Tuesday, May 13, 2008

We've moved!

THE KENAI PENINSULA MYCOLOGICAL SOCIETY IS STILL ACTIVE AND GROWING. We have discontinued use of the KPMS blogspot and are now using a Google e-group site. This has made it much easier for our members and friends to communicate with one another, keep up with club news and receive timely notice of upcoming meetings and forays.

http://groups.google.com/group/kpms?hl=en is the address for the e-group site. You can also contact us by e-mail at sscott@ak.net or by mail at:

Kenai Peninsula Mycological Society

254 Redwood Court

Soldotna, AK 99669

Thank you for your interest. Please feel free to contact us.


Saturday, March 31, 2007

Issue 14, February and March 2007


I think it was Teddy Roosevelt that said, “There is no such thing as functional illiteracy; because when a person is illiterate, he is not functioning.” Well, I’ve found that computer illiteracy is a lot like that, except that it is my PC that is not functioning!

Here I am, up against a deadline to get this newsletter out and it is one computer glitch after another. Why would it work yesterday and not today? Please don’t tell me that Windows is like that! If carpenters built houses like programmers wrote code, I’d bet you that it would only take one woodpecker to bring down a whole subdivision!

Don’t say I should have backed up my hard drive. I would have, but I couldn’t figure out how to put it in reverse. One thing I have figured out, though – there is only one satisfying way to boot a computer. Dominique has a Mac and he swears by it. I have a PC, and you guessed it, all I do is swear at mine. Sometimes, I think it would be great if we could go back to the day of pencil and paper. I don’t ever remember my pencil crashing! Well, that is probably enough about my computer woes!

Those of us who made it to the February Microscope Workshop at the college had a great time. Dr. David Wartenbee was our instructor and he did a tremendous job! After a short overview of the different types of microscopes and their uses, he took us into the science lab for some ‘hands on’ practice. He had prepared slides available, but also helped prepare slides from material which was brought to the workshop. I think I can safely speak for the whole group, and say that it was a wonderful class, Dr. Wartenbee did an excellent job, and we all came away from the workshop with a solid understanding of the correct method for using a microscope.

Prior to the workshop and since, I have received quite a number of e-mails from those who wanted to be there, but had other commitments on February 3rd. If you were one of those, and would still like to attend a workshop, let us know. It is something that we could do again at a later date if there is enough interest.

Dr. Wartenbee has our thanks for giving so freely of his time and knowledge. We gave him a copy of Dr. Miller’s Mushrooms of North America as a token of our appreciation, but, we remain in his debt.


At our March 3rd meeting, Steve and Linda Albers will be giving a presentation on ‘Myco-Medicinals’ (medicinal /pharmaceutical mushrooms).

Here is a brief bio on Steve and Linda:

Steve grew up in California and was introduced to mushroom hunting at a young age. He and his brothers would accompany their father and grandfather into the Santa Cruz Mountains and fill their bags with whatever they came upon. Afterwards, the elder Albers would separate out the edibles, and incorporate them into delicious dishes (especially pizza and spaghetti sauces). Steve moved to Alaska in the mid nineties and has continued to pursue his interest in mushrooming.

Linda hails from Michigan, where she spent much of her childhood fishing and ‘snooping’ around the woods, hunting arrowheads and mushrooms with her half Ojibwa father. (You probably already know that Michigan is famous for its bountiful morel crop!) As an adult she became an avid organic gardener and proponent of herbal healing. She also has a BSN in Nursing Science.

A few years ago Steve and Linda attended a ‘Nutritional Conference in Medical Practice’ seminar. It was there that they really became aware of the value of mushrooms in alternative medicine and especially in the treatment of chronic immune disorders. Since that time their interest in mushrooms has changed from simply culinary, to medicinal, as well.

Most recently, they attended the ‘Third International Medicinal Mushroom Conference’ which was held in Port Townsend, WA. (This conference is rarely held outside of Europe or Asia, and it will be at least another decade before it is returns to North America.)
It was truly and ‘international’ event with people in attendance from all over the world. Among the speakers and attendees were mycologists, mycology students, medical doctors and immunologists, specialists in infectious and contagious diseases, naturopathic practitioners, ecologists and specialists in bioremediation.

(From what I personally know of the conference, a list of those who attended would read like the ‘Who’s Who of the Mycological World’!)

Much of what they will be sharing with us has come out of that experience. In addition to their presentation, they will have copies of much of the research material available for us to view.

This is a timely subject. The use of mushrooms medicinally is an area of study that is just now coming into its own in Europe and North America. A great amount of research is being done and tremendously valuable discoveries are being made. Science is confirming what ancient cultures have known for centuries; that mushrooms have within them some of the most potent medicines found in nature. (But, unlike most pharmaceuticals, mushroom healing agents have extraordinarily low toxicity.) One very important focus of this research is the application of mushroom therapies for chronic and devastating diseases like cancer and auto-immune system related health problems.

The medicinal use of mushrooms is an interesting subject, and one that, without question, has the potential to play an important role in the future treatment of some of our most serious diseases.

We want to thank the Albers for offering to share their knowledge and experience with us.


Recently Blanche Tinius sent me three articles from the summer, fall and winter 1999 issues of Mushroom, the Journal. They were the creation of Lorelei Norvell and Scott Redhead, and were written in response to a comment by mycologist Harley Barnhard. Harley, was (and is) the book review editor for MTJ. He had asked the question, “Has not the time come for the North American Mycological Association . . . . . to step forward and . . . . . sanction a list of common (or “popular”) names for mushrooms?”

We are told that “This question was provoked by Harley’s discovery that a new mushroom guide used one set of English names for the exact same species treated under an entirely different set of English names by the exact same author in a different guide published only two years previously.” And, if this was not confusing enough, he found that the common names used in these two references were also different than those found in other field guides. As the authors noted, “This state of affairs is guaranteed to drive someone with more than one book just plain nuts.”

Norvell and Redhead put together an entertaining spoof on the subject using the great detective Sureluck and his assistant Dr. Whatsong who have come into possession of the fall 1999 foray list of the “Pukey Point Mushroom Club.” To their surprise, the list is comprised wholly of ‘common’ or English names, with not so much a one single Latin name listed. Even the great Sureluck was a bit befuddled by the list.

So, here is our challenge – Can YOU identify the species on the list below?

1. Give us the Latin equivalents (the scientific names) for each English (common) name on the list.

2. List the total number of species represented.
Here are three helpful hints:
a) many mushroom species have undergone one or more name changes over the years. Though they have synonymous names such as Rhodophyllus nudus, Tricholoma nudum, Clitocybe nuda and Lepista nuda, this would be considered one species.
b) this is a ‘fall’ foray list, not a ‘spring’ list.
c) often, the authors made up the common names ‘off the cuff’, and they did not always reference them in the index.

3. Submit your best educated guesses, informed opinions or wild stabs to me by e-mail (sscott@alaska.net). If you are the person with the most correct answers, you will receive for your efforts, a copy of Arora’s All That The Rain Promises And More.

Here is the ‘Pukey Point Foray List.’

Bell Mottlegill
Burn Site Mycena
Burnt Hedgehog
Chicken Mushroom
Cluster Coincap
Common Earth-fan
Common Fiber Vase
Conifer Tuft
Conifer Tuft Psilocybe
Conifer-Base Polypore
Crimped Gill
Dung Psilocybe
Dung Round Head
Dung Slime Head
Earth Fan
Fairy Bonnet
Forest Friend
Funnel Chanterelle
Golden Chanterelle (1)
Golden Chanterelle (2)
Golden-gilled Mushroom
Gray Shag
Herald of Winter
June Mushroom
Leaflike Oyster
Milk Bonnet
Milk-drop Bonnet
Milky Cone Cap
Mock Meadow Mushroom
Orange Discus Mushroom
Orange Fuzzyfoot
Orange Stump Mushroom
Orange Woollycap
Pig’s Ear (1)
Pig’s Ear (2)
Pig’s Trotter
Queen’s Coat
Razor Strop Fungus
Red Slime-head
Red Tree Brain
Russula Parasite
Scaly-veiled Galerina
Shaggy Bear
Smoky-gilled Naematoloma
Trumpet Chanterelle
Tufted Collybia
Veiled Fairy Cake
Weeping Widow
Witch’s Hat
Woman on Motorcycle
Wood Woolly-foot


To the best of my knowledge, NAMA has yet to sanction a list of common mushroom names. Even if they did publish such a list, I doubt that it would eliminate the confusion. The damage is already done. Besides, it makes much more sense (at least to me) to encourage everyone to use the Latin binomial. It is the universal name and one that is unique to one and only one species


We still have a number of copies of Arora’s Mushrooms Demystified and All That The Rain Promises And More and Miller’s Mushrooms of North America available. As always they can be purchased at our cost, plus shipping; an amazing deal for our club members!


