The Problems With the Use of Common Names and Commenting in Public Forums

Posted April 1, 2014 by Rob
Categories: Uncategorized

Greeting all, it’s spring and our hearts are jumping out of our chests to get into the woods and hunt the elusive morel. The time is now to have a good discussion on naming convention and common names, and the edibility of the false morels and what one should responsibly say about them.

Earlier today I followed a Facebook thread, in which several people argued over the common name of one of the Gyromitra species. It wasn’t amusing seeing the same argument between three sets of different people, one calling the Gyromitra by its sometime used common name “Beefsteak” and someone else claiming that the common name “Beefsteak” applied to Fistulina hepatica. Again, this same argument went on several times, and was confusing to the person requesting an identification. And worse yet, had that person looked up “Beefsteak” and gone to the Fistulina hepatica link they’d have seen it was edible and choice.

The main problem with common names is that they vary regionally and often within the same region there are several common names for one fruiting body, and sometimes there are several fruiting bodies with the same name. All the confusion could be solved with some type of naming convention!

And has been. For 300 years.

When Linnaeus wrote Systema Naturae I’ve read there was already much argument within the Royal Society of Britain,  Hooke and Boyle up late nights arguing naming convention, defining scientific method, attempting to create a standard where none existed, they had it done for them by Linnaeus. There is certainly no cause to re-argue the ultimately worthless arguments that Boyle and Hooke had, when Linnaeus solved them for us and them 300 years ago.

The use of Latin names for fungi clears up many of problems; there is only one species of mushroom to each name, this takes the guess work out, the regionality, and in fact the Latin name is used internationally.  You can walk up to a Russian or Belgian or a Korean and they’ll know what you’re talking about when you mention G. frondosa but will be dumbfounded when you speak of “Sheepshead” mushroom. Several years ago I was hunting Maitake (G. frondosa) and an old timer came up to me in the woods, my bags were almost full, and his were about empty. I offered him some, and let him choose which he wanted. He managed to explain the difference between a “Hen of the Woods”, a “True Sheepshead” and a “Sheepshead mushroom”. I bit my tongue and out of respect for my elders kept my mouth shut.

One of the main problems that many of us (myself especially) have with using the Latin name may be two fold, we were brought up – archaic knowledge given to us secretively by our experts, and we simply weren’t trained to use the terminology, and also I personally have a problem pronouncing Latin names, as do most mycologists I know. And you know what? Seldom has someone corrected my Latin. It’s kind of like going to a foreign country and attempting to order in their language, and mangling the order terribly, they’re so happy you’ve even attempted to learn how to pronounce something that they’re appreciative and happy, and strive even harder to help.

We certainly don’t need to constantly use Latin nomenclature, but when we’re in a public forum, and the possibility of confusion is prevalent, we should make that attempt.

That takes us to the responsibility you must have when you’re writing in public forums there is a serious danger that someone that has less experience than you have will take your opinion as gospel. This certainly isn’t a problem when one has misidentified L. cincinnatus for L. sulpureus, but certainly becomes a concern when what your beliefs are and what you’ve been taught goes directly against science. Specifically, since it’s morel season, I’m speaking of the edibility of Gyromitra sp. and Verpa sp.

Many folks are traditionalists, they were taught that “False morels” are delicious and safe, and have been eating them all their lives. In reality the science isn’t perfect on the vector of poisoning from Gyromitra and Verpa, but it is clear. Both contain toxins that could build up in your body to toxic levels. When that occurs that could be deadly. 2 -4% of fatal mushroom poisonings are due to these to species of false morels.

UW La Crosse Professor Tom Volk states:
“Gyromitrin is a hemolytic toxin (i.e. it destroys red blood cells) in humans, other primates, and dogs. It is toxic to the central nervous system and damages the liver and gastrointestinal tract. It may act by interfering with transaminases, particularly those having a pyridoxal phosphate cofactor. Vitamin B6 is used in the treatment. As in cyclopeptide poisoning, a relatively long latent period ensues (6 to 12 hours) between ingestion and symptoms. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, distention, weakness, lassitude, and headache; if the condition is severe, these may develop into jaundice, convulsions, coma, and death. Methemoglobinuria and very low blood sugar are found in laboratory tests.” (

We’re talking about a family of mushrooms of which it is assumed that all contain some amounts of a toxin, though some G. caroliniana for example, assumedly has lower concentrations of gyromitrin (N-methyl-N-formylhydrazine) which your body synthesizes into monomethylhydrazine, a component in rocket fuel, but now all of them have been tested, and test certainly haven’t been run regionally.

