|"Mushroom Flower" - Gerronema strombodes|
You would think that a striking fungus like this would have a common name and in absence of one, I am naming it mushroom flower. It is the most commonly found of the uncommon to rare Gerronema species in the Eastern US.
G. strombodes is a saprophytic fungus, growing on decaying wood. It is usually found during damp periods. Michael Kuo at MushroomExpert.com gives a colorful description of his first attempts to identify it. He too was led on a merry chase including translating a description from German. His extensive description gives you an idea of some of the features used to differentiate the species.
Most experts discourage trying to identify a mushroom by thumbing through a guide looking at pictures, so it was refreshing to read that even the great are occasionally reduced to my most common method when "keying out" fails. A simple example of a mushroom key is this one from Kuo.
Using a key is becoming a little less daunting with computer programs such as MycoKey but you still have to learn the descriptive language. Or you contact a friend. Sometimes who you know trumps what you know.