Leon Shernoff recently sent us twenty-five complimentary copies of Mushroom, The Journal of Wild Mushrooming. We will be giving them away at the March meeting on a first come basis. MTJ is a great magazine! It is a quarterly publication and has been around since the fall of 1983. I am fortunate enough to have every issue, and consider the set to be valuable resource material.

And that’s not all! Before Leon took over the magazine with the Winter 2003 issue, Maggie Rogers was the editor/owner. She has graciously granted me permission to use material from prior issues in our newsletter as long as I am faithful to credit the source and author. Thank you, Maggie.

Maggie is a retired librarian. She has been an active NAMA member for many years and is currently on their Education Committee. She also owns Fungal Cave Books, a great source for those “out-of-print/earlier (mushroom) books you didn’t know you needed”. Are you looking for A Monograph of the Genus Aphanomyces, The Clavarias of the U.S. and Canada or Crypotogamic Botany? She is sure to have these titles and many, many more. If you have been searching for a book and can’t seem to find it, give Fungal Cave Books a shot. Call her at (503) 239-4321, or contact her via e-mail at rogersmm@aol.com.

Recently, I received an e-mail from Dr. Ed Berg. (As most of you know, Dr. Berg is an ecologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Along with his duties at the refuge, he also finds time to write an occasional article for the Peninsula Clarion and teach at both the Homer and Soldotna KPC campuses. I have really enjoyed his newspaper articles. They are not only extremely interesting, but he has the ability to present complex material in an easily understood manner.) He had just finished reading Paul Stamets’ Mycelium Running – How Mushrooms Can Help Save The World, and encouraged me to check it out. (Paul Stamets is also the author of several books, including The Mushroom Cultivator and Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms.)

Although I’ve just got a good start on the book, it is definitely a worthwhile read. Mycelium as Nature’s Internet, The Medicinal Mushroom Forest, Mycofiltration, Mycoremediation and Mycopesticides, are just a few of the fascinating chapter titles (and subjects) thoroughly covered in its pages.

From the very first page of his book, Paul Stamets leaves no doubt about his absolute conviction that the mycelial mat that blankets the inhabitable parts of our planet “is the neurological network of nature’ and “that the mycelium operates at a level of complexity that exceeds the computational powers of our most advanced supercomputers.” He speaks of the “mycelium as the Earth’s natural Internet, a consciousness with which we might be able to communicate”. He is so passionate in his position that even the most skeptical will never view the fungi quite the same, again. Far from being a simple life form, they may well be the very fabric that binds all of nature together.

There is an interesting photograph in the first chapter. It is a time lapse photo of a Physarum polycephalum. The slime mold had been placed at the start of a maze. Food was available at both the entrance and the exit, but nothing was provided between. The slime mold successfully navigated the maze by the shortest route, disregarding all dead ends and empty exits, and, the results were the same every time the experiment was conducted! Does that demonstrate fungal intelligence? It would sure appear to be the case.


You could sum up Webster’s definition of cosmopolitan as 1) that which has world-wide, rather that limited scope and 2) that which is found in most parts of the world and under a variety of ecological conditions. The term is often used in reference to certain common mushroom species, but I have to confess, that mine was a western North American or possibly North American concept of 'cosmopolitan'. That is, until I recently stumbled upon an article by Gary Lincoff in the Winter – 2001 issue of MTJ. In the article, Mushroom Hunters of the Grasslands, Gary relates his experiences finding many of our most common mushrooms not only all across N. A., but also around the globe. I had no idea that you would find Coprinus comatus in Capetown, Pleurotus ostreatus in Spinigar, Agaricus xanthodermus in Tel Aviv, Schizophyllum commune in Nairobi, Agaricus arvensis in Istambul, or Agaricus campestris in all of these places! As Gary put it, “One of the pleasures of hunting mushrooms in exotic places is finding . . . . . the old familiars, the mushroom friends one knows from home, looking a little out of place, perhaps, in some exotic backdrop, but welcomed all the more for their presence in such strange and alien settings.”

You are probably wondering how this article came to be called Mushroom Hunters of the Grasslands? As Gary put it, “we all live in cities, towns or villages . . . . . open spaces, in grasslands, as it were, an artificial space filled with buildings we call homes and stores and schools, and cleared path or roads, and planted trees in designated areas, along streets, in backyards, and in parks. We also have special watered and maintained areas of grass that we call lawns, cemeteries, golf courses and ball fields. We live in a sea of grass . . . . . in fact . . . . . our species could be called ‘the keepers of the grass’.” Man has ever been an itinerant species, and one who is forever modifying his environment. It is just these characteristics that have made it possible for a such large number of mushroom species to successfully colonize so much of the earth.

Gary listed some seventy species, in all. Not surprisingly, many are good edibles. Here are but a few of those: Agaricus arvensis, A. campestris, A. silvicola, Armillaria mellea, Clitocybe nuda, Coprinus comatus, C. atramentarius, Flammulina velutipes, Hericium erinaceus, Laetiporus sulphureus, Leucoagaricus naucinus, Lycoperdon perlatum, L. pyriforme, Pleurotus ostreatus and Pluteus cervinus.

Are you planning to do some traveling. Take the time to check out the fungi. You might run into an old friend! According to Gary there are at least a hundred species that have found their way around the globe!


We have received a number of inquiries concerning club dues for 2007. Membership dues for new members have not changed. Student memberships are $10, individuals $15 and family memberships $20. However, sustaining memberships (annual dues for current members) are only $5.


Our April meeting will be the Tree Fungi Workshop led by Lori Trummer. She is a plant pathologist with the U. S. Forest Service. Normally, our meetings are on the first Saturday of the month, but we were unable to schedule the Aquaculture Building for that day. Consequently, we will be meeting on Saturday, April 14th.


Even with our great prize offer, we did not receive a single response to our December Mushroom of the Month contest. I’m sure that Betty Idleman had it pegged, but wanted to give someone else a shot at it. (She is a two-time winner!) So, here it is again. But, you better hurry, because Betty has our blessing to jump right in there!

This is a mushroom that is wide spread, but not common. Where it is found, it can be locally abundant. I have not personally harvested it on the peninsula, but have heard of at least one instance where it was collected here. This is a gilled mushroom that has been parasitized by another fungus. It is edible and has a very good texture and flavor. The spore print (when obtainable) is white. The spore deposit is that of the parasite and not the host, as the latter has been rendered sterile.

Can you name both the host and the parasite? If you are the first to correctly identify this species, you will win the English china coffee mug bearing a woods scene that includes a number of fungi. (Betty already has one of the mugs, and would probably like to make it a pair!)

In the photo above, the two mushrooms to the left are parasitized, while the specimen to the right is not. All three were growing within a few inches of each other.

Don’t forget to check out our website for the newsletter and the latest updates on the mushrooming prospects! Just get on line and go to http://kpms.blogspot.com/.


It seems like a lot of this newsletter has been devoted to talking about books. But, what is a ‘shroomer to do? Mushrooming is a little tough this time of year. But, there are always books! If I spend a little of my free time studying now, maybe I won’t be scratching my head this summer.

I was in one of the local thrift stores recently and stumbled across Cooking Alaskan. Anything Alaskan usually gets my attention. When I opened up this book, I discovered eight pages devoted to gathering and cooking wild mushrooms. Right then, I knew I had to have it, even if it did cost $1.50! Seriously, this is an unbelievable cookbook. It is almost a field guide as well. There are pages and pages devoted to identifying and locating edible wild plants and berries, identifying marine edibles and butchering and preserving fish and game animals.

