The Giant Cypress Agaricus: A Chonk of a Mushroom with a Strong Sense of Place

The Giant Cypress Agaricus: A Chonk of a Mushroom with a Strong Sense of Place

Agaricus lilaceps caps can grow up to nearly a foot across. (Illustration by Alex Harris)

The story of Agaricus lilaceps is not an uncommon one, in the Bay Area. Originally from Monterey, where it was first described in the 1930s, A. lilaceps has been traveling up and down the California coast, spending its days decomposing things, wearing a yellow or orange veil, and mostly appearing under or near Monterey cypress. We’ve all gone through similar phases.

Its genus, Agaricus, includes hundreds of species found all over the world, with a particularly diverse population in California. Agaricus mushrooms are saprobes, meaning they survive by breaking down organic matter for food. They have a few defining physical characteristics, such as dull caps, brown gills, dark-brown spores and an often orange or yellow “partial veil”, tissue which protects the gills as a mushroom matures. The one that most people are familiar with is surely Agaricus bisporus, the common button or crimini mushroom found in grocery stores and salad bars (which are just a young version of the larger portobello mushrooms … did everyone know this except me?). A. lilaceps is pretty much along those lines. It also may stain a red-wine color when cut, and the cap can acquire a lilac tinge in cold weather—hence “lilaceps.” 

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What makes A. lilaceps stand out from (and above) its brethren is its stature and girth. They don’t call it the Giant Cypress Agaricus for nothing. The cap can be 6–30 cm across: up to nearly a foot. This might not seem like much, but in person, especially when it’s amongst other Agaricus, you can tell this one is different. You would need a bun the size of a dinner plate to make a burger out of this bad boy.

Size matters when identifying A. lilaceps, but location is also an important factor. A. liliaceps strongly prefers the Monterey cypress (though it is okay with some other trees, like eucalyptus), and Monterey cypress doesn’t appear just anywhere. Historically, this conifer stuck to two small areas near Monterey and Carmel on the central coast.

Now, though, these cypresses can be found up and down the coast, as their beachy, windswept look has seemingly proved popular with landscape designers and farmers (barbers are another story, none yet willing to give me “the Monterey cypress” or “sideways Kramer,” as it is sometimes called). 

The casual, not-trying-too-hard style of the Monterey cypress, beloved of landscapers and Agaricus lilaceps. (Photo by Steven Coles via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

For Thea Chesney, a mycologist, keen mushroom-hunter, and U.S. Forest Service forester, who went to school at UC Berkeley, A. lilaceps is emblematic of the Central Coast. “It’s a mushroom with a pretty strong sense of place, for me.”

Lo and behold, as the cypress has spread, so too have its fungal followers, although the exact mechanism of how these hikers hitch remains a mystery, according to Rick Kerrigan, author of Agaricus of North America.

Maybe it’s us. “People are really good at moving around fungal species without noticing,” says Chesney. Which, despite being a little gross when taken out of context, rings true. 

Perhaps you have seen some suspiciously produce-aisle-esque mushrooms growing in a local lawn or cow patty. Indeed, the common button mushroom, originally European, has escaped into wild places from commercial farms (is it bad to hope that Agaricus bisporus is as successful in its new environments as sourgrass has been?). But A. lilaceps isn’t farmed commercially, despite being “edible and choice!” and one of the “meatiest of all edible mushrooms” (or so renowned expert David Arora judged them in Mushrooms Demystified. He also says to cook it thoroughly). So that can’t be it.  

Maybe it flew. Many mushrooms migrate by releasing spores into the air, where they float around until they land in a hopefully agreeable environment. That’s what fruiting bodies (the mushrooms we see above ground) are for—they’re spore-dispersal machines. In a 2012 study conducted at the Point Reyes National Seashore, scientists determined that spores could travel many miles, but that their success at making new mushrooms greatly decreased the farther they traveled from their source. Lead author Kabir Peay, a Stanford associate professor of biology and earth systems, says, “The longer the time scale, the more likely that you would get one of these what you would call a long-distance dispersal.” Peay notes that there are even plausible theories of spores making successful transoceanic flights. 

Or maybe the fungi has just been traveling around California in soil brought along with the cypress. When Monterey cypress is propagated from seeds or stem cuttings, there isn’t much soil for A. lilaceps to hide in. But even a tiny bit could do it. Or spores could stick to the seeds. Peay lends some credence to this possibility: “When people go out and plant Monterey cypress,” he says, “they are actually moving soil.”

