Myco People are Interesting

submitted by Walt Sturgeon

Having been a member of the Ohio Mushroom Society for 45+ years I have encountered some remarkable folks.  Here are some examples.

There was the dousing lady. She had a medallion on a string and was testing mushrooms on the foray display tables. If the medallion swayed, she considered the mushroom was good for her. Fortunately, she was not eating them based on this determination!

Then there was a barefoot young man who announced after he got in a carpool, that there might be an odor as he seldom showered.  Some months later he was looking for OMS references after being arrested for possession of a controlled substance in Montana.

One of my favorite people stories was a phone call.  I did not know the man.  He was interested in finding Gymnopilus spectabilis, a hallucinogenic species.  He wanted to join me in observing it in the woods. I told him that I knew a couple logs where I had found it in the past and that I could contact him if I saw it again.  Then he said he wanted to collect it under the light of the full moon!  Don’t call me, I’ll call you.  This man later became a prominent Amanita muscaria afficionado at the Telluride Mushroom Festival.

I have met two savant boys. One questioned me about a Cordyceps species. It soon became apparent to me that he knew as much or more about Cordyceps than me. As an adult mycologist he has written a book and travels extensively studying fungi. The other would be in the front row when I was giving a talk around the display tables.  His questions were hardly that of a child and his interest was intense.  A couple years later he is giving mushroom slide programs to adult audiences.

My first mushroom program was at Mill Creek Park in Youngstown.  I brought an Amanita muscaria as an example of a common poisonous mushroom.  I probably exaggerated its toxicity a bit. One man in the audience stepped up and in front of the crowd and took a bite of the cap.  So much for my credibility.  I doubt that he ate enough to poison him, but it was a learning experience for me.  The next day a woman went to the park office with a bag of Amanita muscaria. She had washed the warts off the all the caps, and wanted to confirm that this was the mushroom I showed as a good edible.  So much for stressing how toxic it is. Some people hear what they want to hear. Most mushroom hunters are good people and overall are an interesting group.  I have made many good friends in mycological circles.  As in any pursuit, it takes all kinds.

Edible Fall Mushrooms

Have you spotted some of these edible fall mushrooms in your area? Yum!
Photo credit: Walt Sturgeon

Agaricus arvensis (horse mushroom)
Armillaria mellea (honey mushroom)
Armillaria solidipes (honey mushroom)
Clitocybe nuda (wood blewit)
Coprinus comatus (shaggy ink cap)
Grifola frondosa (maitake/hen-of-the-woods)

Mushroom Here and There, Now and Then

Contributed by OMS Board Member Pete Richards

My wife and I have a summer place in western Maine where we usually spend three weeks in July or August.  One of our favorite activities is going on mushroom hikes.  It is always interesting to see what we find there that is familiar because we see it here in Ohio, and what is different.  Some hikes reward us with a taste treat – usually chanterelles, or sometimes black trumpets.

This year we are not going to Maine because of COVID-19, and there are few mushrooms around here because of the extreme dryness.  This leaves me little to do as a mycophile except think about past finds, protect myself in the present, and speculate about the future.

There are good reasons to expect the mushrooms in our area of Maine to be similar to those here.  The climate is not drastically different, and many of the same trees occur in both places – oaks, maples, beeches.  Many of the same Russulas and Lactarius occur in both places; as do several of the Amanitas; the Sulfur Shelf Laetiporus sulphureus; and boletes like Old Man of the Woods Strobilomyces sp., several Suillus species, etc.

There are also important differences.  Oberlin, where I live, is notorious for its clay soils, which are underlain by sandstones and shales.  Our area of Maine is part of the older Appalachian Mountain range, an area of rocky not-quite mountains built of metamorphic and igneous rocks, often with a rather thin mantle of soil on top.  The area I know best, right around our cabin, is an island, a glacial sand deposit with fine old trees, mostly white and red pines and paper birches, species which are not common around my part of Ohio.  Not surprisingly, the mushrooms that I see there but not here are often ones that are associated with these trees and the rather acid soil they produce.  Polypores like Fomitopsis betulina, Fomes excavatus, and Phellinus gilvus, the strange bolete Meiorganum curtisii  and the fuzzy-stemmed agaricale Tapinella atromentosa are obligate saprobes or parasites of these trees.  Some other species I have seen in Maine but not in Ohio are Amanita frostiana, A. jacksonii, Cortinarius semisanguineus, Hypomyces lactifluorum, and Turbinellus floccosus.  Undoubtedly some of these occur some places in Ohio, but I was not looking in the right place at the right time.