In Michigan in 2012 53 people were sick enough to call poison control from eating Verpas and Gyromitras. 11 of them were hospitalized.  While we are free to make our own choices, to gamble with our health, to spin the barrel until we get to the chamber with the bullet, telling a new comer that it’s safe to do is disingenuous. (

Our society of foragers and mushroom hunters are repositories of knowledge need to not only welcome the new person, but ensure that they are given the best information, without expecting them to hold the barrel of the gun to their head without knowing that one of the chambers has a bullet. When we impart knowledge that is new to someone it’s important to give them the whole of the knowledge. It’s up to them to suffer the consequences.

Experienced mycologists and mushroom hunters would never attempt to have a new comer to hunt above they’re experience level. Without knowing the specific characteristics of the mushroom that they’re about to trying to identify, and have a handle on look-alikes it’s like throwing a chicken to the wolves.

“Michael Kuo, who runs the website, used to have a line up on there that said “If you hear someone brag about how heavy their morel was, you are talking to an idiot.” writes Leon Shernoff at “Mushroom; the Journal of Wild Mushrooming”.  (

But, of course, as I write this piece the chime on my Facebook goes off, and I quote, ” I’ve been eating them for 25 years and I ain’t been sick one time.”

Brown County, IN Morel and Music Fest April 24th – 27th

Posted April 1, 2014 by Rob
Categories: Uncategorized

We’ll be down in Brown County, Indiana at the morel fest and at a site inoculating logs and setting up a grow room.

Feel free to volunteer if you’re coming to Indiana!

Thursday April 24th Noon- Gates Open

8 p.m. Pre-fest party begins with Flatland Harmony Experiment

Friday April 25th 

Forays leave at 10:00 a.m. & 2:00 p.m.

Music On The Main Stage from Noon-Midnight

Education on “Hippie Hill” Stage 11:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.

Saturday April 26th

Forays leave at 10:00 a.m.

State Championship Hunt leaves at 2:00 p.m.

Music on the Main Stage from Noon-Midnight

Education on “Hippie Hill” Stage Noon-6:00 p.m.

Kids activities on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Sunday April 27th

Acoustic Set on Main Stage 10:00 a.m.-noon

Morel Mushroom Auction NOON main stage. (open to public)”

“The  2nd annual State Championship Hunt will be one for the ages! This year we will be hosting the hunt on over 700 acres of private land which will be prime for morels! We’ll be posting the rules and regulations soon, but there will be lots of great prizes including CASH for 1st-3rd place, as well as bragging rights for an entire year! Registration will be limited to the first 100 contestants.”

Paul Stamets on Grifola frondosa

Posted March 21, 2013 by Rob
Categories: Uncategorized

Paul Stamets

Founder, Fungi Perfecti; Advisor, Program of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Medical School, Tucson

Maitake: The Magnificent ‘Dancing’ Mushroom

Posted: 03/21/2013 10:29 am



In Europe and the United States, this mushroom (Grifola frondosa) is commonly called “hen of the woods,” since its frond-like growths resemble the feathers of a fluffed chicken. Maitake is the name I prefer, in a bow to the Japanese who pioneered its cultivation. Maitake mushrooms are known in Japan as “the dancing mushroom.” According to a Japanese legend, a group of Buddhist nuns and woodcutters met on a mountain trail, where they discovered a fruiting of maitake mushrooms emerging from the forest floor. Rejoicing at their discovery of this delicious mushroom, they danced to celebrate. In Italy, this species is known as signorina, or “the unmarried woman.” Today these two common names, bestowed long ago on the opposite sides of the planet, seem especially deserving and perhaps foretelling recent research findings.


