By Martha Bishop
It’s May, and in southeastern Ohio the spring wildflower and morel season has progressed at an unusual pace. Flowers that were in bloom May 1 last year, bloomed on April 1 this year. Although I heard reports of a few early morels, most in this area were found in mid to late April despite the 80 degree daytime temperatures. It seemed there was a window of a day or two after a rain before the unseasonal heat dried out the mushrooms where they stood. So perhaps, like me, you haven’t had much luck finding mushrooms in good condition so far this season. And you may be asking yourself what’s next. Do not be discouraged!
For those in the know about mushrooms, the great times for finding mushrooms are still ahead!
Although morels are among the mushrooms that are relatively easy to identify, they represent only a few different species. As summer and fall progress, there will be hundreds of other species popping up in our fields and forests.
If you have not learned to recognize many different species, now is the time to join your local mushroom society. Whether your interest in mushrooms is in photography, art, dyeing fibers, scientific study, love of nature, or collecting edibles, you can learn more from those who share your interests in the Ohio Mushroom Society. And don’t forget that registration for the North American Mycological Association fall foray will open in May. This meeting will be in Virginia this year (close enough for Ohioans to carpool.) In my mind, clearly the best way to learn to recognize new species is to have someone who knows them show them to you and explain how they know. Many of our modern field guides to mushrooms have excellent pictures, and some have good keys. But I would not presume to be certain of a mushroom identification (especially certain enough to consume a mushroom) without a spore print and confirmation from an experienced mushroom identifier.
When you do find mushrooms in good condition this year, following a few simple guidelines will help to promote the growth of mushrooms in years to come.
- Collect your specimens carefully. Be sure to unearth the whole specimen so that you can see all of its features, but don’t dig around the mushroom any more than is necessary. Remember that the underground (or inside wood and other substrates) mycelium is the main part of the mushroom that persists from year to year. Also be careful not to trample or otherwise disturb the mycelium unnecessarily.
- Take pictures and notes about the mushrooms in their natural state.
- Take note of other members of the ecology. It is important to know what other organisms share the mushrooms’ habitat. This can help you learn more about how the mushrooms live, and can help you to identify them.
- Don’t collect all of the specimens at a site. Leave some to spread spores and to feed other members of the natural community. Don’t collect more than you will actually use.
- Use a basket or other sturdy container for collection so that the mushrooms will not be crushed. Use paper bags (or waxed paper) to separate different species.
- Make a spore print for each species, and refrigerate the rest of the mushrooms until you are ready to identify and use them.
- Place any parts left over back in the natural environment. Try to put them in an environment similar to the one where you found them.
That said, I hope to see you at the upcoming Summer Foray at Ohio University! Last year we had an amazing number and diversity of mushrooms here.
Please see details by clicking the Events tab at the top of the page, and by clicking on the newsletter link for May/June 2016 to the right under recent posts.