National Foray 2013

I just returned from the NAMA (North American Mycological Association) 2013 foray held at Shepherd of the Ozarks conference center in the Arkansas Ozarks, near the confluence of the Buffalo and White rivers. We arrived on Thursday and on Sunday drove through back to Knoxville (Asheville, NC for my traveling companions). It was a long drive but well worth the 1300-mile round trip. We stayed in one separate section of the center. The photo below is the main lodge. Top floor was dining; 2nd floor rooms; 1st floor an auditorium and area for species identification and display. I also made a 360 degree video standing in front of the lodge. Lodge video

Many of the attendees, myself included, stayed on the other side of the creek in one of several lodges accessed by a pedestrian bridge River video (I’ll work on how to rotate the video. Made with my iPhone).  I was on the ground floor of the Wilderness Lodge pictured below. The evening social time(s) happened on the top floor.

The structure was generally that you had a choice of a guided foray or attending presentations each morning and afternoon. I managed to get signed up for a foray each morning and afternoon and then attended presentations in the afternoon. Before dinner you could walk around and view the collections. Mycologists worked pretty much around the clock identifying and logging in (vouchers) collections from the forays. Below are two interesting ones my foray partner, Paul Hoppe, and I collected.

Leptoporus mollis  – Paul collected this one from a dead shortleaf pine, the bark peeled off, and showed it to me. I felt its spongy texture and blew it off as a Fometopsis cajanderi which grows like a weed on dead pines in my area. Fortunately, Paul collected it, and this was the only collection of L. mollis during the weekend. It was presented as one of Saturday’s best finds during the evening group sessions. Once again, I was humbly reminded that “familiarity breeds contempt”. I will not blithely pass by small pink polypores again!! Lesson learned.

Mycena epipterygia – These cuties were growing loosely on a decaying white oak branch among fallen leaves on the bank of our trail. It was my first known collection of this species. Key features are the yellow stipe and a cucumber smell.

 There were a variety of presentations in the evening that were quite educational as well humorous at times. They ranged from the ecological divisions and geologic/vegetation features of northern Arkansas to new DNA-based taxonomy and nomenclature. All this was followed by a social hour(s) that lasted until after I went to bed.

My highlights were finally meeting and getting to know people who I have only known through the literature or correspondence; experiencing an area I love (Ellen and I spent a week fly fishing the White River several years ago); new mushrooms; and Britt’s homemade feta and bleu cheeses.

I may not get to the Puget Sound area for next year’s NAMA foray, but I will try to make Wisconsin in 2015. Ellen will go with me and we’ll make a long touring trip out of it.


Ginseng and Morels

I was out searching for fall mushrooms with some friends this past week and had an experience that gave me pause to ponder. We went up a very steep ridge of hundreds of feet in elevation and then came down an ever steeper rocky drain. In all, about a 4 1/2 hour trek. At the top of the ridge we went through a known morel patch and found a number of ginseng plants.

I’m not a hunter/digger of ginseng,; however, I have had a long interest in it because of the role it plays in traditional Appalachian culture/economics. Consequently, I tend to notice it when it is around – especially in the fall when the red berries provide a stark contrast to the surrounding foliage. In fact, September 1 to December 31 is the legal harvesting season in Tennessee this year. The Cherokee National Forest has only a two-week season and requires a special permit. Morgan Simmons’ Knoxville News-Sentinel article

This made me recall another instance of finding ginseng in the Spring in the middle of another morel patch that we were picking at the time. Could it be that the best time to scout for new morel patches is in the fall and collect ginseng at the same time to pay for gas? Makes me wonder. The downside, of course, is that this is deer season so stealth may not be the wisest decision.



Jacks and Chicks

That’s a misleading title :-). It’s Jack O’Lanterns and Chicken of the Woods. They are both orange and fruting at the same. That’s why, along with a 45 degree slope, I almost missed 10 pounds of fresh Chicken of the Woods.

A friend called me this week and said there was an impressive display of Jacks at her place. She and her husband have 20 acres adjoining the city’s greenbelt. No matter how many of a species I have seen before, I am always interested in an “impressive display” and also interacting with new folks on the subject of fungi, so I went over. Although not a large fruiting, it was absolutely beautiful framed against an open oak forest with orange clumps rising out of green pin cushion moss (Leucobryum albidum).

I decided to come back that night with Ellen and try to catch the bioluminescence. As it got darker and darker the Jacks became whiter and whiter.  I had observed a greenish glow around Jacks previously, but that wasn’t the case this time. Every once and while we did see red-orange flashes among the caps. Finally we figured it out. We all picked a specimen and help it right to our face in cupped hands while facing the darkest part of the woods on a moonless night. The white glow of the mushrooms was great enough that we could see the gill patterns. It was a pretty neat experience. It wasn’t until we were leaving that we realized we had been sitting quietly watching mushrooms for almost two hours.

I went back the next day and wandered the 20 acres looking for chicks or hens (Hen of the Woods – Grifolia frondosa). The only mushrooms I saw were four other frutings of Jacks, and then . . . . walking the bottom of a hollow I spotted orange way up a 45 degree slope. By then, of course, I figured Jack #5, but being the type I am ( I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t know for sure), I trudged up the slope and picked 10 pounds of fresh Chicken of the Woods. They were “oozingly” moist.

If there is anyone in my area who wants to pick some young Jacks to take home and see the bioluminescence in a dark room, the ones in the picture below are in Clinton, TN on Sulpher Springs Rd, about 100 yds before the road crosses Black Oak Ridge. The stump is in the middle of a grassy pulloff. I have watched this stump fruit profusely for  five years now, counting 2013.

Jacks are poisonous. Do NOT eat !!! Only look.

Chicken of the Woods, on the other hand, are very good to eat.