The days are shorter, the nights are longer, the air is full of moisture and the ground is almost always damp in forested areas — perfect conditions for mushroom and fungus production.
Members of the Whistler Naturalists and other mushroom lovers are coming together this weekend for the annual Fungus Among Us event. Organizer Bob Brett worked with a group of people to plan the two-day event, based at Myrtle Philip Community School. He's been out in the forest quite a bit this week and he says the woods are alive with fungus.
"It's unbelievable how many mushrooms are out there," Brett says.
More than 150 mushroom varieties were found last year during Fungus Among Us and Brett expects at least that many will be discovered this year, but in greater abundance due to our dry summer and wet fall. Last year, mushrooms were hard to find during the festival because the weather conditions leading up to the big weekend weren't ideal.
"One pine mushroom was found in that whole morning," says Brett recalling back to the results of the mushroom hunt last year.
In the last few weeks Brett has seen an abundance of pine mushrooms in the forest just beyond his home.
"There's cycles that we don't understand," says Brett. "That is the subject of the talk on Friday night. Bryce Kendrick is going to talk about why you see different things in different years. You can't make very many comments about the diversity of an area without going back there many years."
Kendrick will launch the 11th annual weekend of festivities with his discussion entitled "Fungi: now you see them, now you don't" starting at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18. (The entry fee is $8 for members of the Whistler Naturalists and $10 for non-members while those under 18 get free admission.) Kendrick is an author and an authority on mushrooms. He speaks about mushrooms to audiences around the world.
For those who prefer to do their learning in the forest the highlight will be the Walks with Gurus event Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Groups will leave the school to walk through various areas around Whistler to seek out and discuss the fungus they find along the way. (The participation fee is $10 and $15.)
Armed with new knowledge from the walk, participants in the festival then get to hear from Edward Dangerfield from Alta Bistro in Whistler and Solfeggio in Pemberton. Dangerfield is teaming up with his wife and another mushroom lover to do a presentation about the preparation of wild mushrooms for eating.
Dangerfield starts his show at 12:30 p.m. and plans to wrap up at two o'clock.
At about 2:30 p.m. all the mushrooms the experts pick through the morning will be on display at Myrtle Philip for anyone and everyone to view.
"As soon as the leaders get back they get cracking on identifying what was collected and labelling them on display tables," says Brett.
It costs $20 to join the Whistler Naturalists and members get a weekend pass to all the fungus events at a cost of $35. Non-members can purchase an all-access pass for $45.