Maitake is a soft polypore mushroom (many other polypore mushrooms are hard woodconks), making it one of the few of that group you can cook with. Maitake mushrooms are indigenous to temperate hardwood forests and are particularly fond of oaks, elms, and rarely maples. Feeding upon the dead roots of aging trees, maitake mushrooms emerge from dark grey mounds that form a few inches under the soil at that base of the tree. From the underside of their flaring leaf-like protrusions, white spores dust the ground below or are sent adrift into the wind.

Maitake can achieve humongous sizes, sometimes up to 50 pounds per specimen! Massive maitake can form annually from dying dendritic tree roots for many years, even decades. The locations of these robust patches are often family secrets passed down from one generation to another, and for good reason! I know of one Italian-American family in New York who boast of maitake bonanzas that would seem unbelievable if were not for their annual yield of photographic evidence of giant maitake. More often than not, they fill their cars to the brim, while leaving the majority of the maitake in the woods.


As a cultivator, I am naturally envious, since cultivated maitake rarely grow to clusters weighing more than a couple of pounds. Two advantages of cultivated maitake, however, are that they are cleaner — free of the forest debris that typically becomes embedded within the uplifting fronds of wild ones — and that they can be grown at home all year long.


My family is delighted every time I cook maitake. Our taste buds awaken in anticipation of its rich, deep and nuanced flavors. Maitake contains L-glutamate, a natural flavor-enhancer that providesumami — the “fifth taste” — the savory rich flavor that excites receptor-specific nodes on your tongue. Moreover, maitake is one of the healthiest foods around. In the past, mushrooms were maligned as nutritionally poor. Since they are about 80 to 90 percent water when fresh, their net concentrations of nutrients can be underestimated. Like grains, however, mushrooms should be weighed when dry to get their correct nutrient value.


Our studies show that organically-grown maitake has:

    • 377 calories per 100 grams dry weight
    • 25 percent protein
    • 3-4 percent fats (1 percent polyunsaturated fat; 2 percent total unsaturated fat; 0.3 percent saturated fat)
    • ≈60 percent carbohydrates (41 percent are complex carbohydrates)
    • ≈28 percent fiber
    • 0 percent cholesterol
    • B vitamins (mg/100 g): niacin (64.8); riboflavin (2.6 mg); and pantheonic acid (4.4 mg)
  • High concentration of potassium: 2,300 mg/100 g (or 2.3 percent of dry mass!)

Medicinal Properties

As a medicinal food, maitake has several notable attributes. Foremost, several studies show it modulates glucose levels, which can be especially important for limiting the development of Type 2 diabetes (Kubo et al., 1994Konno et al., 2001Preuss et al., 2007Lo et al., 2008). Diabetes causes neuropathy, renal (kidney) disease and retina degeneration. Nearly 8 percent of Americans have diabetes — and this trend is accelerating. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. Although this preliminary evidence looks enticing, robust clinical studies are needed to prove effectiveness for diabetes control in humans. Since the use of these mushrooms for this purpose cannot be patented, funding will have to come from government grants or private sources.

Maitake has also been widely researched for its effects on the immune system and various cancers. Several researchers corroborate that maitake causes apoptosis (“programmed suicide”) of cancer cells and contains anti-angionenesis properties. That means they can restrict the proliferation of bloods cells that feed tumors. One reason may be that maitake mushroom fruitbodies are rich in complex polysaccharides, in particular the heavy and complex 1,3; 1,4; and 1,6 beta-D-glucans. In an interesting development for the dietary supplement industry, Wu et al. (2006) found that the mycelium of maitake produces a greater array of lower molecular weight sugars and exopolysaccharides (heteromanans, heterofucans, and heteroxylans) than the mushrooms. These molecules are known to activate significant immune responses, enhancing the ability of immune cells (neutrophils and natural killer cells) to kill and consume lung and breast cancer cells (Deng et al. 2009Lin, 2011).

