What You Should Know
Thelephora palmata is a species of clavarioid fungus in the family Thelephoraceae. The fetid odor, combined with the somewhat coralloid appearance, flattened branches, and brownish-gray coloration, usually with the tips being noticeably paler than the lower portions, make it distinctive. It usually blends in with the conifer litter in which it grows and so may be smelled before it is seen.
This mushroom has a tough texture and, along with the other species in the genus, often is referred to as a leather fungus. It and other thelephoras also share irregularly shaped, brown, warty spores, an ectomycorrhizal lifestyle, and a close relationship with spine-fungi such as hydnellums.
Fruit bodies of Thelephora palmata can be used for mushroom dyeing. Depending on the mordant used, colors ranging from blackish brown to dark grayish-green to greenish-brown can be obtained from the dyeing process; without a mordant, a light-brown color is produced.
Other names: Fetid False Coral, Stinking Earthfan.
Thelephora palmata Mushroom Identification
The fruit body is a coral-like tuft that is repeatedly branched from a central stalk, reaching dimensions of 3.5–6.5 cm (1.4–2.6 in) tall. The branches of the fruit body end in spoon- to fan-shaped tips that are frequently fringed or grooved. The branches of the fruit body are initially whitish in color, but gradually turn gray to lilac-brown in maturity; the tips, however, remain whitish, or paler than the lower parts.
The flesh is tough and leathery. The hymenium (fertile, spore-bearing tissue) is amphigenous, that is, it occurs on all surfaces of the fruit body.
The odor of the fruit body is quite unpleasant, resembling fetid garlic, "old cabbage water", or "overripe cheese". It has been called "a candidate for stinkiest fungus in the forest". The unpleasant odor intensifies after drying. Fruit bodies are not edible.
Elliptical, and have fine spines situated on warts.
Purple-brown to brown.
Viewed with a microscopic, the spores appear purple, angular with lobes, and warted, with fine spines measuring 0.5–1.5 µm long; the overall dimensions of the elliptic spores are 8–12 by 7–9 µm. They contain one or two oil drops. The basidia (spore-bearing cells) measure 70–100 by 9–12 µm, and have sterigmata that are 2–4 µm thick by 7–12 µm long. The flesh stains deep blue when a drop of potassium hydroxide solution is applied. The fungus contains the pigment thelephoric acid.
Thelephora palmata Look-Alikes
Similar in texture and coloration but has a mild earthy odor and fan-shaped fruitbodies with a hispid-tomentose upper surface.
Similar in appearance, but can be distinguished by branches that taper upward, branch tips that are flattened (instead of spoon-like), and the lack of a fetid odor.
The North American species has smaller spores and more variable color.
Thelephora palmata Taxonomy and Etymology
The species was first described in 1772 by Italian naturalist Giovanni Antonio Scopoli, as Clavaria palmata. Elias Fries transferred it to the genus Thelephora in 1821. The species has several synonyms, resulting from several generic transfers in its taxonomic history, including Ramaria by Johan Theodor Holmskjold in 1790, Merisma by Christian Hendrik Persoon in 1822, and Phylacteria by Narcisse Théophile Patouillard in 1887.
Other historical synonyms are Merisma foetidum, published by Christian Hendrik Persoon in 1797, and Pier Andrea Saccardo's 1888 Clavaria schaefferi. Persoon also published a species with the name Thelephora palmata in 1822, but because the name was already in use, it is an illegitimate homonym; this species is now known as Thelephora anthocephala.
Despite its coral-like appearance, Thelephora palmata is closely related to some fungi with a distinctly bracket-like appearance, such as T. terrestris and T. caryophyllea. The specific epithet palmata is derived from Latin, and means "having the shape of a hand".
Photo 1 - Author: Holger Krisp (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)
Photo 2 - Author: Holger Krisp (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)
Photo 3 - Author: Holger Krisp (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)
Photo 4 - Author: Jerzy Opioła (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)
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