The Parasol Mushroom (Macrolepiota procera, Bulgarian name - surnela) is one of the most beautiful and most delicious mushrooms in Bulgaria.
The fungi (mushrooms) are classified in their own kingdom, separate from plants and animals. This is because they are unique in their structure and role in nature. They are eukaryotic organisms, which are attached solid and do not contain chlorophyll. Mushrooms are terrestrial forms, although their development requires moisture. Only the most primitive of them live in water. The largest group are the soil fungi, but there are also parasites on animals and plants, or such developing on organic wastes or products. In fact, there is no matter on which fungi can not grow in the presence of appropriate conditions. Their body is made up of filaments called hyphae. The combination of many hyphae is defined as the mycelium. In the lower organisms the mycelium is unicellular (consist of a single cell). In higher fungi species the mycelium is multicellular (blue-green mold) and the cells contain two nucleus.
Mushrooms, along with bacteria are of great importance to the biosphere. They break down organic compounds through decomposition and mineralization and turn them to simple inorganic substances. This closes the food chain and the inorganic substances can now be absorbed by green plants and will be rebuilt in organic compounds. The mushrooms, especially the soil ones, help to increase the soil fertility. The mycorrhizal fungi aid some plants and wood in absorbing nutrients from the soil.
The Parasol Mushroom is a soil fungus. It can reach to a height of 40 cm. The surface of the cap and the stipe is decorated with a unique combination of flakes resembling snakeskin. As it matures the parasol mushroom’s stipe has a white and soft ring, a remnant of the cap margin, which breaks off while the mushroom grows. Initially, the parasol mushroom is egg-shaped. The cap margin does not open, before the stipe is raised. The fully developed cap is flat and can reach 30 cm in diameter; the colour is cream or pale brown with scaly circles of brown flakes on white. In the center of the cap is the bud (hump). It is covered with the same brown substance as of the dark scales around it. The gills (hymenium) are dense and white, sometimes pink; they are not fused to the stipe and can be very delicate, easy to break.
The parasol mushroom is widespread in Bulgaria. It occurs from early spring to late autumn in open mountain meadows, forest glades, in scrub and bushes. By collecting the newly grown parasol mushrooms, they can be confused with some poisonous Amanita mushrooms. We must be cautious and wait for the parasol mushrooms to grow fully.