Deviating From the Norm

Oxychilus draparnaudi?

Oxychilus draparnaudi, I think.  Keep reading to find out how I came to this conclusion.

by Brady Raymond

Well, folks, it’s perfect mushrooming weather, though unfortunately, it is January.  Now, that’s not to say there are no mushrooms to be found, but, it’s unlikely to yield much for the hungry mushroomer. I myself haven’t been out beyond walking my dog and the like. I have spotted some mushrooms but they are either desiccating or desiccated take your pick.  So, why not take an interesting deviation from the norm and talk about some other interesting lifeforms Mollusks, more specifically Gastropods of the land variety.

Why would Gastropods be of any interest to a mushroom hunter?  Most mushroomers I know posses at least in small amounts some degree of nerdism.  I would be willing to bet that if you’re still reading this article you may possess high levels of nerdism.  Undoubtedly you’ve encountered these creatures both in your yard or garden as well as our native habitats.  Heck, you probably have even picked a few off of some mushrooms at one time or another.  Plus, anyone interested in identifying mushrooms will feel at home trying to put names on Gastropods.  There are dichotomous keys similar to what you’d find in an ID book for mushrooms, breaking down different morphological features such as shell size, pneumostome placement on the mantle, flesh textures and mucus consistency.

Mollusk Overview

Mollusk is a Phylum of life residing in the Animal Kingdom. It is a diverse Phylum only exceeded in the Animal Kingdom by Arthropods. There are some 110,000 described species that make up the four main classes consisting of the Chitons, Bivalves, Cephalopods and the Gastropods.

Chitons-are the most primitive mollusks grazing on marine algae in coastal waters.

Bivalves-have hinged shells and filter the water for nutrients.  Mussels, Clams, and Oysters are examples of this group and they are an important species to people as a food source.

Cephalopods-are the most intelligent of the invertebrates.  They have sophisticated nervous systems and are quite mobile.  Many species skin contain chromatophores which allow them the ability to change color depending on mood or for concealment purposes.  Think Squid, Cuttlefish, and Octopus.  One can only imagine what they may evolve to be in 100 million years!

Gastropodsare the largest class of Mollusks.  Most are marine in nature where they evolved but others have adapted to freshwater and land.  Most Gastropod diets are vegetative but a few species are predatory.  Many Gastropods have shells yet others have lost their shells in the evolutionary process.  We will focus on land snails and slugs from here on.

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Frosty Mushrooms

Entoloma sericeum?

by Brady Raymond

Cold frosty nights usually spells the end for most mushroomers, but the observant are still rewarded with a plethora of fungal finds.  2017 may not go down as “the year” at least in our neck of the woods but I have valued each moment spent outdoors with my family and have enjoyed very much what nature offered up to us this year.  Although the inevitable cold wet months of winter have yet to set in, the general gloom and sulk of it all are lessened by thoughts of spring and of course, Morels.

The cold weather doesn’t have to be the end of your season, there are plenty of rotten, moldy slimy mushroom carcasses to be found under wet leaves and amongst saturated duff.  Good luck identifying any of them.  There are also conks and other persistent woody fungal fruitbodies, scattered through the forest and parks.  Thankfully, cold weather is relative, and often times what folks around here complain about, folks in other parts would laugh at as being considered cold.  Truth is, winters around the Puget Sound are fairly mild and as long as it gets above freezing during the day, I think it’s worth keeping your eyes open, ready to spot any frosty mushrooms that make themselves apparent.

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The two mushrooms on the left were found down the road from my house.  The mushroom on the right is one from my yard.  Are they the same?

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Still Going…

IC Hericium abietis

Hericium abietis, Mmm, good.

by Brady Raymond

Fall 2017, is this a mushroom season anyone is going to really remember?  There are mushrooms to be found and an acceptable diversity, but any real quantity seems to be lacking.  Although, quantity is really only important if you are collecting for the pot either for consumption or dyeing.  2017 is probably not the year you would want to start a study on Russulas or Chanterelles.  I have only seen a handful of Russulas this year and most were what other folks had collected.  As far as Chanterelles are concerned the most I’ve seen in one place was the grocery store and they were selling for $17.98 at one point.  I have only found a few handfuls of them myself this year, enough though for Erin to make a few dishes, but none to share.

So, the big question, “Is the season over?”  Well, as evident from the above photo, no it is not.  There are still mushrooms to be found and as long as the weather stays mild as it has been for the last week or so we may be able to milk this season for a while.  I think it’s safe to say that over about 3,000ft. in our area, your chances of finding much of anything are probably limited.  The photo below was taken around 2000ft. and the snow line was not far above that.

IC mt.

The snow line was not far above our elevation of 2000ft.

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Things Are Looking Good?

H.r

Hydnum repandum, the Hedgehog, one of the “toothed fungi.”

by Brady Raymond

So far this fall, things are looking good for the would-be mushroomer trudging around our neck of the woods although “looking” is the operative word.  I can’t say I’ve had much luck with edibles this season but Phaeolus schweinitzii is fruiting very prolifically, at least in the places Erin and I have looked. We’ve found what I estimate to be right around twenty pounds over the last couple weekends, and a single specimen I found last Thursday while out dual sporting on some of my favorite forest service roads.

The edibles I’ve found thus far are limited to four Chanterelles, one Hedgehog, and some “past their prime” Sulfur Shelves.  Overall, the past couple of weekends things have been fairly sparse yet there is a definite progression to the season and each outing we’ve spotted a few more species than the last.  I expect this coming weekend to be spectacular as the temperature drops and precipitation moves in.   The forest itself though seems ripe to burst with bouquets of fungi and is probably doing so as I write this article.

