This section is from the book "Studies of American Fungi: Mushrooms, Edible, Poisonous, Etc.", by George Francis Atkinson. Also available from Amazon: Studies of American Fungi: Mushrooms, Edible, Poisonous, Etc..
The genus Clavaria is one of the most common ones in the family, and is one of the most attractive from the variety and beauty of several of the species. All of the plants are more or less erect, and at least stand out from the substratum on which they grow. They are either long and simple and more or less club-shaped, as the name implies, or they are branched, some but a few times, while others are very profusely branched. The plants vary in color, some are white, some yellow, some red, and some are red-tipped, while others art-brownish in color.
Clavaria formosa Pers. Edible. - This is one of the handsomest of the genus. It is found in different parts of the world, and has been collected in New England and in the Carolinas in this country. It is usually from 15-20 cm. high, and because of the great number of branches is often broader in extent. There is a stout stem from 2-4 cm. in diameter, deep in the ground. This branches into a few stout trunks, which then rapidly branch into slender and longer branches, terminating into numerous tips. The entire plant is very brittle, and great care is necessary to prevent its breaking, both before drying and afterward. When the plant is young and is just pushing out of the ground, the branches, especially the tips, are bright colored, red, pink, or orange, the color usually brighter when young in the younger plants. As the plant becomes older the color fades out, until at maturity the pink or red color has in many cases disappeared, and then the entire plant is of a light yellowish, or of a cream buff color. The spores are in mass light yellow, and the spores on the surface of the plant probably give the color to the plant at this stage. The spores are long, oval or oblong, 10-15 x 2.5-3µ are minutely spiny. Figure 201 is from a plant (No. 4343, C. U. herbarium) collected at Blowing Rock, N. C, in September, 1899. The plant is very common in the mountain woods of North Carolina.
Clavaria botrytes. Branches red tipped (natural size).
Specimens of this Cla-varia were several times prepared for table use during my stay in the mountains, but the flavor was not an agreeable one, possibly due to the fact that it needs some special preparation and seasoning.
Clavaria botrytes Pers. Edible. - This plant is much smaller than C. formosa, but has much the same general habit and color, especially when C. formosa is young. The plant has a stout stem which soon dissolves into numerous branches, which are red tipped. The spores are white, and in this way it may be distinguished from C.formosa, or from Clavaria aurea (Schaeff.), which has yellow or ochre spores, and which has also much the same habit as C. botrytes, and is nearer in size.
Clavaria pistillaris. Dull whitish, tan or reddish (natural size).
Clavaria pistillaris Linn. Edible. - This plant is a characteristic one because of its usually large size and simple form. It is merely a club-shaped body, growing from the ground. It has a wide range, both in Europe and North America, but does not seem to be common, though I have found it more common in the mountain woods of North Carolina than in New York. The plant is 5-20 cm. high, and 1-3 cm. thick at the upper end. It is smooth, though often irregularly grooved and furrowed, due probably to unequal tensions in growth. The apex in typical specimens is rounded and blunt. It is dull white or tan color or rufescent. The flesh is white, and very spongy, especially in age, when it is apt to be irregularly fistulose. Figure 203 is from plants collected at Blowing Rock, N. C, during September 1899.
Clavaria mucida. White (natural size). Copyright.
There is what seems to be an abnormal form of this species figured by Schaeffer, Table 290, which Fries separated as a distinct species and placed in the genus Craterellus, one of the Thelepkoraceae, and called by him Craterellus pistillaris. This plant has been found at Ithaca, and the only difference between this and the Clavaria pistillaris L., seems to be in the fact that in Craterellus pistillaris the end is truncate or in some specimens more or less concave. The spores seem to be the same, and the color and general habit of the two plants are the same. It is probably only a form of Clavaria pistillaris.
This is one of the smallest species of the genus Clavaria. It grows on rotten wood, and appears throughout the year. It is usually simple and clavate, but sometimes branched. The plant is white, or yellowish, or sometimes rose color, and measures from 0.5 to 2 cm. in height, though I have usually found it from 0.5-1 cm. in height. It is soft and watery. Figure 204 is from plants (No. 4998, C. U. herbarium) collected at Ithaca in October, 1899.