Mushrooms and More at the Arboretum

Mushroom Walk at the JMU Arboretum led by Peggy Plass; organized by Elaine Smith. Photo credit Elaine Smith.

On September 17, a beautiful Saturday afternoon, seven Headwaters Chapter members plus one guest were led on a mushroom hunt by our own Peggy Plass at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum at James Madison University. Fortunately, she did not cancel under threat of uncooperative weather, i.e., being too dry.

First Peggy taught us three important mycology words for the day: mycorrhizal – describing mushrooms that grow with another plant in a symbiotic association, saprobic – a mushroom that lives and feeds on dead stuff, and deliquescing – “melting” mushrooms (a process which allows the spores to escape). Then, if mushroom hunting couldn’t be any more fun just by itself, Peggy made it more fun by giving us slips of paper with 9 things to look for – a scavenger hunt.

As we left the Education Center, we hadn’t even made it down to the road before a large, surprise Jack-o’-lantern mushroom (Omphalotus olearius) presented itself, a great start. On the trails we were quickly ticking off the items on the scavenger hunt list, including “something you thought was a mushroom, but wasn’t”. Well, maybe not that quickly; the dry conditions did make the hunt challenging. Even Peggy couldn’t find all the ‘shrooms she had scouted out that morning. But we were able to spot numerous Turkey tail, Witches’ butter, Russula, Pinwheel, Amanita (Death angel), Phlebia incarnata mushrooms and more.

Mushroom photos by Art Fovargue. From upper left, clockwise: Pinwheel (with Russula blurry in background), Witches’ butter, polypore – Phlebia incarnata, and Jack-o’-lantern mushroom on the bottom.

Then to cap off (pun intended) our search, awaiting us upon our return to the education center was a luscious spread of crackers & cheese, fruit, hummus & dips, vegetables, bread, and wonderful butternut soup provided by Mary Gatling-Finks. Many thanks Mary. Joined by Adrie Voors, we engaged in wonderful bread breaking, storytelling, and recapping our mushroom adventures.

– Art Fovargue, Cohort VII, September 2022