There are an awful lot of things Alaskans eat that I have never heard of. The book contains hundreds of recipes from fillet of whale with mushroom sauce all the way down to roasted mousenuts. (I can’t imagine how many tundra mice caches you would have to raid to come up with enough of these seeds to make a meal!) There were recipes for things like poochki and petruskie and steamed gumboots. (I’m still not sure I know what a gumboot is! The list could go on and on. There are nearly one hundred and fifty salmon recipes! (Now that is impressive and something that could be pretty useful in this country!

I went on line to see if the book was still in print and was surprised to find that Amazon had it (new) for $13.22. I would say that it is worth every penny and if I didn’t already have a copy, I would buy one.

Here is a recipe for Coprinus comatus (shaggy manes) that sounded awfully good! (I would bet that just about any wild or domestic mushroom would go well, here.)

Casserole Supreme

¼ cup butter or margarine
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 cups shaggy manes
1 cup milk
1 cup homemade mushroom soup
2 pounds broccoli
Salt and pepper
2 cups cubed ham
1 ½ cups stuffing mix

Saute onions in butter until limp; add mushrooms and sauté briefly until tender. Stir in milk and soup. Put one-third of the broccoli in a well-greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with seasonings and put one-third of ham, one-third of sauce and one-third of the stuffing mix on top. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used. Bake at 350 degrees (175 degrees C.) for thirty minutes or until broccoli is tender. (Brussels sprouts or asparagus may be substituted for the broccoli.)


We hope to see you on Saturday. It should be an informative meeting. Be patient, spring is just around the corner. It won’t be long, and the earth will come alive again! Take care,


Friday, January 19, 2007

Issue 13, Dec. 2006/Jan. 2007

This newsletter, and the next one, will be bimonthly issues. With winter upon us, there really isn’t much local ‘fungal’ news to write about, and with the busyness of the holiday season there is precious little time to write. (With the April issue we will return to a monthly newsletter.)

What a busy month this has been. Between working full time and being the best grandfather this old grump can be, my days have been pretty full. And, with the holiday season, things have become even more hectic than normal.

It is amazing how fast circumstances can change. Three years ago I only knew a handful of people who lived in Alaska. Now, my wife and I, our four adult children and nine grandchildren are all Alaskans. (Six of the grandchildren live next door!)

If you were to ask any of us if we have any regrets about coming to Alaska, our answer would be; “We only regret that we didn’t come here sooner!” Alaska truly is a great place to live, and Soldotna is a great community to live in.


It is December, and there are still plenty of fresh mushrooms to be had. But, you have to go the Fred Meyer or Safeway to find them, and they come at a fairly stiff price. Even Agaricus bisporus (aka A. brunnescens), the common ‘button mushroom’ is between three and seven dollars a pound.

Safeway has oysters (Pleurotus ostreatus), but they are puny little things. I don’t remember the price, but I do recall almost choking when I looked at the tag. I doubt that these poor little oysters ever saw a real tree. They were probably raised on cottonseed hulls or (at best) sawdust. Although I haven’t tried any of them, I suspect that they have about as much flavor as cardboard!)

Have you seen the chanterelles (Cantharellus formosus) they have at Fred Meyer? They are also anemic specimens (the kind that I would have hidden in the bottom of the basket back in my chanterelle picking days), and they want eighteen to twenty dollars a pound for them! Take a look at the two photos below. This is what a chanterelle should look like!

Some of the chanterelles in this basket would weigh nearly a pound!

If you have children or grandchildren and you can get them interested in mushrooming, you will give them a hobby that will hold their interest for a lifetime.

We are extremely blessed to have such a staggering abundance of edible fungi on the Kenai Peninsula, and so little competition gathering them. (By competitors, I mean humans. There are plenty of bears, birds and especially bugs, vying for the harvest!)

I am reminded of a comment I read recently. When asked for some sage advice for beginning mushroomers, David Arora responded, “Don’t poach on my patches.” That is probably good advice if you live in California, as he does, but here on the peninsula tens of thousands of pounds of edible mushrooms go unharvested every season for lack of pickers.

Blanche Tinius sent me a copy of an interesting article which appeared in the Winter 1986 issue of Mushroom, the Journal of Wild Mushrooming. (MTJ is an excellent magazine and I consider myself fortunate to have every issue since it first came out in the fall of 1983. A few years back the publication changed hands, and for a time it appeared that it might not survive. But, it seems to have made a comeback. I hope so, because my sub-scription is paid up for at least another year!)

The title of the article, A Serious Case of Underpick – Alaska Mushrooming, is as applicable today as it was twenty years ago. The author was Ron Sutcliffe, a Kenai attorney and first president of the Alaska Mycological Society which (at the time) was based in Soldotna.

(I don’t know a lot about AMS, but I believe that it was co-founded by two local botanists, Boyd Shaffer and Janice Schofield. AMS later moved to Homer. Harriette Parker (a Homer resident and author of the book, Alaska’s Mushrooms, A Practical Guide), was actively involved in the organization for a time. Although there are still a number of ‘mushroomers’ in the Homer area, AMS has ceased to exist.)

In the article, Mr. Sutcliff made several very good observations that are worth repeating here.

He began by describing AMS as “composed of about 38 members, 30 of whom” he had “never seen.” He went on to say, “Alaskans have this basic mistrust of anything organized, I guess.” Is it really mistrust, or is it free-spirited independence (a quality that Alaskans are famous for)? I personally think it is the latter.

I also found this comment interesting, “Most of the members join up to get the Spore Print, our publication.” I suspected when we selected that name for our newsletter that it was probably not original, but I had no idea this was also the name of the previous local ‘club pub’.

He went on to lament the serious problem of “underpick” here on the peninsula, and to ponder how severe a problem it must be in the more sparsely populated areas of the state. “There aren’t enough people per square mile here interested in fungi to create a run on the stuff.” If you add to that all the other distractions; salmon fishing, clam digging, berry picking, gardening, hiking etc., it is no wonder that so many tasty treats go untouched.

And, if these distractions are not enough to keep you out of the woods, there are other considerations. Mr. Sutcliffe mentions two reasons “why mushroom hunting doesn’t catch on in a bigger way here: bears . . . . . large coastal versions of the grizzly bear patrol the mushroom grounds” and moose, “big, unpredictable and dangerous” and “they’re stupid as puffballs.” He admits that encounters are rare, but even these extreme odds are enough to deter some.

One thing he failed to mention: the endless miles of roadless wilderness and the possibility of becoming lost. A map and compass or GPS can go a long way toward minimizing this danger. I think we all want to avoid the anxiety connected with a night in the woods, alone and unprepared as well as the possible financial obligations associated with our recovery. Search aircraft cost between $800 and $1,000 per hour and ground operations are also expensive. If and when you are fortunate enough to be found, you will probably be expected to reimburse at least some of these costs!

What should a person take with them when they go mushrooming? Of course, there are a number of things we would all like to have, but can’t honestly call ‘necessities’. A four-wheel drive pickup would be nice, a four-wheeler, salt and freshwater boats and our own personal aircraft. We could even use them for other pursuits, like hunting and fishing. While we’re at it, why not add a pair of well-trained and well-armed mercenaries to the list. They could walk on either side of us and we could devote our full attention to ferreting out fungi! Actually, all we really need is a sturdy picking basket with a knife and brush attached, a day pack with first aid and survival supplies, a map and compass or GPS, proper clothing for the weather and terrain and a good field guide or two. Not much, actually. What other hobby is so gentle on the pocketbook?

Typical gear? Left to right, shotgun and/or bear spray, day pack, basket with brush and knife attached, candles, lighter, tender etc., canteen, first aid kit, TP, map and compass or GPS, mosquito net, waterproof tarp and flashlight.

November Mushroom of the Month

Betty Idleman is the winner of the ‘November mushroom of the Month’ contest. She correctly identified the UFO (unusual fungal oddity) as Phaeolepiota aurea and will receive the English coffee mug. This is her second win, but we can hardly accuse her of ‘hogging’ the prizes. She was gracious enough to wait nearly two weeks before submitting her entry. As you can see from the photo below, this is not your typical ‘Alaskan gold’. Congratulations, Betty!

The photo (which came to us through Blanche Tinius) was such an unusual specimen that we also had a second prize category for the best and most original title. Blanche donated a beautiful 18” x 24” color poster featuring an Alberta mushroom, Leccinum boreale to be awarded to the winner. The entries were forwarded to her, and she selected the winner - "Derriere gigantius" submitted by Cliff Cullings. Congratulations, Cliff!

