lingers until Valentine’s Day.  It occurs in meadows, short grass and anywhere people can hang a wreath or chile shaped Christmas lights.

Observations:  The arrival of P. gaudyandtacky signals the blurring of the lines between Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Even though it appears quite delicate, P. gaudyandtaky is quite resilient, often remaining in college dorms year round.

Russula culturewars Common name: The Sickener

Identification marks:  Scarlet, fading in wet weather, deepening with a Republican majority Senate.  Gills are white but claim that all gills matter.  Stem is white and turns yellow when confronted with hard facts.

When and where:   R. culturewars first appears after Thanksgiving and thrives until sex scandals are exposed.  It is very common and widespread in coniferous woodlands and basic cable. 

Observations:  The arrival of R. culturewars coincides with right wing talking heads claiming the left wants to cancel Christmas, family values and peppermint mocha coffee drinks.  As the name implies, if eaten or taken at face value, R.culturewars can make people very sick indeed.  If eaten, early symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting and the belief that trickle down economics benefit the working class.  

Using this helpful guide, the Christmas aficionado can plan an appropriate holiday schedule.  As a result, the Yuletide enthusiast has no need to swear by corporate reminders or rely on social media.  Throughout the year, the humble mushroom reminds you that Christmas needs no countdown. 

4 thoughts on “A Guide to Christmas Mushrooms

  1. I had no idea fruitcakes grew on trees!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Science has done wonders with baking and dendrology! Thanks for reading!😃


  2. So funny and creative!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much and thanks for reading!


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