What You Should Know
Wynnea americana is a species of fungus in the family Sarcoscyphaceae. This inedible species is recognizable by its spoon-shaped or rabbit-ear-shaped fruit bodies that may reach up to 13 cm (5.1 in) tall. It has dark brown and warty outer surfaces, while the fertile spore-bearing inner surface is orange to pinkish to reddish-brown. The fruit bodies grow clustered together from large underground masses of compacted mycelia known as sclerotia.
In eastern North America, where it is typically found growing in the soil underneath hardwood trees, it is found from New York to Michigan south to Mexico. The species has also been collected from Costa Rica, India, and Japan.
Other names: Moose Antlers, Rabbit Ears.
Wynnea americana Mushroom Identification
Fruit bodies (technically called apothecia)
Are erect and spoon- or ear-shaped, and may reach up to 13 cm (5.1 in) tall by 6 cm (2.4 in) wide with the edges usually rolled inward. The outside surface is dark brown, while the inner surface — the spore-bearing hymenium — is pinkish-orange to dull purplish-red or brown at maturity. The outer surface may develop wrinkles in maturity. The apothecia, which occur singly or in groups of up to about 25, arise from a short stalk.
The stalk is variable in length and solid, dark outside, white within. The stalks originate from a sclerotium, a compact mass of hardened mycelium.
The sclerotium has an almost gelatinous consistency with irregularly shaped lobes and internal chambers, and may reach a diameter of 4 to 6 cm (1.6 to 2.4 in). The sclerotium's function is thought to supply moisture and nutrients, or to serve as a resistant structure capable of sustaining the fungus through times of stress. W. macrotis is the only other species in the genus to bear a sclerotium.
Odor and Taste
Wynnea americana has no discernible odor, and its taste is unknown. It has been described as inedible due to its toughness.
Wynnea americana Look-Alikes
Has a fruiting body resembling a yellow-brown cauliflower atop a long brown stem.
Has apothecia that are smaller, more rounded at the tips, more numerous in a single specimen, and paler in color.
Wynnea americana Taxonomy
This mushroom was first described in 1905 by American mycologist Roland Thaxter. Thaxter found several clusters of fruit bodies in Burbank, Tennessee in 1888, and believed the fungus to be Wynnea macrotis, one of the first identified species of genus Wynnea.
An 1896 visit to the same location as well as Cranberry, North Carolina yielded further specimens. This time, however, Thaxter noticed that the fruit bodies were not attached to humus, as expected, but rather to "a large, irregularly lobed, brown, firm, tuber-like body buried a few inches deep in the humus."
Microscopic examination of this structure and other tissue of the fruit body convinced Thaxter the material was sufficiently different from known Wynnea species to justify the creation of a new species. Both Tennessee and the North Carolina specimens were used as syntypes to describe the taxon; the Tennessee specimen has since been designated the lectotype (the name-bearing type specimen).
In 1946, French mycologist Marcelle Louise Fernande Le Gal determined that the ascus in W. americana was similar in structure to those species he placed in the suboperculate series.
Photo 1 - Author: Eddee (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
Photo 2 - Author: walt sturgeon (Mycowalt) (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
Photo 3 - Author: walt sturgeon (Mycowalt) (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)