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While the gardens appreciate the return of our rainy season, the rains during the fall and winter months also encourage the return of a myriad of species of fungi to our woodlands.

Blood-foot Mushroom (Mycena haematopus)

With the rains returning early this season, we’re already finding a wide variety of fungi, large and small, dotting our slopes.  As we haven’t done a Mushroom Monday post in a while, we thought we’d start the season off with the Blood-Foot Mushroom.

During a hike around the property yesterday morning I discovered a few of these small red Mycena fungi clinging to the edge of a well rotted California Bay Laurel branch. Most Mycena are quite challenging to identify, in part due to their small size, and relatively non-descript coloration.

I actually didn’t notice the Mycena at first.  As is typical of this genus, the fruiting bodies of this species are easily overlooked.  What I noticed initially was the large pinkish-red Russula sp. directly in front of this cluster.

The large Russula sp. fungi in the foreground actually caught my attention, before I noticed the Mycenae behind it

Although we see various Russula sp. throughout the year, this is the first time we’ve noticed the Blood-foot Mushroom

Mycena haematopus

Mycena haematopus is a gilled species, and is common throughout both Europe, and North America.

Invert the caps of Mycena haematopus and you can the tiny gills

This saprobic fungi is found on pieces of well rotted hardwood primarily during the spring and fall months, but may be found year around in mild climates.

The pileus, or cap, of Mycena haematopus averages between 1-3 cm in diameter, and is initially campanulate (bell-shaped), but becomes more convex with maturity.

The caps of this species flatten out more with age

These specimens are still quite young, and the caps will change in shape as they mature.

The cap is a dark brownish-red, but will become more pale pink to white in color with age, and the margin will appear more striate as the fruiting body matures. [1]

The striations at the cap edge are just becoming visible

The stem, or stipe, is hollow, and a dark brownish-red, covered with irregular coarse hairs. Whitish fluffy mycelia can be found at the base of the stipe where the fungi are attached to their substrate.

Notice the fine white mycelia at the base of the stems

A number of species of fungi may ooze a liquid, or latex, when crushed or cut, so noting such characteristics may help lead to a positive identification of some species of fungi.

Mycena haematopus is one of a few species of Mycena that is known to ‘bleed’ when the tissue is cut or damaged.  Simply plucking one small fruiting body from this cluster of fungi, a purple-red juice, reminiscent of a rich Cabernet, immediately began to ooze and drip from the base of the stem.

A 'bleeding' Blood-Foot Mushroom

There is a similar ‘bleeding’ species of Mycena, called Mycena sanguinolenta, but that species is typically distinguished from the Blood-Foot Mycena by M. sanguinolenta’s tendency to grow in damp soil, not on hardwood. [2]

Mycena haematopus grows scattered or in clusters on hardwood

Mycena haematopus is known to contain a number of unique chemical compounds.  Four red alkaloids, haematopodin B (a pyrroloquinoline alkaloid), and mycenarubin D, E, and F have all been isolated from M. haematopus.  Haematopodin B, specifically, is the primary pigment contained within the red juice of this species. [3]  Pyrroloquinoline alkaloids have garnered significant research interest in recent years due to their cytotoxic and antimicrobial activities [4].  Although pyrroloquinoline alkaloids were known to occur in some marine invertebrates, before they were detected in Mycena haematopus, they were thought to be quite rare in terrestrial species.

The red pigment in Mycena haematopus is called Haematopdin B

The edibility of this species is somewhat questionable.  Most Mycena reportedly have yet to have been tested for toxins. [5]

Mycena haematopus surrounded by leaves from a California Bay Laurel

Not to mention that their small size would render this species of little to no interest to most culinarians.

Regardless, they are one of the easier, and more colorful, species of Mycena to identify.  As the rainy season progresses, it will be interesting to see what other species we find here over the coming months.

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[1] Mycena haematopus at Mykoweb.com

[2] Mycena haematopus at MushroomExpert.com

[3] Peters S, Jaeger RJR, Spiteller P. (2008). “Red pyrroloquinoline alkaloids from the mushroom Mycena haematopus“. European Journal of Organic Chemistry 2008 (2): 319–23.

[4] Baumann C, Bröckelmann M, Fugmann B, Steffan B, Steglich W, Sheldrick WS. (1993). “Pigments of fungi. 62. Haematopodin, an unusual pyrroloquinoline derivative isolated from the fungus Mycena haematopus, Agaricales“. Angewandte Chemie—International Edition in English 32 (7): 1087–89.

[5] Volk T. (June 2002). “Mycena haematopus, the blood-foot mushroom“. Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month. UW-Madison Department of Botany