One portion of these complex sugars, known as maitake’s “D fraction” (a type of beta glucan) shows activation of a host defense response by stimulating proliferation of some immune cells. Since activity of these cells has also been documented with non-fractionated samples, other immune activating components are likely to be discovered in maitake besides this one form of beta glucan (Kodama et al., 2010; Stamets, 2003). However, in a 2009 critical review of the cancer-fighting properties of maitake by Ulbricht et al., the authors found the data intriguing but not necessarily convincing due to ambiguities in the design, reports, and markers used in the clinical studies to date. In other words, the jury is still out on whether or not maitake will significantly improve a patient’s survival from cancer.

What this means for health-conscious consumers is that while maitake’s use as an adjunctive treatment for cancer remains a topic of medical debate, both the maitake mushroom and its mycelium contain a constellation of active constituents that bolster human health via many complex pathways. These metabolic pathways work synergisitically to improve host defense. Isolating one consitutent from the others denatures and lessens the broad-spectrum potency of this natural, functional food.

Maitake’s complex sugars, very low fat (<5 percent) and cholesterol levels, high levels of B vitamins, potassium and fiber all make it a very healthy food. And for anyone at risk for diabetes or dealing with this disease, numerous studies show that eating maitake can reduce blood glucose levels, thanks to the α-glucosidase inhibitor they contain (Matsuur et al., 2002). Insulin resistance is dangerous. In women, it can lead to acute infertility. A small but statistically-significant clinical study in Japan showed that consuming maitake increases ovulation by helping renormalization of the insulin-glucose feedback pathways. The conclusion: maitake not only helps control diabetes and activate complex immune response pathways, but also helps fertility through mitigating insulin-stressed fertility problems.

Now we know that the Japanese woodcutters and the nuns did indeed have reasons to dance for joy when they found maitake, the “dancing signorina” mushroom!

Financial Disclosure: Paul Stamets, author of Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms and educator of mushroom cultivators world-wide, is also the Founder of Fungi Perfecti, LLC — a company that supplies mushroom related products including whole, encapsulated powders, and extracts of mushrooms.


Chen, J.T., Tominaga, K., Sato, Y., Anzai, H., Matsuoka, R. 2010. “Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa) Extract Induces Ovulation in Patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Possible Monotherapy and a Combination Therapy After Failure with First-Line Clomiphene Citrate.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Vol. 16, No. 12, p. 1-5. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2009.0696.

Deng G., Lim H., Seidman A., Fornier M., D’Andrea G., Wesa K., Yeung, S., Cunningham-Rundles, S., Vickers, AJ, Cassileth, B. 2009. “A phase I/II trial of a polysaccharide extract from Grifola frondosa (Maitake mushroom) in breast cancer patients: immunological effects. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 135:1215-1221.

De Silva, D., Rapior, S., Hyde, K., Bahkali, A. 2012. “Medicinal mushrooms in prevention and control of diabetes mellitus.” Fungal Diversity 56:1-29. DOI 10.1007/s13225-012-0187-42012.

Kodama, N., Mizuno, S., Asakawa, A., Inui, A., Nanba, H. 2010. “Effect of a hot water-soluble extraction from Grifola frondosa on the viability of a human monocyte cell line exposed
to mitomycin C.” Mycoscience (2010) 51:134-138. DOI: 10.1007/s10267-009-0016-0.

Konno, S., D. G. Tortorelis, S. A. Fullerton, A. A. Samadi, J. Hettiarachchi and H. Tazaki, 2001. “A possible hypoglycaemic effect of maitake mushroom on Type 2 diabetic patients” Diabetic Medicine, 18, 1007-1010. Department of Urology, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY, USA.

Kubo, K., Aoki, H., Nanba, H., 1994. “Anti-diabetic activity present in the fruit
body of Grifola frondosa (maitake).” Biol Pharm Bull 17: 1106-1110.

Li, William, MD. “Can we eat to starve cancer?” TED, 2010. Long Beach, California. Angiogenesis Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Lin, En-Shyh, 2011. “Production of exopolysaccharides by submerged mycelial culture of Grifola frondosa TFRI1073 and their antioxidant and antiproliferative activities.” World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, Vol. 27, No. 3, p. 555-561(7).

Lo, H-C, Hsu, T-H, Chen, C-Y. 2008. “Submerged Culture Mycelium and Broth of Grifola frondosa Improve Glycemic Responses in Diabetic Rats.” The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, Vol. 36, No. 2, p. 265-285.