L.s.

Laetiporus conifericola, the Sulfur Shelf or Chicken of the Woods.  The mushroom formerly known as L. sulphureus.  These were quite large, the column was about four feet tall.  These were definitely past their prime.

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Dye With Me

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by Brady and Erin Raymond

As the rains begin soaking in and temperatures start to drop don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled this fall for dye mushrooms.  We often get so consumed with finding the consumables we forget that mushrooms have other uses too.  If you are into cooking and you like crafting, specifically with animal fiber, dyeing with mushrooms may be right up your alley.  Here’s a quick run down and if you’re interested check out the links at the end of the post for more info.

yarn-rainbow

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Patterns In Nature

Paterns In Nature

by Brady Raymond

This article is intended as a preseason metaphysical mushrooming warm up.  As our summer edges closer to the inevitable rains of fall, I think it is important that we get our heads right.  What follows is my attempt at explaining to myself something about mushrooms.  What that is and if it is of any value to the reader is for them to decide.     

You don’t have to put a name on a mushroom to understand a mushroom.  Putting a name on it only identifies it, understanding a mushroom is a whole different thing.  Names help when communicating with other people about a given mushroom, but if you’re trying to understand it from a name alone good luck.

Experience only comes with time, the more time you spend with mushrooms the more you will start to understand them.  To fully grasp mushrooms takes time, and as your experience grows so too will your perception of the patterns which associate with fungi.   However, many patterns as soon as they start to form become disrupted, but if you broaden the scope of your perception, you may see the same or similar patterns start to reemerge.

When you can instinctively calculate the patterns around you and benefit from understanding them to find more mushrooms, you know you have moved from a novice to a novice+1.  It’s a long way to go to get to expert and there is a kind of scientific inflation if you want to get to pro.  Though, for many of us being a novice+1 is sufficient enough for what we hope to achieve.

Mt. Baker

Having a hunch may just be your brain telling you it is recognizing a pattern.  In a spot like this, what have you got to lose poking around a bit?

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Spring Kings

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Thanks to Sweta Agrawal for sharing some snapshots of her success this season finding the “Spring King.”  Persistence is key when trying to locate this mushroom.  It seems that you have to check your spots regularly and catch them just at the right moment if you want to have any real success.

Keeping things simple like the salad pictured above is a great way to enjoy the more subtle flavors of this enigmatic mushroom.  On the other hand, you can get quite decadent.  If you were lucky enough to find as plentiful of patches as Sweta you can try all sorts of recipes.

Having not found any Boletus rex-veris myself I can’t comment much on distinguishing features.  I have a feeling though, that if you have found Boletus edulis in the fall and saw one of these Ceps during spring growing in front of you, alarms would sound and the hunt would be on.  Names and seasons aside a Porcini is a Porcini.

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Some specimens grow quite large and will be enough for a few meals.  But remember,  the more you pick the more you’ll have to clean.  Always clean your mushrooms in the field as best possible.  Doing so makes kitchen chores much more enjoyable.  Also, make sure to check for bugs in the field by cutting your mushrooms in half.  Remove buggy areas immediately.  The bugs will continue eating the mushroom, even after being picked and wreak havoc after a long ride home from the mountains.

If you didn’t find any Spring Kings don’t fret yet.  The season is not over for Boletes and Boletus edulis the fall cousin of Boletus rex-veris will be fruiting later this year.  So read up and scout some locations while out hiking this summer.

sdr

 

Mushroom Hunting Safety

 

 

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You found some mushrooms but can you find your car?  A quick jaunt in the woods can quickly turn into an ominous trek through the wilderness if you don’t pay attention to where you are.

 

by Wren Hudgins

Wild mushroom foraging may not seem like a dangerous hobby, but there are real risks involved here, as there are in most outdoor activities.  Few people would argue that the freedom of not wearing a car seat belt outweighs the safety of wearing one, but people do make their own choices.  The point is that there is general recognition that certain preventive behaviors can minimize risk, although not eliminate it.  Mushroomers tend to walk off trail and through the woods, so there is always a risk of tripping and falling or otherwise injuring yourself far from your car or the nearest first aid kit.  However, by far the greatest danger is getting lost and spending much more time in the woods than you had planned.  The quality of that extra time in the woods will vary from life threatening to miserable to merely inconvenient, depending on how prepared you are.  A friend of mine is an officer for the Snohomish County Search and Rescue and he thinks that in 2016 there were three lost foragers in Snohomish and Pierce counties, all of which involved extended stays in the forest, in one case overnight, but all three were found.  None of the three were adequately prepared.  We don’t have numbers on this but there may have been other foragers who were lost but who were adequately skilled and prepared such that they never had to call search and rescue. (BTW, Search and Rescue teams do not charge for being called – at least in WA state)

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Memorial Day Weekend

 

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When you find a bunch of Morels in a small area make sure to mark it on your GPS.  Erin and I have some reliable patches that seem to produce each year.

 

by Brady Raymond

How do you thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country?  As folks barbecued with friends and family this past weekend or in my case mushroom hunted, I hope we all took a moment to reflect on the freedoms we have to do these things and the lives that were lost to protect those freedoms.  Since I can’t thank those who were lost in the line of duty I would like to thank those who are currently serving and those who have served in the past.  Thank you, your service does not go unnoticed by this author.

For the last five years, Erin and I have taken part in what may be the premier mushrooming foray in the Pacific Northwest, maybe even the country.  As we arrived at our destination, thoughts of the Morel season coming to a close were on our minds.  Things had been dry over the last week and as we all know “dry” is the enemy of fungi.  What would we find this weekend?  Would we find anything at all?

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