December Mushroom of the Month

This is a mushroom that is wide spread, but not common. Where it is found, it can be locally abundant. I have not personally harvested it on the peninsula, but have heard of at least one instance where it was collected here. This is a gilled mushroom that has been parasitized by another fungus. It is edible and has a very good texture and flavor. The spore print (when obtainable) is white. The spore deposit is that of the parasite and not the host, as the latter has been rendered sterile.

If you are the first to correctly identify this species, you will receive an English china coffee mug bearing a woods scene which includes a number of fungi.

I recently read some interesting facts about the dangers associated with eating raw mushrooms. I was aware that many mush-rooms which are commonly eaten raw contain enzymes that block the absorption of proteins by our bodies. But, I was not aware that most, if not all mushroom species contain chemical compounds that metabolize into hydrazines. Though the amounts may be small, hydrazines are significant carcinogens and should be avoided at any levels. Fortunately, they are destroyed in the cooking process.

In addition to the protein blocking enzymes and hydrazines, there is also our body’s inability to digest chitin. The cell walls of mushrooms are composed of chitin, a derivative of cellulose. The result is some degree of digestive discomfort (often increasing exponentially with the amount consumed). Cooking does not destroy the chitin, but it does render it less of an irritant to our digestive tract.

The bottom line is that no mushroom should be eaten raw. This shouldn’t be much of a hardship, as mushrooms taste better cooked, anyway!

I was watching a program called “The Origins of Christmas” on the History Channel the other evening. They showed a sketch of the first English Christmas tree. Queen Victoria had just married her German cousin, Prince Albert. Albert brought the custom of ‘decorating the tree’ to England with him. What caught my attention were the ornaments. Many of them were mushroom shaped. This started me on an internet quest to see if mushrooms were in anyway a part of the Holiday celebration.

The first thing I discovered? Almost all northern European countries incorporate mushroom dishes into their holiday fare. Many of these are time-honored dishes that have been served for centuries! If you go online, you might be surprised how many traditional German, Polish and Finnish mushroom recipes you will find!

I also found that mushroom shaped ornaments are still commonly used to decorate the Christmas tree in these countries. It seems that red and white ornaments resembling Amanita muscaria are especially popular.

But, what I found most surprising was the supposed link between Santa Claus and A. muscaria. Of course, Santa Claus has nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, if it were not for the manger scenes, there would be little evidence that Christmas was a Christian celebration or had any biblical basis. Most of what is called Christmas today has been ‘borrowed’ from various Pagan religions.

Today’s Santa Claus is a metamorphosis of ancient mythologies and folklore. Santa has much in common with the Norse Odin or Thor (the German Donar) who wore red robes and rode through the heavens in his golden chariot pulled by horses or goats. The horses have been replaced by reindeer, but much remains the same. (Here is an interesting side note: In folklore, the exertion of Odin’s horses caused a blood tinged froth to drip from their mouths, falling to the earth below. Odin would then strike the earth with his mushroom shaped hammer and mushrooms would grow from the spittle.)

There also appears to be a link to the ancient Lapp shamans of Siberia who used Amanita muscaria as part of their mystic religion. They wore bright red garments and commonly entered home to perform their rituals through a hole in the roof. They would bring their ‘present’ (dried Amanita. muscaria) with them, in a bag.

It is claimed that reindeer have a great fondness for A. muscaria and that if the Lapps want to gather any of these mushrooms they have to find them before the reindeer. A. muscaria evidently has the same effect on reindeer as humans. One result is exaggerated movement (hence the flying reindeer of folklore). Supposedly, each Lapp shaman was also protected by a pair of mushroom-crazed, super reindeer.

Is there really any connection between Amanita muscaria, and Santa? Well, you have a chubby, jumbo-sized, overly-jolly, magical elf (of all things) dressed up like a giant ‘fly-agaric’ going ho, ho, ho all over the place. He is in the company of eight wild-eyed reindeer who can gallop at warp speed and take him anywhere on the earth in the ‘twinkling of an eye’. He is not only the master of time, but space, as well! In spite of his considerable girth, he is an unrivaled contortionist who can enter any home through the roof, fitting his body through the smallest of openings. Once inside, he leaves his brightly wrapped gifts strewn about under the ‘tree’, much like one would find the ‘fly amanitas’ scattered among the forest conifers.

Is there any connection? I’ll let you decide that for yourself.

In spite of the modest turnout at our November meeting, we had an excellent chat session. The two main areas of discussion were 1) potential topics for the upcoming winter and early spring meetings and 2) our dues structure.

There was interest expressed for a microscope workshop, a lichen presentation and field trip, and a polypore presentation and field trip.

Janice Chumley has contacted Dr. Wartenbee, and he has graciously consented to conduct the microscope workshop. We don’t have a firm date at this time, but it will probably be in February at the college. The lab facilities limit the class size, so if you are interested in participating, it is important that you let us know.

Janice has also offered to contact Lori Trummer, a plant pathologist with the Forest Service, about the possibility of a polypore presentation in March or April.

Dr. Berg has expressed an interest in conducting a lichen workshop for the club. Dominique will be contacting him and working out the details.

We should have more information on all three of these programs at our January meeting.

The matter of club dues also came up at the November meeting. I think most of our members are aware that one of our chief goals at KPMS has been to offer them the opportunity to purchase quality resources at affordable prices. Some things we have been able to offer free of charge, others at our cost. Because we buy in quantity, the publishers give us a very generous discount on our book purchases, and since we have a strong membership base we have the funds to purchase in quantity without needing to first collect the money up front.

We do occasionally have expenses that diminish our funds, but these are relatively small. Currently our account is adequate to meet our infrequent expenses and provide the finances for our book purchases.

With these facts in mind, it was decided that we would retain our current dues structure for new members ($10 for students, $15 for singles, and $20 for family memberships), but reduce the sustaining membership to $5 annually.

Our January meeting will be devoted to the election of officers for the 2007 service year. At present the only candidates for the office of president and vice-president are our current office holders. There are two candidates for the office of secretary/treasurer, Janice Chumley and Cliff Cullings. Anyone who wishes to run for one of these offices is encouraged to do so. The deadline to notify us of your candidacy is December 31, 2006.

Janice has ordered 10 copies each of Mushrooms Demystified and All That The Rain Promises And More. We should have them available at the January meeting.

We hope to see you at the meeting. Until then, have a safe and happy holiday season,


Monday, November 06, 2006

Issue 12, November 2006

This issue will complete the first full year of publication for The Spore Print. It has been a great first year. We now have nearly 150 KPMS members and friends who receive the newsletter via their e-mail and a growing number who access it on our website at http://kpms.blogspot.com.

I would like to thank all those who have contributed articles and photos. They have been very much appreciated. Keep them coming!


I think we would all agree that the mushrooming season here on the Kenai Peninsula is over for this year. With the frosty mornings and steadily cooling temperatures it would be reckless, foolhardy (and very unwise) for any mushroom to poke its cap up out of the ground now!

Reflecting back over the summer, I would say that (all things considered) it was a very good season. It started off poorly, but finished up with a bang!

Our first foray to Skilak lake produced almost nothing and our second foray to Caine’s Head State Park in Seward was little better. Then, we finally began to get some rain. We met at Soldotna Creek Park to begin and end our next two forays and each time we nearly filled two or three of the tables with the mushrooms that were collected! Dominique did an excellent job of walking us through the specimens and identifying them for us.

We also had an additional spur-of-the-moment gathering (again, under the covered picnic area at Soldotna Creek Park). It was very short notice and miserable, wet weather, but the turnout was great and everyone came loaded down with specimens. I brought along my two burner propane stove, Dominique supplied the skillets, someone produced a huge tub of potato salad, there were paper plates, plastic silverware and we even had two bottles of homemade wine! After separating out the edible species, Dominique cooked them up for everyone to sample.

It was a great summer. I learned a lot, made some new friends and had a good time. I think that many others could say the same.

For our October meeting we returned to the CIAA building. The fruiting season was nearly over, but everyone was encouraged to bring any specimens they could find. The turnout was good and there were a lot more specimens collected and a greater variety than I had expected.

Instead of our usual identification session, each person present was given two mushroom species and asked to identify them. It was encouraging to see how many folks were successful, especially since no information was given with the mushrooms when they were passed out!

