Friday, October 28, 2011

Flower Pot Mushrooms

This week's blog was written by guest blogger Dusty Purcell. Dusty is a Mycologist/Plant Pathologist who studied at the University of Florida.

There are a few delicate little mushrooms that commonly sprout from the soil of nursery grown plants. The yellow species pictured below appears to be the most common of them.

Leucocoprinus birnbaumii growing with crape myrtle trees in a nursery. The pale specimen on the left is mature and has a fully expanded cap. The picture on the right depicts several young mushrooms whose caps haven’t yet opened up into little parasols.
Despite its frequency, it has no universally accepted common name, though flower pot mushroom would be appropriate. It goes by the scientific name Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, but some field guides may list it as Leucocoprinus luteus. These mushrooms don’t harm the plants they share potting soil with; they just decompose the organic matter in the soil. You may see them any time of the year in Florida, but in the cooler months you’re more likely to see them in a greenhouse or at the base of a houseplant. While they are most conspicuous when growing with potted plants, they can also be found in compost piles, old mulch, and among the twigs and leaf-litter of the forest floor.

Mature mushrooms range from pale to bright yellow and stand about 4 inches tall. I’ll forego the detailed description here… If you see little yellow mushrooms growing from your potted plants it’s pretty safe to assume that this is your guy. They are tissue-paper delicate and don’t normally last more than a day or two before shriveling away. So try to enjoy the short lived novelty of this harmless mushroom if you ever see them among your houseplants.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bee Balm

Fall is a great time to enjoy wildflowers in Florida. One of the wildflowers blooming in the Florida Botanical Gardens right now is Bee Balm, Monarda punctata. This is an herbaceous perennial that typically grows to about 18” tall and spreads. Like other herbaceous members of the mint family (Labiatae), Bee Balm has leaves that are in an opposite arrangement on a square stem. You can feel the angular shape of the stem by rolling it between your thumb and forefinger. The pinkish-purple showy parts that are most noticeable are not the flowers, but bracts. If you look closely above you can see the flowers above the bracts; the flower tubes are pale with purple spots.
Bee Balm is attractive to bees, butterflies, and birds, which makes it an excellent plant for attracting wildlife. The Bee Balm in the Gardens is just buzzing with life right now!  Click here for more information on this plant.