Devil's Urn

For many folks, the long awaited arrival of a pretty song bird is their sign of spring's return. For others, spring announces its return to them via the emergence of a beloved early wildflower, like the dainty Rue anemone or a Spring Beauty. And then there are others still who await the appearance of the Devil's Urn fungi as their trumpeter announcing spring's entrance. Consider the following quote from the book Petersen's: A Field Guide to Mushrooms: "The black cups emerging through the fallen leaves from March to May are true harbingers of spring." Ah, nothing says spring like "black cups emerging from the ground."

One of my kids' favorite questions about a plant, berry, or most anything else growing wild outdoors is: "Can I eat it?" Which translated from kid-speak means "Are they poisonous?" Now, one would expect that consuming a mushroom with the name of "Devil's Urn" probably isn't a good idea. Surely eating a mushroom with the word "devil" in its name should conjure images of symptoms like head spinning, debilitating vomiting, and diarrhea. However, this mushroom is simply noted as being "inedible" by the field guides.

The scientific name of this fungus is Urnula craterium. What a lovely name- the perfect name for an Addams family child, perhaps? But I digress, the name simply means "burned" (Urnula) "small crater" (craterium). And indeed- the fungi is pitch black inside- and does very much resemble a small burned out crater. It should be noted then, that newly emerging Devil's Urn mushrooms look more like little fingers pushing up from the soil. But, in the short span of a few days, the little "fingers" widen at the top and split open to form the crater.

Please do not be alarmed at finding a Devil's Urn mushroom in your yard. It's a good thing- really. In the book, A Garden for Life by Diana Beresford-Kroeger, Christian H Kroeger and Miriam Rothschild, it is noted that the presence of the Devil's Urn fungi is an indicator of fertile soil.

So, its sinister name not-with-standing, this fungi does indeed appear to be a harbinger of good things.


dAwN said...

I think I just took a photo of these yesterday..I will have to compare them to yours to see.
Thanks for the great informative post.

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

COOL-O, NEAT-O! Hey, Daniel...go check out Green Fingered Photographer's Scarlet Elf Cups. You guys are of like minds!!!! Both are stunning discoveries! Hey to the family!

Warren and Lisa Strobel said...

Great post! We love learning about 'shrooms! All things spring are making us happy lately. Long cold winter in Maryland and the osprey have finally shown up!

Stacey Huston said...

A very creative and informative blog.. thanks for sharing. I live in a dry high mountain area, my yard is full of sandy soil... don't think I will be finding any of these mushrooms

Jenn K said...

But are they edible?!

Anonymous said...

Well, my family has eaten them for years. We actually go out of our way to harvest as many as possible. We dehydrate what we don't eat fresh. They dry quickly at super low heat. They rehydrate well and maintain their texture. They are very 'woody' but make a beautiful flavor in a plum sauce or cream sauce to top pork chops. I dare say we like these mushrooms as much as morels ... In a different way.