If we were to do this again, I would want each person to know the spore print color of their specimen. I say this because of my own experience. I was handed one specimen that I did not recognize. It had the stature characteristics common to at least a dozen different genera, and because I didn’t have a spore print, I had no way to shorten my list and narrow my search.

As a consequence, I found myself thumbing through my field guides hoping to find a photo of my specimen. This is a dubious (if not downright dangerous) practice, and one I generally try to avoid. Knowing the spore print color would have eliminated a lot of my confusion.

Here is an e-mail I received from Blanche Tinius, a long-time mushroomer and KPMS member from Eagle River. Blanche and her husband Jim, attended the NAMA foray in Hinton, Alberta, and I asked her if she would be willing to share some of that experience with us.

2006 NAMA annual Mushroom Foray
Hinton, Alberta - August 17, 18, 19 & 20.
Hosted by the Edmonton Mycological Society

130 members attended the foray, basking in sunshine and warm temperatures in the 70s and 80s, while Alaska was being drenched by heavy rain. There were 23 States and 4 Canadian Provinces represented. But, as has been the case in so many other forays my husband and I have attended, we were the only Alaskans present. The International Mycological Conference in Australia coincided with the NAMA foray, so there were fewer mycologists present than normal.

Blanche with Hope Miller, who is signing her copy of North American Mushrooms.

The foray was shrouded in sadness over the death of Dr. Orson Miller, who was to have attended. Losing Dr. Miller is a tremendous loss to the mycological world, as well as to his family and friends. His wife, Hope did attend the foray and signed their latest book North American Mushrooms for members who had obtained the book.

There were 16 educational programs offered at the foray, including workshops in photography, paper making, mushroom cultivation and a beginner’s class. There were also a number of presentations. Topics included mushroom toxicity, northern mushrooms, Gulf Coast fungi, unusual fungi, mushroom inhabiting insects and fungi for medicinal purposes. A number of the presentations were taped and DVDs could be purchased at $20 each.

There were 18 forays to various places, ranging from easy to difficult. One of these forays included a stop at Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park, where some of the members chose to relax in the mineral springs rather than continue foraging for mushrooms. Another interesting foray was to the Cardinal Divide, which was at an elevation of 7000 feet. It was difficult terrain, but there was lots of wildlife to be seen.

The evening meals were accompanied by presentations and slide shows. After the evening meal, those wishing to return to the Miette Hot Springs for a relaxing soak could catch a waiting bus.

As at all forays, there was a mycophagy session where a number of different species were prepared in various ways and served to the members. It always amazes me, that at these forays we break our own rules. We tell people to eat only one species at a meal so that if there is a reaction, it can be determined which mush-room was the culprit. We also caution that consuming alcohol along with mushrooms can sometimes cause reactions. Yet, at these forays, members consistently consume a number of different species, often along with an alcoholic beverage. Perhaps, when giving this advice, we should tell people “don’t do as I do, but as I say.”

The foray ended with a walk around all the tables by a Mycologist who talked about the mushrooms on display. There were well over 200 different species catalogued. These specimens will be preserved (along with all the related information) and placed in the NY Botanical Gardens. This information will also be shared with the Canadian Government.

These forays are not only very educational, but you meet and get to know many mycologists. They are always willing to help you, and not only at the forays, but whenever you need assistance. You also meet up with old “mushroom” friends and make new ones. It’s an excellent opportunity to exchange information and there are always fungi collected that you don’t find in Alaska or have never seen before.

The next NAMA annual foray will be at Pipestem, WV, Aug 16 - 19th. 2007. I would encourage you to attend and find out for yourself how educational and fun these forays really are.

Blanche also sent the following photo which was taken by her neighbor Scott Amy. My first thought was that this was the south end of a naked, north bound extra-terrestrial, sneaking along on all fours. Then, I began to wonder if there wasn’t a more rational explanation (like someone’s poor pet cat or lap dog had been drinking out of a barrel of toxic waste and lost all its hair and a number of its appendages).

But, it turns out that this ‘creature’ is not other-worldly or the product of some chemical brew. This UFO (unusual fungal oddity) is a common Alaskan mushroom. This is an excellent example of how drastically environmental factors can affect the growth of a mushroom.

November Mushroom Of the Month

This mushroom of the month has two prize categories. If you are the first to correctly identify the genus and species you will receive an English china coffee mug bearing a woods scene which includes a number of fungi. In addition, Blanche has offered to donate an 18” x 24” color poster featuring an Alberta mushroom, Leccinum boreale, for the best and most original whimsical genus and species name given to this mushroom. Since she will be providing the prize, I will forward all entries to her and she will pick the winner.

Ken Gill was our October Mushroom Of The Month winner. He was the first to correctly identify the mushroom in the photo as Agaricus Silvaticus, and will receive a Churchhill china coffee mug for his efforts.

I am somewhat confused on the identification myself, and would have accepted either A. silvaticus or A. haemorrhoidarius as the correct answer. The specimen stained quickly bright cherry-red when cut and remained pinkish-red for a considerable length of time, a characteristic of A. haemorrhoidarius, while A. silvaticus stains more slowly and then quickly fades to brown. You would think that would have been enough to settle the matter, but it appears that the various 'authorities' are not even in agreement. Some claim to have found A. haemorrhoidarius in Alaska, while others say that it occurs only in Europe and that our A. haemorrhoidarius is really just a variant of A. silvaticus. It seems that the spore size is at the heart of the issue with A. silvaticus having larger spores. But, even this distinction appears to be somewhat clouded. So, I decided to accept either answer.

The October Mushroom Of The Month

It may come as a surprise to some, that KPMS has members in such far-flung places as Florida, Missouri, Colorado and Montana. Some of these members correspond regularly, and I asked two of them, Steve Dziekan (central Colorado) and Dick Johnson (northwestern Montana), if they would be willing to share with us something of their mushrooming experiences this last season. Both Steve and Dick were gracious enough to respond.

Steve Dziekan, with a nice collection of yellow chanterelles. The dark patch in the corner of his red basket is a clump blue chanterelles (Polyozellus multiplex). Steve is not only a KPMS member, but a long-time member of the Colorado Mycological Society.

Steve - May started out wet and just when the yellow morels started popping up in large numbers, it dried up and ruined what would have been a banner year. In the northern and central mts. it was the rainiest July and August that I have ever seen, as well as the coolest and the weirdest. The kings came out before the Leccinums, but were plentiful. It was almost too cool for the chanterelles, but I managed to pick and process about 25 lbs. Big clusters of Polyozellus multiplex, oysters and Chroogomphus, but not many Hydnum repandum, (which means less than the few patches that I usually find. All and all, it was the best year in the last 4 or 5. There were also nice clusters of Flammulina velutipes and various Agaricus. We also had a fairly good ‘hawkwing’ year. There are a lot of species of Sarcodon in Colorado, some with very small wings and one with barely an indication of scales and a smooth cap that is somewhat shiny and grayish-brown. All are bitter, with the exception of S. imbricatus.

Take care, Steve

Dick Johnson at a foray in western Montana. The pretty young lady in the foreground is one of my granddaughters, and quite an avid mushroomer, as well. Dick is the long-time president of the Kootenai Valley Mycological Society in Libby, Mt. and a member of the Pacific Northwest Key Council. (Ian Gibson, who produces MatchMaker is also a member of the Key Council.)

Dick (from a recent phone conversation) – Our first outing of the season was a Key Council foray in late May at Tall Timbers, a church camp near Lake Wenatchee in north- central Washington. Though this area can produce an abundance of ‘natural’ morels, it was very dry and we found very little of anything.

The ‘naturals’ were pretty good in northwest Montana. There were no local fires the previous season so the only ‘fire’ morels were in a few Forest Service ‘prescribed burns’. There were some corals, but not the buckets-full that you can pick in a good year. There were no early king boletes, and I did not find any in the fall, either.

The spring was followed by a very hot, dry summer with the only edibles being a few Suillus and an occasional Russula, Agaricus bitorquis or A. silvicola.

(Dick also reminded me of the account of a fatal poisoning attributed to Russula nigricans – Russula previously being considered a ‘safe’ genus with a few species which would, at worst, cause severe intestinal discomfort.)

We had some rain in the late summer and early fall. The chanterelles were spotty with both the yellows and the whites fruiting well in some areas.