Things are changing on our little island in Maine.  The forest canopy is dominated by the pines and birches, but they are gradually dying and are not replacing themselves.  The understory is mostly Red Maple, Red Oak, and  American Beech.  In 50 years, these will be the mature trees, and with the change of trees will come a change in the mushroom assemblage.  The island will be much more like Ohio, both in its trees and in its mushrooms.

Ohio is also changing, and with it the rest of the Midwest and beyond.  Old growth forests are rare and gradually being lost.  Most striking to me is the almost complete loss of major tree species, one after another, to attacks by insects and insect-borne pathogens imported from overseas.  First was the American Chestnut, felled by the Chestnut Blight (a fungus) introduced from East Asia in the first half of the 20th century.  It was followed by the American Elm, victim of the Dutch Elm Disease (also a fungus, carried by elm bark beetles) in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  The Emerald Ash Borer has decimated populations of our many native ash species.   Now we watch to see if hemlocks can survive the Hemlock Woolly Adelgids.  With the loss or drastic reduction of each of these trees, mushroom species that are associated with them are also lost or made rare, though some fortunately are associated with more than one host species.  Examples are the “yellow” morels and oyster mushrooms associated with elms; the Ash Bolete, Boletinellus meruloides; and Ganoderma tsugae, a polypore associated with hemlock.  I found no information about fungi associated with American Chestnut, though undoubtedly there were some.

Trees and their ecosystems have evolved for hundreds of millions of years, countless species have gone extinct, and their niches havce been re-occupied by other species.  But our intercontinental commerce and mobility and an insufficiently strong ecological ethic have increased the rate of extinctions far beyond what natural evolution can replace.  Unfortunately, the future seems destined to be characterized by reduced diversity of all forms of life.

I had not intended this to wind up with such a negative perspective, but there it is. We must appreciate the diversity of life that we have available to experience, and preserve it as well as we can.  Love your mushrooms!

Amanita frostiana
Amanita Jacksoni
Cortinarius semisanguinareus
Fomes excavatus
Fomitopsis betulina
Hypomyces lactifluorum
Meiorganum curtisii
Phellinus gilvus
Tapinella atromentosa
Turbinellus floccosus

June Shrooms

June has been unusually dry in many places, but Board Member Pete Richards managed to capture these lovelies this month.

Young Mycena leaiana emerging from a rotting log in Oberlin Arboretum
Ductifera pululahuana found at the Augusta-Anne Olson State Nature Preserve on the Vermilion River in Erie County
Sarcoscypha sp found at the Augusta-Anne Olson State Nature Preserve on the Vermilion River in Erie County

Springtime Stump Huntin’ in Ohio

contributed by OMS Board Member Bryan Lewis

Springtime stirs joy in the hearts of Ohio foragers. Every new patch of green and each new tree bud and flower quickens the pulse with anticipation of bounties of wild edibles to come: nettles, ramps, and–especially–morel mushrooms. And extra-especially, the yellow morel.

Morels are delicious, but I think the main source of passion and desire among foragers is their elusiveness. They have a relatively short and somewhat variable fruiting season. Morels have a way of surprising us by changing fruiting locations and sometimes growing in unexpected places, but they generally appear in specific habitats (often in association with elm and tulip trees, among others). That means seasoned mushroom hunters find special secret “morel spots” often in state parks and other public forests. The location of these “morel spots” are guarded like nuclear launch codes.

Morel hunting can sometimes seem like a competition. How many “spots” do you know, how often can you get out and check them, how many mushrooms can you collect? I’ve encountered many other foragers in woods with promising habitat. Usually they sheepishly try to act like they’re just hiking (as they walk slowly, slightly hunched over, staring at the ground).