Chesney wonders if A. lilaceps might be an endophyte—an organism that lives within its host plant. Not necessarily a parasite like Cordyceps, the HBO-famous fungus that turns ants into zombies, but something less malignant and more simpatico, just living its life “within and between the cells of the cypress, until the needle cluster or bark or whatever tissue it is ends up shed from the tree,” Chesney mused. 

Peay thinks spore dispersal is the likeliest answer. “People have long assumed that the terrestrial surface is just blanketed in fungal spores,” he says, just waiting for the right environment to happen around them. But he wouldn’t rule out the endophyte idea, though it’s undocumented. There are “a lot of fungi that have some kind of endophytic phase of their life,” he says. “And if it’s endophytic, it’s possible it’s moving around in seeds.” 

Here, we start to brush up at the edge of the unknown, a familiar place for mycologists. But technological advances like DNA sequencing are giving them tools that could finally answer questions about how mushrooms move, Peay says. They can find fungi in the soil—even ones that haven’t produced visible mushrooms above ground—then analyze how related they are to fungi elsewhere, and use that information to try and suss out their paths. 

And who knows where that path, however it is traveled, will take our intrepid explorers? Maybe they are ready to leave the comfortable climes of coastal California and travel abroad. Kerrigan mentions that cypress plantations around the world are “routinely noted to ‘pull’ rare local species of Agaricus out of the air, and they become regular features of these planted cypress groves.” According to Peay, all it may take is enough time and a friendly updraft to launch our unlikely hero into the air. Stay tuned over the next many thousands of years.

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“Ships of the Desert” Are Not All Alike

“Ships of the Desert” Are Not All Alike

Often referred to as ships of the desert, the camel family (Camelidae) first evolved in North America approximately 44 million years ago during the Eocene period.

Yes, it’s hard to believe when you consider that today they are only found in the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Asia, such as China’s Gobi Desert and the Mongolian steppes.

There are three types of camels: the dromedary or Arabian camel with its single hump and distinctive long legs; Bactrian camels with their stocky bodies, shorter limbs, and two humps; and the wild Bactrian, the rarest of the three.

While they also have two humps, wild Bactrians are genetically separated and physically leaner than their domesticated counterparts — and there are barely 1,000 of them left on the planet.

Domesticated for approximately 3,500 years, they have long been valued as pack animals due to their ability to carry large loads for up to 25-30 miles a day. Dromedaries can weigh between 700 and 1,700 pounds and stand over 7-feet tall at the hump.

Speaking of which, their hump can store up to 80 pounds of fat, which has the ability to break down into fluids and energy when other sources aren’t available. These reserves give camels the ability to travel up to 100 miles without agua. When they do take in water, a very thirsty camel can drink 30 gallons of water in just 13 minutes!

These one-humped camels represent a whopping 94 percent of the camelid population and can tolerate up to 30 percent water loss, which no other mammal can achieve.


Bactrian Camels

Ideal for carrying people and goods across rocky Central Asian deserts, Bactrians can weigh between 1,300 and 2,200 pounds and are considered the largest animals in the desert. They are able to survive extreme weather fluctuations and, like other camels, their humps store fat, not water, that breaks down to supply them with the resources they need.

Known for their large two-toed hooves and thick, wooly coats that provide warmth from the cold and insulation from the desert heat, there are over 2 million Bactrian camels, and almost all of them are domesticated.

Named after Bactria, a region in ancient central Asia, their history intertwined with humans in about 2,500 BC, around the same time as domestication. Two-humped camels are known for assisting early merchants traveling on the Silk Road by pulling caravans.


Wild Bactrian Camels

Living in relative isolation in the far reaches of China and Mongolia — including the Taklamakan, Kumtag, and Gobi Deserts — their habitat consists of arid plains and hills where water sources are scarce and very little vegetation exists. Shrubs are their main food source.

While not as big as their domestic cousins, genetic studies have established that it is actually a separate species that diverged from the Bactrian camel about 1.1 million years ago. Still, they weigh between 600 and 1,500 pounds and live to be 40 years old in the wild. They also have a well-developed sense of sight and smell.

Like all camels, their splayed feet allow them to walk on rough, hot, or sandy terrain with relative impunity. Their shaggy body hair changes color during winter and sheds in the summer. Considered social, they migrate in herds of up to 30 and are known to be good swimmers.

Critically endangered, wild bactrian camel populations continue to decrease. The Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) is the only charity in the world with a specific mission to save this remarkable creature and its pristine desert environment from extinction and destruction.