The annual Priest Lake, Idaho foray sponsored by the Spokane Mushroom Club was well attended. There was the usual assortment of mushrooms, although no king boletes turned up and the chanterelles and matsutakes were less abundant than normal.

The last three seasons have been hotter and drier than normal resulting in far fewer chanterelles and matsutakes than in previous years.


One of the benefits of KPMS membership is that you are able to purchase several excellent books at a greatly discounted price through the club. Here is what we have to offer.

We struck a deal with Lone Pine Publishing and are able to get a 40% discount on their books. Lone Pine Publishing has a couple of excellent mushroom field guides we can offer our members at our cost plus shipping. Both are tremendous guides and include many of the species in our area.

There are still a few copies of Orson Miller’s North American Mushrooms available. Our ‘member’ price is $15.00.

We are placing another order for Arora’s Mushrooms Demystified and All That The Rain Promises and More. They will be available at our cost (to members) - $23.00 for MD and $15 for ATTRPAM. (With this order, it will make over 100 copies of these two books that we have purchased!)

I have three copies of A Field Guide to Southern Mushrooms, by Alexander Smith. These are new books that I got from a friend who is a book dealer. I will sell them at my cost, $13.00 each. If you spend any time in the southeastern U.S. it is an excellent resource.

If you are interested in any of these books, let me know or talk with Janice Chumley at the November meeting.

KPMS was given a Canon imageClass D600 series copier. This is a very nice unit that is able to make copies up to 11” x 17” in size. Presently we do all our copying at the UPS Store at a cost of about five cents per copy. This copier will allow us to cut our cost to between two and three cents per copy. The donor wishes to remain anonymous, but they have our thanks for this generous gift.

The mushroom identification class I taught for the community school was really a lot of fun. I had an exceptionally great group, and there was a lot of interaction. Six out of that class are now club members!

Three of the students and myself having a casual conversation the last night of the class.

We hope to see you at the Nov. 11th meeting. We will begin a review of each of the ‘gilled’ families starting with those with white spores.

Until then,


Monday, October 23, 2006

Issue 11, October 2006

In the future, I will probably refer to this year as the year of the ‘hedgehogs’ and ‘hawk wings’. For a time, it seemed that every e-mail I received included a photo or two of these species. Orson Miller made the comment in his latest field guide that the largest specimens of hawk wings (Sarcodon imbricatum) that he had ever seen were in collections from Alaska. I’m sure that they couldn’t possibly be any larger than the ones in the photos of this newsletter.

Our September foray took place almost at the peak of the fruiting season. We met under the covered picnic area at Soldotna Creek Park. The turnout was good, and everyone arrived loaded down with mushrooms. We had scores of specimens and dozens of species to identify. The collection filled two of the tables and spilled over onto a third. Dominique took on the task of separating the mushrooms into groups of related genera and then took each group and identified the individual specimens, commenting on their characteristics, edibility etc., and answering any questions that were asked. We are very fortunate to have some-one with his knowledge among our members.

There is another key element that has made our forays a success. We have a ‘core’ group of a dozen or so dedicated ‘shroomers who can be counted on to show up at every gathering regardless of the time, place, or weather. With their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, I have no doubt that they will be leading the forays and doing much of the identification and explanation in the years to come.

Since the foray, the fruiting flush has been slowly tapering off, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t fresh mushrooms to be found. This wet fall also offers the opportunity to find species that you may not see again for years, if ever. Don’t let the damp weather stop you from getting out and poking around. You might be surprised what you find!

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These ‘hawk wings’ were collected by Kathy Matta ‘somewhere’ in Funny River area.

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I had to include this photo of Kathy’s monster ‘hedgehog’.

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No, this isn’t a photo of Cliff Cullings and his twin brother. I may have ‘doctored’ up the pic to get both views of his ‘twin hedgehogs’ but that mushroom is the real McCoy!


In addition to our regular meeting, we will set aside some time for a mushroom identification and information session, so bring your specimens!

I have taken some time during the last month to review Miller’s new field guide and also to check out the changes in the MatchMaker CD updates. One thing that always amazes me is the number of species that have been reclassified and reassigned to other genera. If you were to do a thorough search of just these two sources, you would probably find at least two dozen species that have new names! (Typically, only the genus changes, although the species name may be slightly altered to be grammatically correct in relationship to the genus.)

How many of these species do you recognize: Cortinarius caperatus, Neolentinus lipideus, Lepista nuda, Suillus ocharaceoroseus, Ptychoverpa bohemica, Phaeolepiota aurea, and Sarcodon imbricatus? Unless you have made a diligent effort to keep up on all the classification changes, most, if not all of these will be unfamiliar names to you. Some of the species above are on their fourth or fifth name change! The ‘gypsy’, C. caperatus was originally placed in Pholiota and later Rozites. What is commonly called ‘Alaskan gold’ was originally classified as Lepiota pyrenacea, changed to Pholiota aurea, later to Togaria aurea and is now known as Phaeolepiota aurea. Then, there are those ‘hawks wings’ you have been collecting and calling Hydnum imbricatum; hasn’t the scientific community told you, that they are now Sarcodon imbricatus!

What about our trusted copies of Mushrooms Demystified, the book we affectionately call the mushroomer’s bible? You most likely have the second edition which was published in 1986 (just twenty short years ago). How outdated is it? There are around one-hundred species names that are now invalid!

Confused? So am I. Someone should come out with a reference book just for all the name changes that have occurred for every mushroom species. I’d buy one in a heartbeat!

Last Month’s Mushroom of the Month

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We had two responses for last month’s contest. Both were correct. The mushroom pictured above is Pleurotus ostreatus. The prize was a collecting basket for the first respondent, but, as we only had two, we are giving baskets to both.

Melissa Cates and Betty Idleman will both receive baskets. Melissa had the first correct response and will get her choice of the baskets pictured below:

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The photo of October’s mushroom of the month was submitted by Ben Keenan. This is a medium sized mushroom with white flesh and red-brown scales on a white cap. It has close, free gills and a chocolate-brown spore print. But, the feature that makes this mushroom unique is the rapid cherry-red staining of the flesh of the cap and top of the stem when it is cut or bruised. (See the photo below.)

If you are the first to respond with the correct answer, you will receive an English China coffee cup bearing an outdoor scene which includes a number of mushrooms. Fill it with steaming hot coffee, pull out your favorite mushroom field guide, and enjoy!

October Mushroom of the Month

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Here is another photo from Ben. Now, this is one man who knows how to build a pizza, and he harvested those mushrooms himself!

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We still have a number of copies of Miller’s North American Mushrooms available. We also struck a deal with another publisher to get a deep discount on some great books. Lone Pine Publishing has a couple of excellent mushroom field guides we can offer our members at our cost plus shipping. Both are excellent guides and include many of the species in our area.

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Lone Pine Publishing also has several excellent plant books that are applicable for our area. If you are interested in any of these books, let us know. (I won’t list them here. Go to http://www.lonepinepublishing.com/ for their online catalog.) If we have a sufficient response, we will place an order.

One of our goals at KPMS has been to provide our members with quality resources at affordable prices. Some things we have been able to offer free of charge, others at our cost. (It is because we buy in quantity that the publishers give us such a generous discount on our book purchases. And, it is because we have a strong membership base that we have the funds to purchase in quantity without having to first collect the money up front.) In addition to the field guides and identification CD, we hope in the future to make a number of identification keys available for the cost of duplication.

None of this would have been possible had not so many of you been willing to take a chance with KPMS. Thank you for your confidence.

If you are not a member of KPMS, we encourage you to join. The benefits far outweigh the minimal cost.

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There are a number of great educational opportunities available through the local Community Schools program this fall. Here is one entry from the brochure.

BEGINNING MUSHROOMING – Acquiring the basic skills necessary to identify mushrooms.

Steve Scott. This is a non-technical course designed to equip the amateur mushroom hunter with the skills necessary to confidently identify their fungal finds using only macroscopic features. The course will also include an over-view of the fungal kingdom and a discussion on mushroom toxins. Tuesdays AND Thursdays, beginning October 3rd and ending October 19th / 6 nights / 7-9pm / Teens and Adults / 6 Min and 12 Max / $15 that goes to Community Schools (Study materials will be provided.)