That brings me to this spring, where I’ve been hearing stories of a bumper morel crop and seeing online photos of people with laundry baskets filled with yellow morels. But I’ve been unable to get out as much as usual in Ohio this spring. The first time I made it to my favorite spot (late April) I spent hours searching and found…nothing. That is, nothing morel-wise, but I saw many mushrooms (fawn mushrooms, collybias, inkys, pheasant’s backs, gallerina, many cup mushrooms) and found plenty of ramps and many beautiful spring flowers (trillium, blue bells, marsh marigold, and many more).

More recently I went out on a rainy, abnormally chilly day in May and found…a stump.

And then…another stump…and another…

Yikes! Too late! The mushroom hunters have cleaned these woods out. Jeez, someone has even cut off all the pheasant’s backs! Boy, the competition is intense this year. As I turn and head back, I try to think of the nice ramps and nettles I’m finding, and of looking forward to the much more interesting summer and fall mushroom seasons, imagining forests full of chanterelles. But at this moment, slightly damp and cold in the middle of the woods, those thoughts seem like shallow consolation. It sure would be nice to find a big yellow morel. It’s easy to get caught up in the treasure hunting mind-set.



And then, just before I get to my car, like a beacon in the forest, I see one. A slightly-past-its-prime-but-still-beautiful yellow morel! I look around carefully, but it’s just this one. Not even any nearby stumps. I briefly think about taking it home and cooking up this one mushroom in a kind of “essence of morel” omelette. But I re-consider and leave it. Let those spores spread a little longer. Who knows, hopefully, a less-experienced forager will find this very mushroom, maybe even their first morel! That nice thought, after all the wet, cold, bounty-less stump finding, helps me remember something that can be easy to forget in the spring. Foraging is not a competition. It’s a state of mind and a way of life.

What is a Bioblitz?

April 14, 2019 Bioblitz on the Wayne National Forest

              There will be a number of opportunities this year to participate in bioblitz activities with Ohio Mushroom Society.  Bioblitz is an effort to describe as many species as possible at a particular site.  The information generated from such efforts is valuable in many ways.  It allows property owners to compile a comprehensive list of species which can be helpful in protecting native species, managing invasive species, and planning land management strategies.  Participation in a bioblitz helps visitors to the land understand features of that environment, and allows them to contribute to scientific understanding of the ecology.  Often people that are knowledgeable in particular areas of science form teams that work together to find and identify as many species as they can.

In the case of our bioblitz activities this year we will foray for mushroom collection and identification as usual at the sites, and then contribute photographs and/or a list of species to the group hosting the bioblitz.

Opportunities to bioblitz this year will be June 14 at Towner’s Woods Park (private property), and June 9, July 13, August 25, September 15, October 13, and November 3 at the Athens district of the Wayne National Forest.   Please see the Events page, and contact event leaders for details and to RSVP.

Our first biolblitz of the year attracted over 20 people, and we were able to name or photograph 24 fungal species.  We visited a beautiful site at the Wayne National Forest and saw many spring wildflowers, a big box turtle, and lots of birds and insects as well as taking home some mushrooms for dinner.  For our second biolblitz, at a different site on the Wayne, 11 people helped to collect and identify 25 fungal species.  Our forays were part of a two year effort to document as many species as possible on the Wayne.  On both days we had wonderful spring weather, explored new territory, and met new friends on our hikes.

So why not get out in the woods try some bioblitzes this year?  This is your chance to contribute to the greater good, meet some kindred spirits, and learn about fungi while practicing our favorite pastime- mushroom hunting!

May 19, 2019 Bioblitz on the Wayne National Forest

– Martha Bishop

New Book Recommendation – Appalachian Mushrooms: A Field Guide

We get occasional inquiries on recommended field guides which cover our region. Walt Sturgeon has published a new field guide through Ohio University Press which I highly recommend. Here is a link to a recent review from well known nature photographer Ian Adams. – Jerry Pepera

http://ianadamsphotography.com/news/appalachian-mushrooms-a-field-guide-walter-e-sturgeon/