Even the underside of the king stropharia, or "stroph," exhibits a regal glow.

After nearly getting lost last week tromping through brambles and poison ivy in search of the spring’s last morels, I was reminded that sometimes the best mushroom patches are right under our noses. On Thursday, I went for a lunch break saunter behind my workplace on Cornell’s Ag Quad. I wasn’t explicitly looking for mushrooms, but I still found my greedy gaze continually returning to the ground in search of sylvan booty.

Soon, a pristine purple cap nestled amongst the leaves caught my eye. Alas, it is not blewit season, and upon closer inspection my find revealed itself to be a plastic Easter egg. I left the egg there to incubate – perhaps a child will spot it next Easter – and continued moseying about my work habitat.

Two beautiful strophs rise up out of their preferred substrate - wood chips.

Just a few yards up the path, I spotted a small army of mammoth mushrooms basking in the sun, their wide-open caps beckoning me to join them in their reveling. As I admired the meaty caps, deep burgundy in the younger specimens and fading to a pallid brown in the older ones, I realized I had stumbled upon my first king stropharia (see this post from last fall for more information) patch of the season. With morels dominating much of my waking thoughts (not to mention dreams) over the past month, I had all but forgotten about the stately stroph (Stropharia rugosoannulata), provider of many good meals from mid-May through October.

And provide it did. I harvested almost two pounds of the larger mushrooms, whose partial veils had already dropped to form distinctively ornamented annuluses (rings) around their white stems. We enjoyed them atop polenta on Thursday night, and in tacos with carnitas on Friday. Suffice it to say that I’ll be checking back on my new stroph patch regularly – its location sure is convenient!

A close-up of the stroph's gills. The gills are initially white, becoming lilac before turning a darker grayish purple.