Lobsters are up !!!! Right on schedule here in the Tennessee Valley – mid-August.
A lobster mushroom, Hypomyces lactifluorum, is an amazing story about a parasite turning a bad child into a child done good. Let’s take a look. Explore “Recipes” in sidebar.
Michael Kuo, http://www.mushroomexpert.com/hypomyces_lactifluorum.html, provides the following information:
“Ecology: Parasitic on species of Russula and Lactarius. According to several authors (Phillips, 1991; Lincoff, 1992), only white species in these genera (like Russula brevipes or Lactarius piperatus) are attacked. Personal experience leads me to doubt this–but identifying the host is no easy task, and I have never put much effort into it. Growing alone or gregariously in woods; widely distributed and frequently encountered in many areas; summer and fall”.
My own experience is consistent with the inconsistency of the host. I usually find lobsters in August, but this year I found my first one in May. The weather had gotten hot very quickly, hence the strange Morel season this spring, Derek and I were canoeing a shore line and spotted lobsters on a point, in mostly bare red clay, under scattered short leaf pines. The other mushrooms in the area were what I tentatively identified as Lactarius subvellereus var. subdistans,
Yesterday, I picked the ones in the picture under Virginia pine and when I uncovered the “little humps” that lobsters make emerging from the soil, I found Lactarius yazooensis or at least a look-alike. I always struggle with about three species in this “appearance group”. An appearance group is the term I use for “better take it home, make a spore print, study the specimen more, etc”. The important thing here is that L. yazooensis is extremely hot or acrid, but the lobster is a choice edible. Go figure. Look around when you find lobsters, you be the judge.
Lobsters are truly a case of the Good, The Bad and the Ugly”. Bad ones are transformed into good ones and become ugly in the process. Ain’t nature cool!!