Saturday, May 27, 2006

Issue 7, June 2006

Well, another month has come and gone. After six dreary months of winter the land is coming to life again. We are finally seeing 60 degree days, the trees are budding out, the grass is greening up and the mushrooms are beginning to appear. I have stumbled onto a Gyromitra or two and handful of Helvellas. Dominique has found a few Verpas and a dozen a dozen morels! We also heard a report that some are finding morels around Sterling. If you have opportunity, get out and see what you can find.

Our first foray of the season is only a week away. By then the soil will have warmed to around 50 degrees, enough to allow the morels to fruit. All that is needed now are a few more warm days and a good rain to bring on a bountiful harvest.


Our plan is to gather at the camp area on the lower end of Skilak Lake between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. From there we will break up into groups and head out for some picking. At noon the groups will return to the campground to compare and identify what they have found.

We plan to have a very short meeting after the identification session to discuss the KPMS booth at the Kenai River Festival. Volunteers are needed to look for fresh specimens to display there. A few volunteers are also needed to help man the booth.

Following the meeting we would like to have a potluck-barbecue as an opportunity to get acquainted with one another. If you plan to stay for the potluck (and we hope you will), bring your own plate, silverware, etc, some kind of potluck dish and your own meat for the grill. I will bring one grill. If we can come up with another and a table or two that should be sufficient.

We had originally talked about boating folks across to the burn area. It would have been an expensive logistics and liability nightmare for the club to make it happen. But, we encourage those with boats (who are willing to do so) to check out the burn. And, if you have an extra seat or two and wouldn’t mind taking someone across, that would be a great help. Those who do not wish to go across to the burn should still find good picking along the Skilak Lake Road. If the burn turns out to be extremely productive, we will attempt a follow-up foray so that all who choose to will have the opportunity to pick there.

Please note: The burn is on the Refuge. The US F & W Service will not allow any com-mercial harvesting. But, the burn is open to personal use picking without a permit.

Please leave your pets at home. Dogs and wildlife are a volatile combination that could potentially place others in your group in a very, very dangerous situation.

Also, unless you know the area well, it would be wise to procure a topo map and carry a compass or gps unit. It is amazing how quickly a person can get turned around when they are walking along with their eyes to the ground searching for mushrooms!

Just a reminder to those who might happen to be in the Anchorage area over the Memorial Day weekend – Take the time and meet Blanche and Jim Tinius (KPMS members from the Eagle River area and very knowledgeable mushroomers) who will be offering their annual Morel program at the Eagle River Nature Center on Sunday, May 28th at 2 pm. The program will include a slide presentation which will be followed by a foray.

The 2006 NAMA (North American Mycological Association) Foray will be held in Hinton, Alberta, August 17-20. Details and a registration form can be found on the NAMA website at

The Edmonton Mycological Society will act as host and Dr. Markus Thormann will be one of the presenters and identifiers. It would be a great opportunity for you to meet ‘shroomers’ from all across the U.S. and Canada and a tremendously valuable learning experience!

Blanche also sent me a couple of fliers for a mushroom foray/workshop which will be conducted by Chris Riggio. The flyer reads: ‘Join mushroom enthusiast Chris Riggio on a foray into the forests of the Kenai Peninsula. Class includes macroscopic features, species identification, habitat, cooking, etc.’ The three day workshop will be held at Across the BayTent and Breakfast in Kasitsna Bay, across from Homer Spit. Cost is $340 per person and includes class, transportation, lodging and meals. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, contact Chris at 345-2571 or 235-3633.

Dominique has completed his insect field guide. It is going through final review at the University and will soon be headed to the printer. It is a very comprehensive guide and a quality work.

As good as that news is, I have something better – Dominique has secured a grant to produce a field guide of Alaskan mushroom species. It will be a two year project. As a club, we can be a great help to him. There is a tremendous amount of field data that must be collected. Any and all of us, no matter what our level of knowledge can gather specimens and maintain accurate records. Some with a little more knowledge and experience could even help prepare the text. This is a win-win opportunity for the club with the end result being the first comprehensive field guide of Alaskan mushroom species. I can’t think of anyone more suited to this task or that would turn out a better product than Dominique.

Don’t forget to check out our website at

A Short List Of Spring Mushrooms

Here is a list of the spring species you are most apt to encounter. Some are early spring species, others appear in the late spring and some (such as Boletus edulis and Agaricus silvicola) often have both a spring and fall fruiting. The majority of these mushrooms are non-gilled, though there are a few gilled species listed that fruit in the spring.

The species I have referenced below are those that have been collected in Alaska or are commonly found in northern British Columbia and probably also occur in Alaska.

Photos and complete descriptions of most of these species can be found in Arora’s Mushrooms Demystified or All That The Rain Promises And More, and all may be found on the MatchMaker CD.

