This strange looking mushroom might often go unnoticed; however, once you know what to look for, they are quite the find. They have a very unique appearance, with a nearly black convoluted cap that looks similar to chewed gum. The stem is a lighter, almost white colour, with holes and “ribs” extending the length of the stem. With their strange lobed appearance, the Western Elfin Saddle gets its name from the whimsical notion that they look like what an elf might sit on atop their tiny steed.
Found across western North America, these mushrooms are commonly found under Douglas firs and various species of pines. They are ectomycorrhizal with various species of trees, meaning their mycorrhizal networks (the part of the mushroom which lives underground) connect with the roots of trees and they share nutrients. Like all mushrooms, they are an important agent in the maintenance of soil nutrients, so the presence of these mushrooms in the park means that the plants around it are getting a helping hand in their growth. Don’t worry when you see this mushroom die off; it is only the reproductive part of the mushroom. It pops up, spreads spores for reproducing, then returns to the earth to add further nutrients to the soil as other organisms eat it.
For more information, visit E-Flora BC, UBC Zoology, and Agroforestry.