Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Edibility of Puffballs: An Attempt to Try Something New

Over the years I have read various accounts about puffball mushrooms.  Some kinds are supposed to be edible when young.  Others or overly mature individuals don’t even think about eating.  In July a crop of puffballs appeared in our front yard.  They were on the small side and had a rough, white exterior.  Based on images I found online, they appeared to be a Lycoperdon species, perhaps the gem-studded puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum).  I picked one and it had a pleasant smell.  So why not try to eat one?  That’s a bit like saying “Hey watch this”!

Retired University of Florida mycologist Dr. Jim Kimbrough once told me to parboil mushrooms of unknown edibilty, just to lessen any possible poison.  So I cut the puffball in half from top to bottom.  It was very white inside.  So far, so good.  I placed the two halves in a small pot of water and adjusted the gas flame to medium.  The two pieces of puffball floated like they were made of Styrofoam.  Even after boiling for 10 minutes, they still floated as before.   I cooled one of the halves.  The lower “stem” part definitely looked cooked, but the rest did not show much change.  I ate the piece of puffball plain.  No butter.  No salt.  It did not have much taste.

Then we had dinner and all seemed to be going well.  However, about an hour and a half later, I had to run to toilet.  There wasn’t any nausea, or stomach ache problem, or anything else.  I just had to poop really bad.  The poop moved rapidly from intestine to toilet.  After that, all else was okay.  I did not feel sick in any way.  Nothing else happened.  My liver was not destroyed and I did not die an agonizing death several days later.  But be careful when eating wild mushrooms!

Based on this very personal experience, I would not recommend eating gem-studded puffballs.  Perhaps there is some medicinal value though, like if you’re not getting enough fiber?

Below:  A clump of puffballs as they age.  Photos taken 1-2 days apart.  

One Amazing Lizard – An Incredible “Feet”


On July 19, 2015 Maria and I went shopping in Gainesville, then drove out to our daughter’s farm near Jonesville.   As we pulled out of our driveway, there was a brown Anolis lizard perched on the arm of my windshield wiper.  I was wondering if the lizard would dive into a crack and hide under the hood.  But no!  He stayed right where he was.  The slow speeds in town didn’t seem to bother him.  We stopped briefly at Publix and then Trader Joe’s.  The lizard did not budge.

Then came the real test.  We headed onto I-75, north bound, and as our speed increased, the lizard got excited.  He jumped onto the windshield!  The car was going 60 miles per hour and this little lizard was hanging on to clean glass under hurricane force wind by the skin of his toes.  Not only that, a semi truck with a red cab passed us and the lizard began signaling to the truck with his orange dewlap!  He did the same as a red pickup truck went past.  We expected him to fly off at any moment, but he had incredible feet.   He hung onto that glass with his eyes mostly closed until the Oaks Mall exit.  I didn’t go more than 60 mph.  I really didn’t want to lose him.

We headed west on Newberry Road and he stayed on the windshield for several miles with the car going 45 miles per hour.   I felt sorry for him so I pulled over and shooed him off the glass onto the wiper again.  He rode out to the farm and then back to the house.  He taunted the wind by jumping from wiper arm to windshield and back as we drove home.  During the trip this brown anole changed color from tan to very dark brown, and finally to medium brown with a whitish patch on each side, perhaps reflecting his various moods. 

That lizard had nerves of steel and feet like superglue.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Confusing Mexican Clovers (Richardia spp.) of Florida

In August 2014, I discovered two species of Mexican Clover (Richardia spp.) growing together in a weedy field in southern Suwannee County off County Road 49 about 1 mile north of State Road 247. 

There are two similar and widespread kinds of Mexican Clovers in Florida.  Both have small white flowers with five or six points and both are exotics from South America. 

Rough Mexican Clover (Richardia scabra) has narrower leaves and grows taller.  The fruit are nearly smooth and have a deep groove (see upper photos below). 

Tropical Mexican Clover (Richardia brasiliensis) is much more abundant.  It grows closer to the ground and the leaves are more rounded.  The fruit are hairy with a shallow groove.  Tropical Mexican Clover loves mown areas such as lawns and roadsides.  Because it naturally grows close to the ground, mowing doesn’t cause it much harm.

TOP:  Rough Mexican Clover (Richardia scabra).    BOTTOM:  Tropical Mexican Clover (Richardia brasiliensis).