Fun Family Fungi Foray

Some appreciation for the decomposers among us

For the last few years, the Point Reyes Fungus Fair, hosted by the Bay Area Mycological Society, has been a winter tradition for the family and me to attend. It’s great to have something that brings us together in the forest, and quite a fun adventure that always has many surprises! The allure of going just a little further to see what we might find makes it an easy outing to just lose oneself in the woods. This year, the foray was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, that didn’t stop us from going out to explore the forest and see what fantastic fungi the recent rains have brought.

The devastating Woodward Fire burned many of the great fungus hunting locations on the high ground, though we would rarely venture to the ridge on our forays anyway. The lower ground from McCurdy Gulch all the way back to the Visitor’s Center at Bear Valley is also a great place to search, and over the years, we’ve found a few spots where amanitas and chanterelles can be found – though we don’t eat any of our finds. Admittedly, as I learn more, I’m becoming tempted to bring home oysters or chanterelles to cook with (pending ID), seeing as there are only a couple of species that mimic these, and making a solid ID should not be too difficult. I won’t even consider eating any caps though… too much opportunity to make a mistake that could easily be deadly.

The Pond at Five Brooks

Most of the shrooms pictured here were found around the Five Brooks area. In some cases, after stopping to look around, we would begin to notice different species all around us. It is simply amazing to realize how much diversity can exist in a 20’x20′ area of the forest. All the decomposers are busy at work as we hike, run, and ride by them without ever noticing. This outing made me really want to have a camera (vs my phone) with a macro lens! Almost immediately, we began to spot fungi. ID’s on these shrooms are all very much “maybe,” hence why we leave them in the forest…

Dung Bells (Panaeolus campanulatus ?)
The tiniest of the tiny (Coprinellus disseminatus ?)
Lion’s Mane! (Hericium erinaceus ?)

As we ventured futher into the forest, the temperature would cool or warm in small pockets, likely effected by the geography that either drew water down to those areas, or shunted it off elsewhere. The species we saw where the ground was very damp were different than what we saw where the ground was more dry. This has been our observation over the last few years; more and more we notice the type of habitat that certain species prefer. It’s all very interesting to me and the anticipation of finding something cool just off the trail, or maybe by scrambling up a hill, or peeking behind an auspicious tree is so much fun.

King Alfred’s Cakes (Doldinia concentrica)
Honey’s (Armillaria mellea), Sulfur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare), Yellow Coral (Ramaria rasilispora), and a larger unknown cap.
Not sure about these. Maybe Agaricus sp. ?

Of course, there are other things to look at in the forest besides all the interesting fungi, such as the trees, their leaves and the collages they make on the ground, and a few creatures here and there…

A Rough Skinned Newt (Taricha sp.) making its way to somewhere cool. (Sandra’s pic)
A Dusky Woodrat took advantage of some cut logs to build a huge den on top of.
A silvery cottonwood leaf

I do wish I had a proper camera with me and not just my phone. Admiring fungi is one of the few times I wish I owned a macro lens. All that aside though, wandering around the woods with the smell of the damp mulch and cool air is a great way to spend Christmas Eve. Point Reyes is a gem and the forest never disappoints. – JD

Jacob D Written by:

Dad, Runner, Student, Berserker, Questionable Partner... on my path to living an exceptional and real life.