TNB Night Owl – Blue Mushrooms

Close up view of Entoloma hochstetteri. Photo by Bernard Spragg, Christchurch, New Zealand. Public domain.

Contrary to what first popped into your head when you read the title, this article is not about lovesick fungi.

There are just a few species of mushrooms around the world that are blue in color. A true blue, i.e., caused by a blue pigment, is rare among Earth’s living things. Probably the best known (though not necessarily the most abundant) blue mushroom is Entoloma hochstetteri, found in the forests of New Zealand. The ‘shroom is well-known there, with its image on the NZ fifty-dollar note and being one of several native fungi featured in a series of postal stamps. The blue fungus is important culturally to the indigenous Māori, who have gathered it from the forests and used it for centuries for food, medicine, and tattoo pigmentation.

A cluster of blue mushrooms, Entoloma hochstetteri, found in a New Zealand forest. Image captured by the News Blender.

One might think that science is well acquainted with such a popular fungus, but little is actually known about E. hochstetteri. No one knows for sure what pigment causes it to be blue (although at least one source claims it contains three azulene pigments, without providing any references). Furthermore, it’s not known if it’s poisonous or edible. (Apparently no one has thought to ask the Māori). Several sources report that it has no psychedelic effect since it contains no psilocybin. Fungi that outwardly appear nearly identical to E. hochstetteri have been identified in Australia, India, and Japan, but disagreement abounds as to whether they’re all the same species or not. The uncertainty continues because there aren’t enough researchers to study everything that exists. The world needs more mycologists to study Earth’s millions of species of fungi and sort out these things (in case you’re looking for something useful to do with your life).

Even if we don’t really know much about E. hochstetteri, we still have the wonder of the unknown and the majesty of a brilliant blue forest dweller.

Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Subclass: Hymenomycetes
Order: Agaricales
Family: Entolomataceae
Genus: Entoloma
Species: E. hochstetteri
Binomial name: Entoloma hochstetteri
(Greta Stevenson, 1962)
Formerly Cortinarius hochstetteri
(Erwin Reichardt, 1866)

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About Richard Doud 390 Articles
Learning is a life-long endeavor. Never stop learning. No one is right all the time. No one is wrong all the time. No exceptions to these rules.