This article by Rebecca West was first published by The Animal Rescue Site. Lead Image: PIXABAY/INDE.

What you can do

Support ‘Fighting for Wildlife’ by donating as little as $1 – It only takes a minute. Thank you.


Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.

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Infrared Measurement Devices Used to Constantly Determine the Magnitude of the Greenhouse Effect

Infrared Measurement Devices Used to Constantly Determine the Magnitude of the Greenhouse Effect

Solar radiation enters the Earth’s atmosphere freely and should normally leave as heat. Unfortunately, this is being hampered by the growing “greenhouse roof” of carbon dioxide and other gases.

That is why the Earth is warming and our climate is changing. Infrared measurement devices, known as pyrgeometers, are used to continuously measure the extent of the greenhouse effect.

These measurements’ long-term reliability has now been significantly improved.

This was made possible by calibrating the pyrgeometers with a new PTB reference device described in the current issue of Metrologia.

Measuring The Greenhouse Effect Accurately


(Photo : WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

The greenhouse effect is measured by the atmospheric longwave downward radiation, which is the radiation reflected back to Earth from the “greenhouse roof,” as per

It has been measured continuously for years using pyrgeometers located on Earth. These infrared measurement devices cover a wide spectral band, capturing a wide range of wavelengths.

They also have a very wide field of view, allowing them to monitor almost the entire hemisphere of the sky.

Pyrgeometers must be regularly calibrated, i.e., metrologically traced to standards, to ensure the informative value and comparability of measurement data over time.

The new reference blackbody, known as the “hemispherical blackbody” (HSBB), is an example of such a standard.

It was created at PTB in collaboration with the Physikalisch-Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos / World Radiation Center (PMOD/WRC) as part of the European “Metrology for Earth Observation and Climate” series of research projects (MetEOC).

The HSBB meets the specific requirements for such calibrations and is traceable to the International Temperature Scale ITS-90 through the PTB’s Radiation Temperature Scale and thus to the SI, the International System of Units.

With this, a second independent type of traceability procedure is now available in addition to the one used by PMOD/WRC, which was previously based on contact thermometry and optical simulations.

At the same time, the agreement between the PMOD/WRC and PTB radiometric scales for irradiance serves to validate the previously established traceability.

Discrepancies in previous global measurements of atmospheric longwave downward radiation can now be ruled out, and this radiation can now be measured more precisely.

Also Read: Greenhouse Gases Carbon Dioxide and Methane Dramatically Increase by 0.6% and 0.5% in 2022 [Study]

How You Can Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Take advantage of many utilities’ free home energy audits, as per NPS.

Then put the suggestions into action. Installing a programmable thermostat to replace your old dial unit, or sealing and insulating heating and cooling ducts, can each reduce a typical family’s CO2 emissions by about 5%.

Replace single-paned windows with dual-paned windows and install insulated doors to reduce heat loss from your home.

More than half of the electricity produced in the United States is generated by polluting coal-fired power plants.

And the single largest source of heat-trapping gas is power plants. Fortunately, alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro energy are gaining popularity around the world.

In Denmark, for example, wind energy provides about 10% of the country’s total energy needs. Once operational, these energy generation methods produce no greenhouse gases.

The concept of carbon offset is straightforward: you decide you don’t want to be responsible for accelerating climate change, and you’ve already made efforts to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions, so you pay someone else to further reduce your net emissions by planting trees or adopting low-carbon technologies.

Every unit of carbon absorbed by trees-or not emitted as a result of your support for renewable energy deployment-offsets the emissions caused by your use of fossil fuels.

In many cases, particularly in developing countries, funding renewable energy, energy efficiency, or tree planting can be a relatively inexpensive way of becoming “carbon neutral.”

Related article: Levels of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere Reaches New High

© 2023 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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North of Greenland, Canada Disappearing? Climate Change Causes Melting of the “Last Ice Area”

North of Greenland, Canada Disappearing? Climate Change Causes Melting of the “Last Ice Area”

Aarhus University researchers analyzed samples from the previously inaccessible region north of Greenland in collaboration with Stockholm University and the US Geological Survey.

The sediment samples were taken from the seafloor of the Lincoln Sea, which is part of the “Last Ice Area.”

They discovered that the sea ice in this region melted away around 10,000 years ago during the summer months.

The research team came to the conclusion that summer sea ice melted when temperatures were at a level that we are rapidly approaching again today.

