Five Witches // Hygrocybe conica


Habitat: Terrestrial. Found in the shade of an oak tree’s branches in wrinkled clusters. Nearly mistook for dark wet leaves.

Caps: Varying in size: 2.5cm, 3cm, none much wider than 4cm. All with a sharp central bump, peak of a witch’s cap, and color tar-black or varnished rosewood. Surface slightly greasy, rubbing off particles of ash. Four black-hatted elders plano-convex with radial cracks, the middle-aged rosewood with unmarred cap, conical-convex and shiny fibrils. Margins of four elders upflaring, lifting the gillhem and showing wrinkled gray-black lamella; the middleaged rosewood with down-facing gills, and with small black fibrils appressed tightly to the cap.

Gills: Black and gray in the four elders, but pale yellow in the other, which slowly bruises black. Narrowly attached, broad, close. Leaving a blackish residue on the fingertips.

Stipe: 3cm x .6cm or 4cm x .8 cm; color a fusion of black and yellow, the colors blending in streaks. Overall yellow. Slowly staining black. Smooth but not greasy, smooth but not viscid. Flesh soft but not fragile. Equal. Hollow on the inside and stringy. White base.

Odor: Scant, indistinctive

Spore Print: Wafted misleading black spores on paper. My research say witches leave white marks but this was not observed, probably due to age or mischief.

Taste: Indistinctive


-Where else have I seen these colors likewise balanced? Nowhere but on the uniforms of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and there the colors stay in equipoise, here they dance slowly into black.

-Distinctly witchlike in posture and attitude. Some with crooked, overbig hats spattered with dewdrops, others spry and their bodies spindly, most with glossy hair of tar.

-I wonder if these colors, like the suit of a wasp, ward off the gnawing of predators. The ubiquitous little slug crawling across dying mushrooms was absent here.



The flashes of heat lightning throw open my wall. I cast four of the witches over the balcony. I saw them tumble through the air, yellow over black, some colliding with the deck, others sinking into the grass.

A man, his mouth emitting blue white light, lies with his head sinking into a pillow. A witch, her face a palate of gashes, digs her fingernails into his shoulders. She has the eyes of cats. She opens her mouth and shows sharp triangular teeth.

I awake, flashes of heat lightning on the wall, my heart pounding.


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