With the rains come “lumpy black things” in one Menlo Park backyard

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on February 11, 2016

Emailed Menlo Park resident Eric Sabelman: “The rains have encouraged mushrooms to grow that I haven’t seen in years. The most common in my yard are strange lumpy black things, to be seen everywhere in the leaf mulch that replaced my old grass lawn.

“Wondering if they are good to eat (and not willing to eat one to find out), I did some online investigating. They are most likely a Western species of slate grey saddle or fluted black elfin saddle (Helvella dryophila) that ‘is associated with oak’, according to Wikipedia. The mulch [in my yard] is mostly live oak leaves, with a few red oak and magnolia, all from my and my neighbors’ trees.

“Saddle mushrooms are supposedly edible, but make some people sick. So I would not eat any, however plentiful they are. They may be related to false morels, which have the same black tops but smooth stems; more is known about false morel toxins, which are not as deadly as really poisonous toadstools, but still to be avoided.

“With more rain, what other strange things might grow in my ordinary yard in the Willows?”

Photo by Eric Sabelman

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