“Climate models predict that summer sea ice in this region will melt in the coming decades, but it’s unclear whether this will happen in 20, 30, 40, or more years.”

Sea Ice May Soon Disappear From The Arctic During The Summer Months


(Photo : FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

“This project has demonstrated that we are very close to this scenario and that temperatures only need to rise slightly before the ice melts,” says Christof Pearce, Assistant Professor at Aarhus University’s Department of Geoscience.

The researchers used data from the Early Holocene period to predict when sea ice will melt today. During this time period, summer temperatures in the Arctic were higher than today, which was caused by natural climate variability rather than man-made warming, but it still serves as a natural laboratory for studying the fate of this region in the near future.

The marine samples were analyzed in Aarhus with the help of Associate Professor Marianne Glasius and academic technical staff Mads Mark Jensen from the Department of Chemistry, as per

They studied molecules from certain algae that are only produced when there is sea ice, among other things. As a result, the researchers can determine when summer sea ice was present in the area.

When the sea ice in the Lincoln Sea begins to melt during the summer months, it can have serious climate consequences.

Whereas white ice reflects the sun’s rays, a dark sea absorbs more than ten times as much solar energy, contributing to global warming. Furthermore, it has the potential to harm ecosystems.

Many ecosystems rely on sea ice as a foundation. The algae we studied are food for fish, and fish are food for birds, and so on.

How will the global marine ecosystems be affected if sea ice melts? Henrieka Detlef, an assistant professor in the Department of Geoscience, concurs.

According to the Aarhus University researchers, the study can be interpreted as both good and bad news for the climate.

The bad news is that this could happen very soon. Data shows that the trend can be reversed if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set ambitious political goals.

According to Henrieka Detlef, if they can keep temperatures stable or even fall, sea ice will return to the area.

Also Read: Climate Change: Antarctica and Arctic Simultaneously Experiencing More than 30 to 40 Degrees Celsius Increase in Temperature

A Wake-up call

In response to the report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared it a “code red for humanity.”

The alarm is deafening, and the evidence is unmistakable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people in immediate danger, as per The Ecologist.

He called for an end to coal-fired power plants and fossil fuel exploration, a shift to renewable energy, and funding to protect vulnerable communities, and said Covid-19 recovery spending must be consistent with climate goals.

As the report was released, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that the next decade would be critical in securing the planet’s future.

Related article: Climate Crisis: Ground Temperatures Reaches 118 Degrees in the Arctic Circle

© 2023 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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US Weather Update: Severe Storms in the South Could Produce Large Hail Overnight

US Weather Update: Severe Storms in the South Could Produce Large Hail Overnight

Spring is a time of renewal, but it is also a time of chaotic weather, and Chicago will see plenty of that in the coming days, with the possibility of severe weather kicking off the festivities.

That possibility exists late Wednesday and into Thursday morning, with a chance of hail and heavy downpours in the area, particularly south of Interstate 80.

After that system passes, temperatures will cool slightly, and while highs will remain near their seasonal averages this weekend, there is a chance of rain and even snow, particularly during the overnight hours.

Severe Storms Could Bring Large Hail Overnight

Chicago's Willis Tower Loses Power After Area Flooding

(Photo : Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Severe weather is expected to hit parts of the Chicago area overnight and into early Thursday morning.

Rain will fall across the city and suburbs Wednesday afternoon, but the heaviest rain and most likely thunderstorms will fall overnight, according to ABC7 Meteorologist Tracy Butler.

The National Weather Service warned that, in addition to cloud-to-ground lightning and heavy rains, the strongest storms could produce hail up to 1 inch in diameter. That’s big enough to dent your house’s siding.

Large hail appears to pose the greatest threat along and south of the I-80 corridor in the south suburbs and northwest Indiana.

The ABC7 AccuWeather Team is also monitoring the possibility of slushy wet snow accumulations late Friday into Saturday.

Also Read: US Weather Forecast: Heavy Snow to Unfold in North-Central US This Week

Updates for this week

According to the Storm Prediction Center, the main event for the storm system will occur after midnight Thursday, with areas south of Interstate 80 and in northwest Indiana facing a “marginal” risk of severe weather, as per NBC Chicago.

The main threat from the storms will be hail, some of which may be the size of a quarter. Gusty winds and heavy downpours are also possible, with some low-lying areas potentially seeing some pooling of water during the storms.

Thunderstorms may still affect the rest of the Chicago area, with gusty winds and locally heavy rain possible at times.

