Monday, August 27, 2012

Mushroom - Hypomyces lactiflourum (Lobster Mushroom - 2012)

Last week my son-in-law telephoned to tell me that the Lobster Mushrooms in his yard were poking up out of the ground and ready for me to come and get them.  I was excited to say the least.  Each year I am fortunate to have the opportunity to harvest these mushrooms and use them for dye.  This year there was a great crop of 10 - 12 mushrooms pushing up out of the ground under a giant Hemlock tree.  Harvesting these mushrooms is easy.  No knife is necessary.  Just reach your hand down around the base of the mushroom and pull it out.  They come out easily.  Some were as big as my fist!

Lobster Mushrooms growing under Hemlock tree

Once back home, I dumped my stash out on the ground and admired the deep orange and purple colors of these mushrooms.  This is the largest number of mushrooms I have harvested from this location, and I am quite pleased.
Lobster Mushrooms - August 2012

I went to work peeling the orange layer of color from the mushrooms and depositing those peels in my dye pot.  All the white inner part of the mushroom is discarded so that it does not soak up the precious color. After covering the mushrooms with water, I let them simmer for a couple of hours, then turned the heat off and let them steep overnight.

The next day, I added a glug of ammonia to make the bath more alkaline.  I couldn't find my litmus papers, so added just enough ammonia to cause the dyebath to shift the color.  Past experience has shown that a little ammonia will push the colors form the orange shades into the more rosey shades, even purple on some mordanted yarns.  I entered two pre-mordanted skeins of wool yarn, one sock-weight (chrome mordant), and one handspun lace-weight (alum mordant) into the pot and brought it to a simmer.  These simmered simultaneously with the mushrooms for at least an hour.  Later, a good shake of the skeins will cause the mushroom pieces to fall right off.  After pulling the first two skeins out, I put in a large skein of bulky-weight handspun yarn pre-mordanted with iron to soak up the exhaust color.    Here are the results:
Left: sock w/chrome; Center: lace w/alum; Right: bulky w/iron

More information about these mushrooms can be found in the post under the Post: Lobster Mushroom 2010-11 in the column on the right.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! This is one of my favorite mushrooms to dye with. So much fun to get a color other than yellow or tan.

  2. I would love to try growing mushrooms on my kitchen window! Thanks for the chance to win!

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  3. The lobster mushroom is actually a combination of a parasite fungus growing over a Russula or Lactarius mushroom. I am not sure how one might successfully replicate this parasitic combination to grow lobster mushrooms, but I am sure many other mushrooms will flourish on your windowsill. I wish you success!