By Riley Hanna
Aspiring mycologists and outdoorsy folk, look no further. If you have ever wanted to forage for mushrooms, you have come to the right school. Right behind campus, down past the academic area, is a hill which is covered in different types of mushrooms ready to be uncovered by those with an adventurous spirit.
To get there, take a left when you reach Olin, and go down through the parking lot. There is a small opening which leads to the trail, which is easy to miss. Keep your eyes peeled for a clearing in the grass.
Seren Villwock ’19 has been learning about mushrooms through her work with College Outdoors, the Biology department, and the Natural History Collection. While she has not found any edible mushrooms on the hill, she has found many beautiful ones, such as polyphores, bear’s bread, and bright yellow waxcaps. When I went on the Mushroom Hike that Villwock led for the Natural History Collection, we found vivid rosy and shrimp russulas as well as some intricate Marasmiellus candidus that reminded me of snowflakes.
I found that as I got more and more interested, my eyes became fixed to the ground, looking through every crevice trying to find a mushroom. Mushroom foraging truly is like going on an Easter egg hunt.
Villwock highly recommended that if you want to learn how to identify mushrooms, you should grab a handy book to take with you on your hike. She recommended the books “All That the Rain Promises and More” by David Arora, “Mushrooms Demystified” by David Arora, and “Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest” by Steve Trudell and Joe Ammirati, which you can check out at Watzek.
Additionally, there is an app called “PlantSnap” which allows users to take photos off any plant or fungus they want to identify, and will present suggestions that most closely match the pictures.
For those who are new to foraging, Villwock recommends to start off by identifying larger mushrooms with more identifiable features, and as you gain more experience begin to look at smaller mushrooms which can be more of a challenge to identify. To identify smaller mushrooms, one might use a taxonomy key and more advanced techniques such as spore printing.
It is important to note that this hill is owned by Riverview Natural Area, and if you want to go casually hunting for mushrooms you must stay on the trail. However, if you are foraging mushrooms to conduct research, you can forage off trail if you acquire a permit from Riverview Natural Area. Also, by no means should you ingest a mushroom that you are uncertain about. If you want to hunt for edible mushrooms, while you are learning you should bring someone along who is experienced in foraging for edible mushrooms.
Overall, be safe, be respectful, and have fun treasure hunting!