The Long Wait

by Paul Hill

Maybe you were thinking that the title refers to the waiting mostly at home as we try to contribute to not spreading the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic and waiting for the rate of new COVID-19 cases to go down. As I write this the number of deaths from the virus is continuing its slow rise beyond 100,000 deaths in the United State. Imagine the deaths that would have occurred, if we had not tried so hard to prevent the spread!

Maybe you were thinking the title is the centuries long wait for racial justice in this country which has lead to so many recent Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police protests occuring around our cities, states, country and the world. Certainly, many of us have been waiting, both hoping, and working for more progress.

For all I know you’ve been waiting to go mushroom hunting, because you were participating in marches, protests, or other aspects of the struggle that have intensified since the death of George Floyd. I certainly, support your efforts and anyone’s efforts. Black lives haven’t mattered enough or as much as others in this country for too long.

Maybe you are just waiting to travel again and search for mushrooms after a winter without mushroom hunting. I actually couldn’t wait. I looked for mushrooms in a parks open for walking, in the forest on lunch time excursions, and even on a roadtrip to the eastside of the Cascades. As usual, I always kept on eye out for mushrooms whenever I was out, even in the urban areas.

Certainly one of my thoughts was that those of us who write this blog have been waiting too long to make another entry, so on to mushrooms. No more waiting, at least for blog posts.

A Lunchtime Find

I work split shifts and I get a nearly 5 hour lunch break. That’s a perfect time to take drive to look for mushrooms, but only if I’m back in time for work. During COVID-19 I make sure I’m not risking any rough roads, have all my supplies with me, and not taking long hikes to reduce any risk of getting lost or injured.

On one interesting lunchtime drive, I explored a great dirt road that took me to snow in May and in June. An interesting find were some huge Golden Jelly Cones. Around here we call such yellow cones Guepiniopsis alpina, but apparently there are about seven other Guepiniopsis sp. including a few on decaying, bark-free conifer wood, and a few, hard to find, species on dead branches of deciduous wood. Mine were all on dead Hemlock branches. The Wikipedia article for Guepiniopsis alpina lists the size as up to 1.5 cm in diameter. Ha! Mine are so much bigger. Mushroom Demystified says up to 2.5 cm broad which is certainly a better match to mine.

Gigantic and some more typically sized Golden Jelly Cones Guepiniopsis alpina found in the Cascade Range in the US2 corridor at ~1000m ( ~3400 ft).

I don’t know about you, but I would think something shaped like this would be related to most other cup fungus, so would be an Ascomycota, a mushroom which shoots its spores out of tubes on the upper or at least outward facing side surface. I even went so far as to post a photo of my huge Guepiniopsis in a Ascomycota group on social media. Opps, that was my mistake. The Guepiniopsis are Basidiomycota where the spores are energetically flicked off special basidia cells which stick up above the surface of the mushroom. The basidia are typically found on the gills, in the tubes of polypores and boletes, or on the teeth — somewhere underneath –but not usually on the upper-surface of a cup. Nature isn’t one to strictly adhere to rules. In the Guepiniopsis species, the spores are on the top of the cap!

Maybe the ones I found are just champion specimens of our typical spring Golden Jelly Drops at the limit of known size. Some further investigation seems warranted.

Closer to Home

While scurrying out of town into the mountains for a few hours is one way to hunt for mushrooms, another way is it keep your eye peeled while walking around town.

While forests walks can result in many finds, sometimes just a line of trees in an otherwise grassy park can produce an abundance of mushrooms.

A case in point are the Agaricus I keep seeing in Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Way South in southeast Seattle. If you live in Seattle and visit SW Seattle, you may have driven right by this park, but weren’t really compelled to stop. It doesn’t get much traffic except for a few dog walkers, folks exercising on the hill and staircase, the occasional rally, or as destination to start or end a political march.

A poetry reading with good social distancing, as part of Black Lives Matter activities in Martin Luther King Jr Park, SE Seattle, June 11, 2020

I don’t know how many Agaricus species come up in that park, but there are various fruitings thru the year.

Possible Agaricus buckmacadooi in Martin Luther King Park, Seattle, WA; May 19th 2020

Keep your eye peeled and you might find mushrooms where you least expect them.

More Agaricus some showing yellowing in the MLK Jr. Park June 11, 2020
Some of the many 100s of Agaricus of a yellow-staining Agaricus sp. Yellow-stainers are usually assumed to be part of the “lose-your-lunch bunch” meaning the are not edible.

There are always mushrooms to find, you just need to know where to look, so keep looking for mushrooms even when you are asked to stay mostly at home.

May you fill your basket with mushrooms and your soul with adventures.
-Paul Hill