On a rainy Monday in September, a small group of intrepid mushroom hunters ventured out to Chapman Creek watershed to see what we could find. As the morning rains subsided somewhat we convened in the parking lot, rain gear on and baskets ready for collecting our treasures. We ventured into the rainforest accompanied by Sukha, the spirited hound, and the sound of ravens and raindrops.
Ann Harmer, our wise and experienced guide, was wearing her mushroom-dyed knitted hat to inspire us. She helped us identify fungi, describing the growing habits and where to look for particular fungi.
We found many fungi, most of which were not for dyeing, but they were all met with excitement and enthusiasm.
Some of our first finds were tiny pale yellowish spikes poking up through the duff, Coral fungus, Ramaria sp. For dyeing, Ann suggested that we needed the pinkish orange ones, Ramaria formosa, not the pale whitish ones that we found everywhere.
We found a beautiful and mysterious looking fungus which none of us had seen before. It looked like a flower from space! It was soft and if we touched the middle ball, tiny dark spores spewed out like a cloud. Later we identified it as an Earthstar or Geastrum saccatum.
As we continued through the forest we found many more non-dye mushrooms, some edible, some not. We found Angel Wings, Pleurocybella porrigens, which is both eaten and also considered possibly toxic to people with kidney conditions. We left it where it was, like tiny winged sculptures of the forest floor.
The forest floor was dotted with LBMs – little brown mushrooms. Fallen trees were covered in bracket fungus, or shelf fungus, Ganoderma applanatum, also known as Artists conk, for it has a silky smooth white underside that when scratched or etched leaves dark markings – kind of a fungi sketch pad.
Ann found an older scruffy Velvet pax, Tapinella atrotomentosa, which was covered in bluish mold. It was a good size and she thought it was worth trying to see if any colour could be produced.
We also found a younger one, which allowed us to see how this fungus grows with its stem off to the side, its rolled edge, and how the stem is a darker colour than the underside.
We wandered through the forest, through the muck, peeking under and over logs to uncover the forest treasures. The summer had been very dry and the rains had not yet come in full force so there weren’t many specimens. With the rains the forest floor will come alive and we will don our rain gear for more dyers’ mushroom forays.
For more information on mushroom dyeing, please visit Ann’s website Shroomworks https://shroomworks.wordpress.com
By Kimberly Paterson