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Naturalists seeking fall fungus following dry summer

Annual Fungus Among Us Festival draws mushroom lovers to Whistler



The forest is alive with fungus despite the warm and dry start to the fall season. Mushroom experts who participated in the Fungus Among Us Festival were moaning about the weather, as fungal growth is less abundant than usual because of the recent weather patterns. While mushrooms aren’t as abundant as usual right now those who are looking for it are finding fungus samples.

The annual Fungus Among Us Festival kicked off Friday, Oct. 12 with talks by Paul Kroeger and Sylvia Bergensen. The two gurus met again the next morning with other mushroom enthusiasts at Myrtle Philip Community School (MPCS) to participate in a series of nature walks.

Groups ventured out from the school to walk in mushroom-abundant areas near the Callaghan Valley Road, the Lost Lake Trails and near the Edgewater Lodge. Kevin Trimm and Kem Luther from Vancouver Island led a group of 10 curious followers through the Lost Lake area.

Luther delivered an introduction to the walk and told followers that the ideal mushroom hunting weather pattern is rain for a week followed by sunny weather on fungal fest day.

“Somebody screwed this up really bad,” joked Luther. “We had sunshine a week before and rain today.”

He went on to predict that over the course of the three or four days after the festival there will be a “lovely fruiting of mushrooms” as the moisture creates more ideal growing conditions.

According to Luther, mushrooms are neither plants nor animals and they display qualities of both plants and animals.

“They don’t run away when you come up to them,” said Luther of the plant qualities mushrooms display. “Most plants make their own energy from the sun, mushrooms don’t. You can put them in the sun all you want and all they do is wilt and dry up.”

He said they are like animals in that they rely on the other living things around them for what they need to survive.

“There are approximately 10 to 20 thousand mushrooms in B.C., nobody knows and many of them we’ve never put names to,” said Luther.

Trimm scouted out a forested area near the Lost Lake Passive House in advance of the walk to find a place with a significant amount of mushroom growth.

“For some reason there’s no mushrooms anywhere else in the woods here but from there to here there’s dozens of species right now,” said Trimm speaking over the sound of a creek trickling behind him while pointing to the trees in the mossy spot on the edge of the stream. “It is a different environment, I guess.”

Moments later he pulled up a large Hawks Wing mushroom.

“I’ve tried these before,” Trimm said of his love for eating the mushrooms he picks. “I find them too bitter but it could just be how they are cooked. They get huge in big clusters and maybe a smaller one will be less bitter, I’m not sure.”

Trimm and Luther spent the morning with their group while the other groups walked through the other forested areas being explored.

The festival also included a public display of various mushroom varieties at MPCS along with talks on cooking mushrooms and using them for dyeing fabric and yarn.


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