A Pseudo Mushroom?

Back in early November we took a family hike around the Karst Creek Trail in Strathcona Provincial Park. At the end of the trail we found a number of dried up, old “mushrooms.” At least that’s what we thought they were initially. However, a little detective work solved the mystery quite quickly.

Before I tell you what we actually found take a look at some of these staged photographs that I took in our front yard and you can see why at first glance we might have thought these were mushrooms.

They certainly look like mushrooms when they're placed stem down in the leaves - but are they mushrooms?
They certainly look like mushrooms when they're placed stem down in the leaves - but are they mushrooms?
From above they still sort of look like mushrooms - but what are they really?
From above they still sort of look like mushrooms - but what are they really?

Mushrooms often grow in association with trees and I used the leaves of a native tree that these were close to where we found the pseudo mushrooms. If you can identify the tree it might give you a clue as to what the “mushrooms” actually are.

These definitely can't be mushrooms - they don't seem to have any gills!
These definitely can't be mushrooms - they don't seem to have any gills!

A closer look at these strange “pseudo mushrooms” indicates that they aren’t mushrooms since they don’t have any gills or pores. So what are they?!?

If you haven’t guessed already, these are photographs of the remains of the inflorescence of the Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nutallii). The Pacific Dogwood has a beautiful showy flower with large petal like white bracts. The actual flowers are the compact greenish-white cluster in the center of the bracts.

Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nutallii) - note the cluster of small flowers in the centre of the large, showy, white petal-like bracts.
Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nutallii) - note the cluster of small flowers in the centre of the large, showy, white petal-like bracts.

What we found at Karst Creek was the remains of the inflorescence after the bright red berries have fallen off. The clue for us was that we found a number of these at the base of Pacific Dogwood and with a little searching found several still attached to the tree.

The remains of the flower inflorescence of Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nutallii)
The remains of the flower inflorescence of Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nutallii)

Mystery solved!