Category Archives: Ramaria largentii

Rethinking Ramaria

Ramaria largentii
Ramaria largentii

My freezer has been home to masses of frozen Ramaria collected for the Fungi and Fibre Symposium dyepots, but I wanted to be sure it would give some good colour after being frozen for nine months. My earlier experiments with the frozen version of this mushroom resulted in a decent purple, but I didn’t want to take a chance on seeing a dozen international visitors hovering over a dyepot, watching and waiting for purple. And ending up with a blah beige.

So this lovely orange coral appeared in my Back Forty at the perfect time, when plans for the event are ticking along nicely and when my hands really needed to get into some dyepots. The coral came home with me and went straight into my sample dyepot along with a few strands of iron-mordanted yarn.

The results amounted to a revelation. I recant my previous musings about frozen Ramaria and about keeping the dyepot temperature on the low side. Here’s what happened (laid out on grey cardstock—the colours are true, at least on my screen) :

Ramaria samples, fresh and frozen

First, it doesn’t appear that the purple from Ramaria is quite so finicky as the other purple-bestowing mushrooms when it comes to temperatures (specifically Tapinella atrotomentosa and Omphalotus olivascens, which need to be watched carefully and pulled at ~160° F). Clearly the dyebath shouldn’t be allowed to reach boiling, but 170° F was the optimum for the first two sets of samples.

My second discovery: freezing Ramaria works if done for a short time but not for the nine months I subjected my stash to. So I returned the Symposium orange coral to the forest floor, and now I’m hoping for an outstanding harvest this year so our registrants won’t be disappointed.

At the same time as I found the Ramaria, I also found Clavulina coralloides in various stages of infection with Helminthosphaeria clavariarum, a fungus that routinely parasitizes this little coral.

Clavulina Coralloides 3pics
Since I was planning on doing some sampling anyway, I decided to try this one too—with the darkest of the infected coral—on the off chance the deep purple of the parasite might translate into the dyepot, again with an iron-mordanted test strand.

Clavulina samples

More grey than purple, but clearly darker with more heat. Worth playing with some more? I don’t think so.

Frozen . . . the Mushroom

Ramaria flavigelatinosa
Ramaria largentii

Last year I wrote about an exciting discovery with the orange coral mushroom, Ramaria largentii, when I obtained a nice purple from a little bag that had been left outside during a frost. The mountain of coral that had dried inside proved to be unusable, giving a blah beige.

This year’s harvest of coral wasn’t outstanding, but I do have enough in my freezer now to do a few dyepots. First I wanted to make sure that several months of freezing wouldn’t affect the colour. And indeed it didn’t! This purple is on wool roving mordanted with iron.

Ramaria after Freezing
Ramaria after Freezing

I’ve been away from my studio more than I wanted (although the January trip to Costa Rica was a legitimate reason to be away), but the dyepots are heating up again, with some interesting results. More to come . . .

Study in purple

Orange coral
Ramaria largentii

“Study” implies lessons to be learned, and that’s certainly the case with this mushroom, an orange or pink coral (Ramaria gelatinosa).

When I first started playing with mushroom dyes, I’d read that this one would give purple if an iron mordant was used, so I popped a good handful of the mushroom into my little sample dyepot, along with my mordanted samples, and boiled the life out of it, only to find an interesting grey at the end of the process. I even blogged about it at the time. Despite my suggestion then that I’d try that one again the following year, there were so many more mushrooms to try that I walked on by the orange/pink coral . . . until this year.

The forest provided such an abundance of this coral mushroom this year, along with everything else, that I decided to collect what I could and try again. But since I was spending every available minute out collecting all kinds of mushrooms, I did with the coral what I did with all my other treasures: I spread it out on newspapers to dry.

ramaria samples burgundy_120

When it was time to fire up the sample dyepot again, I’d just brought in some more fresh coral, so that went in first, and I used a splash of ammonia to raise the pH of the dyebath to around 10—and the iron sample yarn came out a deep burgundy. (The samples, left to right: no mordant, alum, iron, copper.)

dried ramaria samples_120

Energized by this result, I tried another sample pot with a handful of dried coral (of which I had mountains by this time) . . . which resulted in an insipid grey. The mountains of dried coral went back to the forest, my gift to the mushroom fairies. Another lesson learned.

Ramaria colours_120

I had enough fresh coral left for a good-sized dyepot, from which I got these colours on some Corriedale batts.

As luck would have it, I found another good clump of coral a week or so later; it stayed outside in a paper bag, and by the time I got to it, it had frozen solid. Into the dyepot it went (again with ammonia to raise the pH), along with some premordanted (with iron) silk: a camisole, a scarf, and a silk “hankie,” which will be spun into a fine thread. I took to this dyepot some lessons already given to me by two of my dyeing mentors, Heather and Alissa: when trying for purple, don’t let the temperature of the dyebath rise much above 160 degrees F, and pull it out of the dyebath as soon as you have the desired colour (as opposed to leaving the fibre to soak overnight or longer). And here’s what resulted:

Purple from orange coral
Purple from orange coral (Ramaria)

I’m thrilled, of course, although the last lesson from this mushroom is the hardest to deal with: patience. I have no more Ramaria to play with this year—but that makes this purple all the more special, doesn’t it?