Non-Gilled Species

Verpa bohemica
Verpa conica
Morchella elata group
Morchella atrotomentosa
Morchella angustaceps
Morchella esculenta group
Gyromitra montana
(also known as G. gigas)
Gyromitra esculenta
Gyromitra melaleucoides
Disciotis venosa
Discina perlata
Caloscypha fulgens
Ciboria rufofusca
Tarzetta cupularis
Helvella leucomeleana
Helvella acetabulum
Helvella chinensis
Helvella corium
Helvella costifera
Helvella elastica
Helvella macropus
Helvella solitari
Plectania nannfeldtii
Sarcosoma mexicana
Sarcosphaera crassa
Sarcoscypha coccinea
Peziza repanda
Peziza vesiculosa
Otidea onotica
Scutellina scutellata

The Puffballs

Calvatia fumosa
Calvatia subcretacea
Calvatia sculpta
Calvatia subsculpta
Calvatia booniana

The Corals

Ramaria botrytis
Ramaria rubrievanescens
Ramaria magnipes

The Gilled Species

Agrocybe praecox group
Amanita pachycolea
Albatrellus ovinus
Pleurotus ostreatus group
Coprinus comatus
Flammulina velutipes
Pluteus cervinus
Paxillus involutus
Agaricus silvicola
Agaricus arvensis

The Pored Species

Leccinum insigne
Boletus edulis

Spend a little time looking up these species and studying the photos and description. If you do, it will greatly enhance your mush-rooming experience this spring. Many of these are common and even abundant and a number are also excellent edibles!

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Children, there was once a tiny, tiny spore that was borne by the wind for many, many days and carried far, far away from its mother. As the wee little spore journeyed, it was caught up in a cloud and carried back to the earth in a droplet of water.

The little spore settled into the earth and began to grow. Hidden from sight and ever so slowly, one cell at a time, the spore began to multiply. Over the course of time mycelial threads began to stretch out in every direction. The little spore could now call itself a fungus.

As she grew, she encountered other living things. Often, these were tree roots. She was no longer alone. She was a part of a great community. Trade is often what makes a community strong. This community was no exception.

The fungus was skilled at concentrating minerals, but, because she had no chlorophyll she could not produce the sugars she needed for growth. The tree roots stored an abundance of sugars and water but craved minerals. It was not long before they (the roots and the fungus) were trading with one another. A great bond of friendship was formed that lasted many, many years.

Decades passed, a century came and went. Old trees died and were replaced with their children, but she continued to patiently grow. No one saw and no one knew. Each tree thought that she was solely theirs, but she was now the benefactor of a thousand trees.

Then came the summer without rain. A storm passed over the forest. Small clouds formed, but could bring forth no water. Lightening streaked across the sky. The earth was struck by bolt after bolt with nothing to quench them. Fires sprang up throughout the forest and few trees survived the holocaust that followed.

The fungus, insulated from the heat by the earth above was spared the fate of her companions. But, she could no longer look to them to nourish her.

The chemical changes in the soil and the lost of her companions triggered a change within her. The following spring her mycelial mat which now encompassed more than a thousand acres formed a million knotted masses, each with the capacity to grow and mature into a fruiting body capable of producing tens of thousands of spores such as she once was.

The tiny spore that had grown in secret was now ready to show forth her glory to a world that hardly knew she existed. Millions of mushrooms sprang forth from the blackened earth and all who saw them were amazed.

Children, do you know the moral (or as we like to say, the morel) of the story? There are two:
‘Things are not always as they appear’ and ‘Patience and persistence can accomplish great things’. All of her life she labored patiently, hidden way, no one knowing her true greatness until that day when it was manifest for all to see!

After a long wait, I finally received Orson K. Miller’s new book, NORTH AMERICAN MUSHROOMS, A Field Guide To Edible And Inedible Fungi. Dr. Miller has done an excellent job.

The book is 583 information packed pages. The descriptions are brief, but concise. Each description also contains a reference to habitat and distribution and a comments section. I found the comments section to be very interesting and useful. Much of the information included there are things he has discovered in over a half century of field identification.

This is the first comprehensive field guide to come on the market for a number of years. The field of mycology has seen a lot of taxonomic activity and there have been quite a number of species which have been reclassified in the last few years. (Even Arora’s second edition of Mushroom De-mystified contains about seventy five species which have been reassigned since that printing. It is refreshing to open a book and find all the species names current and up-to-date. In each species description Dr. Miller has referenced any name changes that have occurred and listed all previous names. (Some species have endured as many as five name changes in the last half-century.)

There are over 600 excellent photos in the book. The photos are not large, but were chosen with great concern for clarity and detail. Photo reproduction in the printing process is also excellent. (I have a couple of older field guides with excellent photos but poor color reproduction which are a continual source of frustration for me.) All of Miller’s photos are of mushrooms taken in their natural habitat which is very useful in determining plant/mushroom associations.

Dr. Miller also included a section on mushroom toxins dividing the known toxins into seven toxin types. In the descriptions he references any of these toxin types that are known to occur in that species. This is very useful information as there are a number of species which were commonly consumed in the past that are now know to contain harmful or carcinogenic compounds. Much of this information was either unknown or omitted from many of the older field guides.

The book itself has a durable, washable, moisture resistant cover and glossy pages. These are great features for a guide which will often see field use.

If I found any fault at all with the book, it would be that it is not as ‘regional’ as I had hoped. But, it does contain a large number of Northwestern species, many of which are found in Alaska. All-in-all, this is an excellent book and well worth the $25.95 they are asking.

Globe Pequot Press is the publisher. The have been gracious enough to allow KPMS to purchase this and other books from them at 50% of list price. We can offer it to our members at the 50% reduction (plus the cost of shipping). If you would like a copy, let me know.

Just a reminder, this is OUR newsletter. If you have something to contribute it would be much appreciated.

For those who would like to make one or more excursions into the Skilak burn in the next few weeks, e-mail Daniel Brady at

We hope to see you for the foray June 3rd at the lower Skilak Lake campground between 8:30 and 9:00 am. If you can, stay for the potluck and barbecue!

Until then, take care,



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