Category Archives: Tapinella atrotomentosa (Velvet Pax)

The earliest of the dye mushrooms, its colour varies from grey to green to a rich brown.

Mega pax and polypore

Mega pax and polypore

I obtained these huge specimens on the weekend (see the quarter for perspective) at the  Sunshine Coast Mushroom Festival here in Pender Harbour. A friend brought in the huge Velvet Pax on the left (Tapinella atrotomentosa) for the ID table. This is in my dyepot at the moment, and I have high hopes for the greens, greys and maybe even mauves that it’s going to give me.

Then on our foray with Larry Evans Sunday, I found the biggest Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) I’ve ever seen, at the base of  a very, very old Douglas fir. The tree stood no more than eight feet tall, but it stood straight. Woodpeckers and birds had taken their toll, and it was devoid of bark, ready to collapse soon.  I saw the remains of several old Phaeolus around its trunk, and peering out from a hollow under a giant old root, this fabulous beauty caught my eye.

This lovely one deserves a dyepot of its own.

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Tapinella atrotomentosa (Velvet pax)

Velvet pax

Now I know it’s going to be a great mushroom season—I joined a friend this afternoon for a hike to Ambrose Lake, and right beside the trail we found a stump just overloaded with Velvet pax. (Note the fuzzy brown stems befitting its name. This mushroom is very easy to identify—it grows on old, mossy fir stumps or on the sides of mossy logs.) Unfortunately, my camera announced that its battery was gone, so I had to wait until I got home to take this picture.

The dried mushrooms on the right are from an earlier hike in our own back forest; the fresh ones on the left are from today’s hike. I counted twelve specimens, all from the same tree!

I’ll dry all the Velvet pax I find until the season is finished. This should be a marvellous dyepot!

And the cycle begins again

Velvet pax button

I found my first Velvet Pax buttons in the first week of July – several on my old reliable nurse stump that sends them out early and usually grows three or four over the season.

Someone else likes this mushroom!

I’ve been keeping my eye on them, and they’re growing quite big in this hot weather, but I had to pick this one today because it’s being gnawed on by a little creature (I’m thinking a squirrel because of the tiny teeth marks).

I’m going to try keeping several of these in the freezer this year, then having a large dyebath once I have a good quantity – just to see what it does to the colour.

And some more rich colours

Rich colours from Velvet PaxWe used some fresh Velvet Pax (Tapinella atrotomentosa or Paxillus atrotomentosus) for the workshop (see the second image below), then what I had left sat in the freezer for a few weeks. I ended up with a strong concentration of mushrooms, resulting in one of the best browns ever to come out of my dyepots (there’s a hint of purple in that brown – I swear it!). The two brown skeins were mordanted in copper, while the green were mordanted in iron. The small grey skein was mordanted in alum.

After these skeins came out, I put the mushrooms back into the pot and they’ve been brewing on top of the woodstove for a few days. I have high hopes for the second exhaust, but first I need to do some more mordanting.

The small skeins from the workshop obviously came from a weaker dyebath; the mordants are alum, iron and copper.

Velvet Pax from the dye workshop

Velvet pax – despite the heat

Tapinella atrotomentosa
Tapinella atrotomentosa

We went into the forest on the weekend, not expecting to find anything in the way of fungus (given our current long spell of hot, very, very dry weather), so I was thrilled to find one mossy stump with four of these beauties – Paxillus atrotomentosus, aka Tapinella atrotomentosa) growing out of the wood. I’d found a couple on this same stump last year and expected to find some later in the month, after our usual August rains.

These were clearly drying out – note the cracks on the cap – so I picked them, but left the other button-sized speciments to flesh out a bit.

The other little mushroom I referred to in my last post came out of the freezer this week and is currently sitting in a jar of water in the full sun, and the liquid has turned brown.  I’ll let it cook there until our next rain (please let that be soon!), then see what colour results.

Mushrooms are popping!

Velvet pax1 Aug11_08I’ve found a couple of small Velvet Pax (Paxillus atrotomentosus or Tapinella atrotomentosa) in the forest behind us, one on a mossy stump and one at the base of a dead tree (on which are also growing some varnished conk). I was surprised to find them so early, but apparently the June rains brought them out. They weren’t as large as those in the image here, but they were still unmistakeable, with the brown velvet on their stems and the purplish discoloration where the bugs or squirrels had nibbled at them.

Velvet pax 2009Of course, I had to try the first little specimen (its cap was already cracking) in the dyepot, and here are the results. This is the mushroom that has been known to give a purple colour, but here the alum-mordanted sample (top) has a definite greenish cast, while the iron-mordanted sample below is a nice army-blanket green.

The second mushroom I found is currently sitting in the freezer; I’m wondering if that might make a difference to the colour.