The mushrooms were out as foraging kicks into high gear at Leafhopper Farm! Though we are unable to find chanterelles on the farm property at this time, a stone’s throw away in nearby woodlands, the golden treasures of Fall abound. This season was one of my personal best, not so much in quantity, though this was a “haul year”- the verity of species and locations was broad too. From Bear’s Head to Chanterelles, the awesome fungi feasting has lasted into late November, and will continue!
The Bolete above was spotted by my partner Bernard on a steep mountain slope just below the snow line. Mushrooms are out even after the snow covers the peaks! Below you can see Hypholoma of some kind roosting in the green moss of a decaying log just above the snow covered road. On a continued exploration of mountain elevations (above 1500 feet)- we came across a variety of species which really encouraged me to keep hunting into the winter cold months. Within the observed list included enough winter oyster to feed a family. That’s some great foraging in a terrain many might overlook.
A lovely Hygrophorus puniceus, scarlet waxy cap mushroom in an almost pink blush against evergreen and clubmoss. Brightly colored mushrooms really pop in the landscape, drawing the eye. Though many mushrooms are brightly pigmented, many others are not, and should not be overlooked just because of a more camouflaged appearance. Another common misconception of mushrooms is that they are always on the ground. In fact, many species are up on standing dead wood or even on the tiny dead twigs. Fungi is all around us, so remember to look above and below- some mushrooms grow underneath logs.
Another variety of fungus we engage with often in The Cascades are shelf fungi. The brightly colored young specimen of saphoridic (wood eating) mushroom below is a red belted conch. This familiar friend is great medicine (grind up and steep in boiling water, drink tea). These are very young mushrooms because of the amount of light colored flesh on the forming cap. Older specimens will have a much darker cap, while this white color will be found on the underside. To me, this is a great sign of the health in this forest.
Winter oysters were still the prize find of the day for edible picks. Another great thing about this species is it’s tolerance to freezing and reshaping. Many mushrooms will melt after freezing. The winter oyster is an exception; having a thick enough flesh to remain fleshy and whole even after continual refreezing. I learned this trick when I accidentally left a frozen winter oyster in my jacket pocket for a few days and then finding it unfrozen but still firm a few days later. So lucky!
Oysters favor red alders in Western Washington. This log pictured above has been in this creek for a few years and I’ve witnessed flushes like this over the past few winters. This log will most likely continue to host these oysters for a few more years, but it a larger flood comes through, it will be swept on down stream. We’re inoculating oysters into alder logs at Leafhopper Farm in hopes of getting great flushes like this, year after year.
Some mushrooms are very bright, but quite small. Mycena, like the M. acicula pictured above, has an average size of 1 cm across the cap, and a 4cm high stipe (stem). The whole Mycena world takes you right into the micro, turning red cedar needles into up close scaled patterns netted across the ground in much the same way the mycelium of all these fungi roam within the organic material of the soil. It is that unseen mat of nutrient transport and chemical communication which threads all life together in the natural world. I think that’s why you can find mushrooms everywhere, almost any time. Keep looking and please share any specimens you come across.
Bernard and I are heading overseas for a few weeks and plan on seeking out mushrooms in more exotic places like North Africa, where even in deserts, you can find fungi. In our own backyard on the farm, inoculated logs of pearl oyster mushrooms await colonization. There’s more mushroom magic to come here at Leafhopper Farm.