I never cease to be amazed by the complex relationships that fungi have developed with other organisms. The mycorrhizal relationship (for example) is extremely important in nature. Mycorrhizal fungi have become so dependent upon a particular tree species that they cannot grow without their host. In addition, recent research has shown that trees deprived of this mutual relationship are unable to successfully compete with those that have formed these mycorrhizal bonds.

I found Dr. Berg’s recent article on lichen, published in the Outdoor section of the Peninsula Clarion, particularly fascinating. (Dr. Berg is a frequent contributor to the Peninsula Clarion and his articles are always interesting.) I had not realized that lichen were such complex organisms. Dr. Berg described them as ‘those curious little “plants” that are a mixture of both fungi and algae. The fungi provide the basic physical structure of the lichen, and the algae provide food for the fungi through photosynthesis.’ He went on to describe their relationship as being less mutualistic or symbiotic and ‘more like captive “farming” of the algae’ to the point where ‘filament type algae . . . . . that normally grow as long chains occur only as single cells within a layer of the fungal body of the lichen, just like carefully planted vegetables in a garden.’ Dr. Berg’s article stirred my curiosity and I really wanted to learn more about this fungal-algal relation. Then the latest issue of the Mycophile came in the mail. To my surprise, the lead article was about ‘Lichenomphalias’.

The author, Andrus Voitk, began the article with this statement: ‘Within the genus Omphalina there are two kinds of mushrooms—those that exist as mushrooms alone and those that exist as the fungal component of a lichen’, and he went on to say that all of the ‘lichenized’ Omphalinas ‘share similar DNA that is different from the rest of the genus’.

As a consequence of this DNA study, there is even a proposal to place these ‘lichenized’ Omphalinas into a new and separate genus—Lichenomphalia.

The focus of Mr. Voitk’s article was not the fungal-algal relationship, but rather, those rare cases where ‘both component organisms exist separately as well as in their combined lichenized form’. Such relationships are so rare that although there are ‘thousands of lichens, very few have a basidiomycete as the fungal partner. Only about twenty species are formed with agarics (mushrooms with cap, stem and gills).’ The result is a fungus, an algae, and a true lichen all interdependent upon one another. (And we refer to them as simple life forms!) Sadly, these specialized ‘foursomes’ are so uncommon and found in such inhospitable environments that few of us will ever see one of them.

Well, so much for my ramblings!

I want to thank all those who submitted photos for the newsletter. If you have an interesting ‘mushroom’ photo, story, joke, comic, recipe or what ever, send it my way. We are always looking for material for the Spore Print. I hope to see you on the 7th of October. Bring a few specimens with you, if you can. Until then, happy hunting,


Note to our readers: Each issue of the Spore Print also contains an instructional insert. For example, the October issue included an identification key for the seventeen species of Agaricus that probably occur in Alaska. These instructional segments are not posted on the website. Anyone wishing to receive the newsletter in it entirety may contact me at sscott@alaska.net and I will add your name to our mailing list and you will receive each newsletter via e-mail.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Issue 10, September 2006

Here it is, September already. I am reminded of a quote I read recently, “There comes a time when autumn asks, ‘What have you been doing all summer?’” I’d be tempted to say “What summer?”, but, like most Alaskans, I could look autumn straight in the eye and say “I have tried my best not to waste a single moment of it.”

Both the fishing and the mushrooming started off slow this year. The reds were late, but they closed out the run with a bang (triple the numbers that were forecast). Mushrooming started out much the same, but now, with the abundant rain we have received the last two weeks, it could well turn into a banner year.

Our club foray in Seward produced little in the way of fungal fare, but was a good time, nonetheless. Before I give you my account, I will let Betty Idleman describe her experience.

Our group gathered at Caine’s Head which is down a well potholed gravel road 2 ½ miles past Seward. We climbed both sides of a gut picking mushrooms which Dominique and Steve identified for us. The lack of mushrooms was very disappointing.

Next we gathered about 10 miles before Seward at a turnout along the road. Here the excursion turned into an expedition. We went down the bank and across a creek that runs alongside the road. Then we clawed, crawled, climbed and pulled on blueberry bushes up the steep, steep hill (mountain) to tromp through the wet brush, pushka, devils club, blueberry bushes, deadfalls and holes.

Of course everything in the Seward area is covered with at least 3 inches of wet moss. Stepping over downed trees, there was usually a hole that was covered with brush on the other side. One downed tree was so huge it had to be sat on, and then swiveled on to get to the other side. Of course all that wet moss meant a wet butt. Others were smaller, but you still had to put your knees on them and swivel because it was too high to straddle. Everyone was huffing and puffing and fell at least once. Finally we reached a spot where we were able to slide down the bank and into the creek and cross back to the road. Most of us slid down the steep hill on our butts holding onto blueberry bushes to keep from going too fast and getting hung up in deadfalls. I had only seen about ten different mushrooms and was sweating so badly I got salt in my eyes!

Betty had a lot more to say, and though it might sound like she was complaining, I think she really did enjoy herself.

I was impressed with her stamina. She handled that hike better than some who were twenty years her junior!

Now, let me fill in some of the gaps. First, I have got to say, I fell in love with the Seward area. That coastal forest habitat is really something else. The lush growth and mosses were such a beautiful sight.

Concerning the ‘expedition’ Dominique took us on, Betty did an excellent job of describing the physical torture Dominique put us through, but she didn’t say anything about the mental torment.

As we waded across that creek on our way to the densely wooded hillside behind it, the first thing that caught my eye was the scores of cleanly picked salmon skeletons lying in the water and on the banks. Then there were the tracks, bear tracks everywhere!

After crossing over the creek, we had to pass through about thirty yards of nearly waist high grass; grass that was criss-crossed with bear trails that were so well traveled that the ground had been churned into mud. At this point Dominique began to yell out ‘hey, bear’ or ‘here, bear,’ I wasn’t quite sure which. Even though two of the group, Betty Idleman and Dave Schickendanz were both packing large caliber handguns, and I was clutching my bear spray so tightly my knuckles had turned white, I still felt a twinge of regret for not having the good sense to stay on the other side of the creek.

As we climbed the hill into the thick woods I noticed two things: the huckleberry bushes were picked nearly clean and there were piles of bear poo everywhere. Some of those piles could easily have filled one of those five-quart ice cream buckets. And Dominique was still calling out ‘hey bear’ or ‘here bear!’ I could see we had a dilemma. On the one hand, I wasn’t really sure we wanted to advertise our presence, but on the other, I instinctively knew I didn’t want to stumble onto a sleeping brown; something we could have easily done in that dense undergrowth. The one thing I did know for sure was that I wanted to stay close to the group.

Not being a native Alaskan, I had no idea that I needed a rain suit for a short hike through the woods. When we finally got back to the creek, it didn’t take any urging to get me to slide down the bank and into the knee deep water. Why should it, I was already soaked all the way up to my armpits. And if this was not torment enough, I hadn’t found a single mushroom! Well, so much for Seward.

(Actually, I really did have a good time, but don’t tell Dominique. And by the way, I went out the next day and bought rain bibs and a jacket.)

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You are probably looking at this photo and saying, ‘what is this suppose to be?’ This is the stuff Dominique took us through. Believe it or not, there is a string of at least a half-dozen people not more than fifteen or twenty feet behind the one you can see!


Then we had the little impromptu gathering at the Soldotna Creek Park.

The weather was miserable and had been for several days. If it hadn’t been for a handful of hardy souls who had committed to come, I would have been tempted to call the whole thing off. Boy was I surprised when I pulled into the park! A fair number of the folks had arrived before me and two of the tables under the covered picnic area were nearly covered with mushrooms! They had to have been out picking in the rain to come up with so many specimens. This was only the beginning of what would be a great evening!

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I had thrown in my little two-burner propane stove, and Dominique had brought along cooking supplies. Someone in the group had thought to bring paper plates and plastic silverware. There were a couple of bottles of homemade wine (blackberry and fireweed) and a huge tub of potato salad. So, after we had our harvest identified, we cooked up the edible ones for all to sample. I kept an eye on the obituaries in the Clarion over the next few days and didn’t see any names I recognized, so I guess everyone survived!

Here is an interesting bit of trivia. A number of mushroom clubs throw a banquet for their members at the end of the mushrooming season. Of course, all the dishes contain mushrooms which these members have collected and preserved in anticipation of this feast. This banquet has almost universally become known as the ‘Survivor’s Banquet.’