Matsuur H., Asakawa C., Kurimoto M., Mizutani, J. 2002. “Alpha-glucosidase inhibitor from the seeds of balsam pear (Momordica charantia) and the fruit bodies of Grifola frondosa.” Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry 66 (7): 1576-8.

Patel, S., Goyal, A. 2012. “Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review.” 3 Biotech (2012) 2:1-15. DOI 10.1007/s13205-011-0036-2.
Preuss, H., Echard, B., Bagchi, D., Perricone, N.V., Zhuang, C. 2007. “Enhanced insulin-hypoglycemic activity in rats consuming a specific glycoprotein extracted from maitake mushroom.” Mol Cell Biochem (2007) 306:105-113. DOI 10.1007/s11010-007-9559-6.

Stamets, P. 2000. Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, Ca.

Stamets, P. 2003. “Potentiation of cell-mediated host defense using fruitbodies and mycelia of medicinal mushrooms.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushroom, vol. 5, no. 2,
p. 179-192.

Stamets, P. 2005. “Notes on nutritional properties of culinary-medicinal mushrooms.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, vol. 7, p. 109-116.

Ulbricht, C., Weissner, W., Basch, E., Giese, N., Hammerness, P., Rusie-Seamon, E., Varghese, M., Woods, J. “Maitake Mushroom (Grifóla frondosa): Systematic Review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration.” Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, Vol. 7, No. 2, p. 66-72.

Wu, M-J., Cheng, T-L., Cheng, S-Y., Lian, T-W., Wang, L., Chiou, S.Y. 2006. “Immunomodulatory Properties of Grifola frondosa in Submerged Culture.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 54(8):2906-14. DOI:10.1021/jf052893q.


Posted July 2, 2009 by Rob
Categories: Uncategorized

Mission: Practical Mycological Solutions Group (PMSG) is committed to a sustainable future. Through tested, sustainable methods Practical Mycological Solutions Group will create new methods of cultivation, remediation and augmentation of soils in contaminated areas and teach others to do the same.

Through the practical application of our mission we are committed to cleaning pollutants such as hydrocarbons, PCBs and PaHs, as well heavy metals from the environment.

PMSG Forms/Announces Two Projects

Posted July 2, 2009 by Rob
Categories: Uncategorized

In August 2008 six community activists got together to brainstorm about the most effective way to improve living conditions in urban areas.

With little or no resources but much knowledge PMSG was formed.

With a mission to teach practical knowledge of the uses of the Fungi Kingdom the first project is two test sites in Englewood, a neighborhood of Chicago that has the highest Lead (Pb) soil contents of any urban area in the United States.

To this end PMSG has developed a plan for both sites utilizing phytological and mycological methods to absorp heavy metals and destroy hydrocarbons the results should be a set of safe lots for urban gardening.

These long term projects are funded privately, out of our own pockets.

Taking laboratory experiments out of the lab we will plant Indian Mustard Greens and chelate the soil using EDTA in late July.

The process of chelation allows the high concentraion of lead to unbind from the soil, and be uptaken into the body of the Mustard greens. Indian Mustard Greens are a hyper accumulator of  lead.

Practical Mycological Solutions Group

Posted July 2, 2009 by Rob
Categories: mycology, mushrooms, remediation, volunteer, community, lead, (pb), community gardening, Uncategorized

Creating a better world through pairing the Fungi Kingdom and the rest of the world.

Heavy meatalts can be absorbed into plant life, the plant life being helped by pairing of native mycelium, and the heavy metals are unbound to soil using a chelation agent. Ove the period of a few years the plants are harvested and disposed of, the soil becomes clean enough for communities to use the land as gardening plots.

The importance of this type of remediation is shown in areas without access to fresh produce.

Englewood, a neighborhood on Chicago’s south side has the highest soil level lead (Pb) concentrations of any urban area in the United States (Englewood If. . . Coalition.)

With few start up costs projects like these can be used to teach community groups to do it themselves

In areas that polluted and that do not have the funds for conventional clean up these practices are safe and effective.