Heyderia abietic is an uncommon club mushroom – or more likely it is rarely noticed. Growing in scattered groups on fallen conifer needles (mostly spruce and fir), this fungus rarely grows more than an inch tall. The small size combined with a brownish color makes H. abietic difficult to spot in the ground duff. I could not even find a common name for H. abietic.
I was looking at mosses growing on a rock formation along the Falls Loop Trail at Burney Falls State Park (CA) when I saw these specimens growing at eye level on Douglas fir needles amid the moss. If these mushrooms had been on the ground I likely would not have noticed them.
The H. abietic fruiting body is erect, unbranched, more or less club shaped with a smooth to somewhat wrinkled surface. The spores are produced on an apothecium (the asci, or saclike cells producing spores, are arranged on an exposed hymenium, which is the layer where the spore-bearing cells occur). All that is to say that unlike fungi that produce their spores on gills or in pores, H. abietic spores are formed on the outside of the upper club. The stem and apothecium are not completely fused but are separated by a distinct groove.
H. abietic is a saprotoph decomposing conifer needles, with each needle “hosting” only one fruiting body. The species name, abietic, derives from “abies” (the genus name of the firs) and means “fir”.
All club mushrooms are edible, but often bitter. Why try to eat these tiny fungi?
I am delighted to have noticed this small mushroom.