So what edible species did we collect? This is only a partial list dredged up from my memory, but some of the edible species collected were Armillaria mellea, Boletus edulis, Bovista plumbea, Flammulina velutipes, Laccaria laccata, Lactarius deliciosus, Lycoperdon perlatum, Lycoperdon pyriforme and Russula claroflava.


I am sure many of you read and enjoyed the ‘mushrooming’ article that appeared in the Peninsula Clarion. The article was written by Patrice Kohl. She was at the Soldotna Creek Park gathering, but I first met her through my daughter at the Skilak Lake foray. I knew she worked at the Clarion, but had no idea she was a reporter. The front page article in the paper the following Thursday came as quite a surprise. Not only did Patrice do a great job, but KPMS got some positive community exposure. Thanks Patrice.


I would like to thank all those who submitted photos for this issue of the Spore Print. There was a great response and I received a number of excellent photos. Unfortunately, with so little space, I couldn’t use them all.



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We still have a number of copies of Orson Miller’s North American Mushrooms, A Field Guide to Edible And Inedible Fungi, a few copies of Arora’s Mushroom’s Demystified, and a one copy of All That the Rain Promises and More available. As always, member prices are half of the retail price plus our shipping costs. This is a real deal and a great opportunity to build up your reference library.


There are a number of great educational opportunities available through the local Community Schools program this fall. Here is one entry from the brochure.

BEGINNING MUSHROOMING – Acquiring the basic skills necessary to identify mushrooms.

Steve Scott. This is a non-technical course designed to equip the amateur mushroom hunter with the skills necessary to confidently identify their fungal finds using only macroscopic features. The course will also include an overview of the fungal kingdom and a discussion on mushroom toxins. Tuesdays AND Thursdays, beginning October 3rd and ending October 19th / 6 nights / 7-9pm / Teens and Adults / 6 Min and 12 Max / $15 that goes to Community Schools (Study materials will be provided.)


August’s ‘Mushroom of the Month’ Photo

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The picture above was the August ‘Mushroom of the Month,’ Agaricus arvensis. This species is easily identified by its chocolate brown spore print, anise odor, habit of growing in grassy areas, and the cogwheel pattern produced in the unbroken veil as the cap expands.

For the second straight month, the ‘Mushroom of the Month’ went unidentified and our prize unclaimed. We did not receive a single response. It may be that our prize (your name and achievement immortalized in our newsletter) was not enticing enough. This month we have upped the ante. If you are the first to respond with the correct answer, you will receive a beautiful mushroom picking basket courtesy of KPMS!

The September Mushroom of the Month

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This edible species is easily distinguished by its pleasant, fruity odor, lilac to lilac-gray spore print, lack of a stipe, off-center attachment, and habit of growing on dead hardwoods (especially cottonwoods).


There were a number of inquiries concerning our absence at the fair. I am not sure just what happened, but somehow we dropped the ball and failed to reserve a booth before the registration deadline.

With all of this rain, I am expecting a great foray on September 2nd. And, if the rain continues until then we should see a number of boletes like the one below. Unfortunately, the moose had been chewing on it, but it was free of maggots!

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I’m only kidding, but don’t you wish they got this large?

I have included a couple of short reminders at the end of this newsletter. The first is a list of the proper steps to take when collecting mushrooms, and the second (if you plan on eating any of the specimens you have collected) is a list of the precautions you should be taking to avoid mushroom poisoning. I would like to credit the original authors, but haven’t a clue who they were. I suspect that these lists have been in circulation so long, and revised so many times that the original penmen would not even recognize them. But, isn’t that the way it often is with good advice?

I hope to see you at the foray. Until then I will leave you with this wise caution I once heard from an old, old ‘shroomer, “there are old mushroomers and there are bold mushroomers, but there are no old, bold mushroomers.” See you on the 2nd,


KPMS Contact information:
Steve Scott, President sscott@alaska.net
Dominique Collet, Vice-President gastrancitrus@yahoo.com
Janice Chumley, Secretary-Treasurer weraftalaska@gci.net



1. Carefully collect the complete fruiting body (both above and below ground level). A deadly Amanita species could easily be confused with an edible young Agaricus or a Lepiota if the Amanita’s stipe is cut or broken off. Whenever possible, gather specimens in various stages of development.

2. Specimens should be carefully cleaned. A sharp knife and soft brush are important additions to your gathering basket. Do not mix species. Carry small paper bags or wax paper to wrap and separate your collection.

3. Note the habitat in which you find your specimen. Tree associations, amount of direct light, aspect, substrate etc. are all clues that will aid you in identifying your mushroom. Make copies of the ‘COLLECTION AND IDENTIFICATION RECORD’ available through KPMS and use them. It is an extremely useful tool.

4. Take a spore print as soon as possible. Without a spore print your ‘identification’ is little more than a guess! Spore prints are obtained by cutting the stem of a mushroom flush with the cap and placing the cap ‘gill side’ down on white paper. On the ‘COLLECTION AND IDENTIFICATION RECORD’ there is an oval containing both a black and a white surface. This will give a truer color than a single background. With older specimens, covering the cap with a moist paper towel will often encourage a ‘tired’ mushroom to release additional spores. When attempting to obtain a print from a bolete or a wet, ‘gilled’ specimen elevate the cap slightly off the paper with toothpicks. The results will be much better and the color truer.

5. Learn to use identification keys. Any good field guide will include identification keys. MUSHROOMS DEMYSTIFIED has excellent ones. The MATCHMAKER CD is another excellent method of ‘keying’ out your specimen. Do not rely on a picture in a field guide for your identification. Again, do not rely on a picture in a field guide for your identification. And again, do not rely on a picture in a field guide for your identification. Even good photos are far, far inferior to a key. (It should be noted that not all specimens will ‘key out’, nor does any field guide contain every species (especially those that are uncommon).

6. Whenever possible, confirm your identification with an experienced mushroomer.

If you will follow the suggestions above and learn to use the identification keys effectively, you will quickly become proficient in identifying mushrooms to genus and species. But, there are no shortcuts. Proficiency comes with patience and study.


The fact that many mushrooms are edible is undoubtedly the reason most are attracted to the hobby. And, for those of us who enjoy wild mushrooms, this continues to be an area of interest. But, not all mushroom species are edible, and the fact that a mushroom is considered edible does not mean that some individuals will not find it toxic to them. We do not encourage anyone to eat wild mushrooms, but if you chose to do so, the following cautions should be carefully followed.

1. Learn to recognize a few species that are easy to identify and have no ‘look-alikes,’ and eat only those. Leave all of the rest alone (enjoying them for their beauty only).

2. Examine and identify each specimen. A poisonous ‘look-alike’ may be mixed in. Do not eat any mushroom that you have not positively (without any question or doubt) identified. (The old sayings, ‘when in doubt, throw it out,’ and ‘there are old mushroomers and bold mushroomers, but no old, bold mushroomers’ are words of wisdom.)

3. Keep specimens you plan to eat separate from any others you may have collected.

4. Always cook wild mushrooms. Most edible species contain toxins that are destroyed in the cooking process. Cooking also makes the complex proteins more digestible.

5. Save out a few specimens from each batch that you plan to consume. These are for identification purposes in case you do get sick.

6. Eat only fresh mushrooms. Refrigerate and eat or preserve immediately. Spoiled mushrooms will make you sick, just as any spoiled food will.

7. Eat only a small amount of a ‘new’ kind the first time. Body chemistries differ, and not all individuals are able to eat every ‘edible’ mushroom species.

8. Do not gather mushrooms for the table from any area where pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers have been used. Mushrooms are ‘decomposers’ and will concentrate chemical residues. Areas such as city parks, lawns around public buildings and schools, road right-of-ways etc. are particularly hazardous. NAMA (North American Mycological Association) has kept thorough records of mushroom poisonings for a number of years and has verified a number of instances where edible mushrooms caused serious poisonings because of chemical contamination.

9. Limit or abstain from alcohol consumption or anti-depressant drugs when you eat wild mushrooms.

10. Do not serve wild mushrooms to small children or those that are weak or chronically ill.

Although fatalities from mushroom consumption are actually quite rare, there are a number of species which will cause severe gastro-intestinal illness. Mycophagy (the eating of mushrooms), can be enjoyable, but it demands the utmost care and caution.