An adventure with the South Sound Mushroom Club

An adventure with the South Sound Mushroom Club, by Alison Pouliot

Craterellus tubaeformis

Coming from the driest inhabited continent on Earth, rainfall is a blessed luxury. Crawling through the wet temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest in search of fungi was an extraordinary experience I’ll forever hold close (and I hope to return to re-ignite the memories). Enormous trees adorned with bryophytes, carpets of Mycena, fungi manifesting in the most astonishing forms at every turn. These slurping wet forests pulse with staggering life and energy.

Thanks to an invitation by Uni Washington mycologist Steve Trudell and a grant from the Stuntz Foundation, I was fortunate to participate in a month-long mycological tour of the Pacific Northwest this autumn. The trip included an exciting program of forays, scientific meetings, seminars and special events including the Key Council meeting held at Trout Lake; the Oregon Mycological Society Myco-camp at Rockaway Beach; and the Puget Sound Mycological Society Wild Mushroom Show. For those who might be interested, the Key Council’s impressive collection of fungus keys can be viewed here.

I have been fortunate to participate in many mycological society meetings around the world. The similarities and differences in approaches and understanding of fungi are always fascinating. What struck me most in the USA was the sheer number of people interested in fungi. Every event was packed with people keen to know about this most exciting kingdom of organisms. It was wonderful to be around so much expertise. Whether scientific, artistic or culinary interest, it was inspiring to witness such a groundswell of appreciation around all things fungal.

Staircase Foray and SSMC Seminar

Rachel Friedman in purple beanie mimicking Cortinarius violaceus.

I was thrilled to receive Jeff Johnston’s invitation to give an evening seminar (Between Sex and Death – A Foray in Fungal Realms) to the South Sound Mushroom Club. On the afternoon of the seminar, I joined Rachel Friedman, Mary McCallum, Steve Ness and Barb Morson on a foray at The Staircase in the south-eastern corner of Olympic National Park. Stepping into this wonderland, one is overwhelmed by the sheer size of Douglas firs that dominate the forest (and of course, the important role of mycorrhizal fungi in supporting their existence). To experience these forests is to experience fungi in full and often flamboyant force!

Some of the fungus genera we found were familiar and others were new to me. Within metres from the vehicles we came across various Russula, Lactarius, Suillus and Inocybe. Then along the path we spotted beautiful ramarias tucked into the moss. It was fabulous to have Mary’s expertise to identify them. Craterellus tubaeformis were popping up en masse. On fallen logs, the almost comical Pseudohydnum gelatinosum bared their not-so-ferocious teeth. Like bright beacons, bright yellow Hygrocybe revealed themselves among the ferns and again, having Steve on hand with his Hygrocybe knowledge was a great boon.

That evening the lovely Trisha Swanson collected me and brought me to the seminar venue. On arrival I was amazed at the stunning diversity of specimens on the display table. Brilliant young local experts Lauren Ré and Lucas Hickey hovered about helping participants identify fungi. Following the administrative component of the meeting was a fund-raising raffle of contributors’ mushroom photographs, paintings, carvings and other fungal treasures. I was taken aback when the delightful Dottie Beaver generously passed on her prize to me.

The Allure of Fungi

Pseudohydnum gelatinosum

For those who were unable to obtain a copy of my recent book, The Allure of Fungi, you’ll be pleased to know that Stylus Publishing has extended 20% discount and free shipping in the US and Canada until Christmas (use the code: FUNGI at checkout to receive the discount). You can read more about the book and place orders at this link.

It has been fabulous to have ongoing correspondence with several SSMC members and I hope I can reciprocate their generous hospitality should they venture Downunder someday to explore our Aussie fungi. In case you’re keen to head out bush, I’d love you to join me and my autumn foray program is listed here.