The worst of the storms should have passed by the time the morning commute begins, but rain may continue into the morning.

Rain is expected to continue past daybreak, with thunderstorms possible as drivers head to work in the morning.

As noon approaches, the rain will begin to clear, but colder temperatures will also set in as a cold front move through the area.

After a dry rest of the day Thursday, expect some clouds during the day on Friday, but another system will slowly approach the area for a second round of precipitation, which could be different in nature.

This system will primarily bring rain to the area on Friday night and into Saturday, but some areas may see mixed precipitation or even slushy snow overnight as temperatures drop to around freezing.

Significant accumulations are not expected, but the precipitation may cause some travel issues early Saturday before the system moves on.

Another storm system is expected to arrive late Sunday and strengthen on Monday, bringing more rain south of Interstate 80.

Snow and mixed precipitation may fall in the northern suburbs and near Chicago, but it is unclear whether air temperatures will be cool enough to allow this to happen.

Related article: US Weather Forecast: Coastal Storm to Bring Heavy Rain and Snow in New England

© 2023 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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Wildlife Control on Vancouver Island: Commonly Asked Questions About Squirrels

Wildlife Control on Vancouver Island: Commonly Asked Questions About Squirrels

Some of the strong feelings people have about squirrels may be due to misunderstandings about them. Here are some answers to common questions about squirrels.

1. What Do Squirrels Eat?

Acorns are among squirrels’ favourite foods but not the only thing they eat. Squirrels are happy to eat just about any kind of nut, including almonds and walnuts. They naturally gravitate to nut-bearing trees and gather whatever they can find, eating some nuts right away and storing others for later.

Squirrels eat nuts because they are packed with protein and other nutrients and don’t go bad when stored for long periods. However, squirrels have many other secondary food sources. They may eat vegetables and fruits, such as berries, when they are in season and save the nuts for winter when food is scarce. Though they derive much of their nutrition from plants, squirrels are technically omnivorous and can eat insects. Squirrels are also willing to dig into human garbage cans and eat trash if necessary.

2. Are Squirrels Rodents?

Squirrels are rodents, which means they are distantly related to mice and rats, as well as larger rodents, such as beavers and porcupines, and domestic rodents, such as hamsters and guinea pigs. There are about 1,500 rodent species worldwide. Representing approximately 40% of all mammals, rodents range widely in size and habitat. The thing that sets rodents apart from other mammals, is their front teeth, which continue growing throughout their entire lives. Squirrels and other rodents need to keep their teeth filed down so they don’t get too long, which they accomplish by constantly gnawing on things. Of all the wild animals that get into your home, squirrels can be the most destructive, so prompt squirrel removal is vital.

3. Where Do Squirrels Sleep?

Unlike their burrowing cousins, the ground squirrels, tree squirrels sleep up in trees. They make nests called dreys that are sometimes mistaken for birds’ nests, though squirrels’ nests tend to be larger and messier. Squirrels also sometimes build dreys in the hollows of trees rather than the branches, in which case they are harder to see from the ground.

Tree squirrels don’t hibernate in winter, though they may sleep more hours than they do when the weather is warm. When food is plentiful, they eat as much as they can to build up layers of fat for winter, meaning that they can eat less often. When they do need to eat, they take food out of the stores they’ve been saving while foraging for food in the summer.

4. Why Do Squirrels Nest in Attics?

It’s instinctual for tree squirrels to seek shelter as high off the ground as possible. Usually, this means trees, but if squirrels get on your roof, they may find a way into your attic, which offers all the benefits of trees and more. It offers more protection from predators, a consistent temperature, and potential nesting material in the form of insulation. Getting inside the attic is no problem, especially if there’s already a vulnerability that squirrels can exploit. Squirrels can squeeze their bodies through very tiny holes, and if an opening isn’t big enough, they can make it wider by gnawing, and filing down their teeth in the process.

Squirrel Control Victoria

5. What Can You Do To Prevent Squirrel Intrusion?

Squirrels stick around where food is easy to find, so avoid feeding them, either by hand or with a feeder. Maintain your yard and keep long tree branches trimmed. Don’t leave pet food outside and use wildlife-proof trash receptacles. Maintain proper roof drainage by keeping gutters clean and inspect your roof at least once a year for damage that squirrels could exploit.

If you do have a squirrel problem, call Skedaddle for Vancouver Island wildlife removal services. We remove squirrels humanely, clean up after them, and keep them from coming back.

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