Ninth Issue, July 2002
Published about twice a year from Greenville, California
by Herman Brown 



Like the previous dry years, this year again was no exception. However, this spring, we did find some pretty large morels to last us for a while, along with a small supply of the Spring King Boletes (Boletus pinophilus). This year so far I identified three new species (for me), the soft, white Tyromyces leucospongia (Marshmallow Polypore), the delicious Agaricus albolutescens, and what was later identified for me by Steve Trudell as the yellow, persistent-veiled Cortinarius verrucisporus.. 

Findings, April to July, 2002  (top)

Friday, April 19:  This morning I went to one of my morels spots near Lake Almanor (4400 ft) to see if anything was up there yet.  I found a few Sarcosphaera crassa mounds, some clumps of Hebeloma in a few burned areas, one LBM, but no morels yet.

So far though, I have collected about 2 lbs of the Gyromitra gigas/montana (at 3600 ft elevation), and have enjoyed every mouthful.

White Morels?
White Morels?

Sunday, April 28: Well, the morels have appeared early at 4400 ft. in the northern tip of the Sierras.  Today we found about 1/2 lb. of small, light-colored morels near Lake Almanor.  It started with just one at the first place we searched, and after that we looked a bit harder, and in the next few spots we looked, we always found at least one.  This is the earliest we have ever found them at that elevation.  Hopefully this is just the beginning, and the light rain we have been experiencing may help. 

Many were found in cleared fire rings, but all were found in old thinned areas.  My guess is that the areas were thinned out 3-4 years ago.

Monday, April 29: I went back to the local campground in Greenville to see if I could find more of the Gyromitra gigas/montana.  The first thing I saw was a batch of about 1-week old Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), an unusual site because I have only found them at the same spot in October-November.

Then I checked out area where I had found two large gigas a few days ago and found several more.  Then I started looking more diligently and found many more, all pretty large, some bigger than I have ever seen.  Many were under
mounds of pine needles, a first for me to see.

I also found a solitary Verpa conica.

The weight of the cleaned gigas was about 1 1/4 lb. Needless to say, I will be checking some of my other local spots more often.

Tuesday, May 7: Today I decided to check out my morels spots near Lake Almanor (4400 ft) again to see if anything had appeared since last week.

I found a few large and fresh morels, but very few where I was looking for them.  Most were near where I parked the car, or on the way to where I normally find them.

But, by the time I got home, I had collected the following: 2 nice Agaricus albolutescens, 1 fuzzy truffle (Geopora cooperi), 1 Gyromitra gigas/montana, and about 10oz. morels.

The largest of the morels (about 4" cap) was all by itself near a bike trail, partially buried under some duff and dirt.

I don't know what I learned from this other than that if you wander long enough in the forest (about 3 hours), you're bound to find something.

Friday, May 24: It has been pretty cold here at night, so I am not too surprised by the lack of the usual fungi that usually comes here in the Spring.  However, I went up to Lake Almanor this morning to see what I could find.

My usual places didn't produce more than a few old morels, but when I decided to just wander through the forest, I soon found a patch of the biggest morels I have ever seen.  Some were about 4" tall.

These were not very fresh-looking, but neither were they too old to pick.  As soon as I left the spot, I found a beautiful and large Yellow Coral mushroom, the Ramaria rasilispora, and grabbed that to.

It has started to warm up a bit, so I hope this brings forth a new flush of morels, and hopefully, some Spring King Boletes.

Tuesday, May 28: This morning, on the way to Mt. Lassen, we stopped at a campground on the way to check for King Boletes.  We didn't find anything there except a few puffballs, one being the left-overs from a giant puffball.

On the way back home, we decided to check out a logging operation I figured was finished at least a year ago.

Cecelia quickly found a nice patch of Gyromitra gigas and I soon found one small morel. Then I found a few more, enough to make me want to go back and get my basket.

We found them almost everywhere, mostly small at first, but as we looked harder, we started finding the bigger ones. Some were in large groups along the side of a dirt road, and most of the biggest we found were buried under about 1/2" of stiff duff, making them pretty squatty, many being around 3" in diameter.  We missed finding these at first, thinking the mounds were just more of the Sarcosphaera crassa, which were pretty common.  After we started checking all the small mounds, we found a good batch of more morels.

We also found a few of the tasty, amber-staining Agaricus albolutescens buttons, more Gyromitra gigas, and a few Discina perlata.

All of these were found on a north-north-east facing slope at around 6000 ft, and patches of snow were still visible in the shadier locations.

When we got home, I weighed in the morels and they totaled just under 3 lbs.

So we had fun today!  This brought back some of the enthusiasm I had lost because of the lack of mushrooms nearer to home.

Saturday, June 1: On Saturday, Cecelia and I went back to the same area near Westwood, but to check out some different places.  Most were on flat ground, sloping slightly south, but all the places were where there had been some thinning operations performed maybe 2-3 years ago.  I had checked the general flat areas a few days ago (by myself, scouting for possible places to come to later) and brought home 1 lb of morels.

We found lots of different types of mushrooms, the most notable in quantity being Yellow Coral mushrooms, Pink Crowns, and large morels.  We also found 1 small Spring King Bolete and 2 of Amber-Staining Agarics.

There were various types of Russula, Hygrophorus (pink-tinged and all-white), Cortinarius (some bright yellow), and many I didn't identify to genus.

The total count for the morels was about 3 1/2 lbs, and almost all were fresh and bug-free.  Most of them we found were also pretty large, but a few were starting to dry up (lighter in weight than the rest) and some were still pretty small.  Only one or two looked a bit past their prime.

It didn't seem to matter where we looked.  Most were in the disturbed areas, some were in the ground-cover plants that were all around the area (Pine Manzanita, I believe), some were in full sun, and some were on the banks along the side of a dirt road.

Another fun day!

I made a 2-egg omelet this morning with the Amber-Staining Agarics with one large morel.  Very tasty!

Friday, June 19: After having some success finding good-sized morels at some of the old logging areas near Westwood (5700 ft,), but noticing that they were getting lighter in weight each time we went, and after finding one Spring King Boletus (B. pinophilus), I started concentrating on looking for the pinophilus at 4400 ft.  Above town (Greenville), I have been finding a few each time I go back to the same areas.  Today I found 6. One was past its prime and another had too many worm tracks for my taste. That still left a good pan full.

But the rest were still nice and fresh, and one was less than 4" in diameter, so the season apparently isn't over at 4400 ft., even though it seems much too dry for them.

I was shown two mushrooms by a person who lives in the area, and these were the right cap color, with firm, non-bluing white flesh, tiny yellow pores, reticulate on the upper part of the stem. However, the caps were cracked kind of like a B. chrysenteron but with white between the cracks.  They were found on the  steep bank of the side of a newly widened road and didn't have the bulbous base.  I told him to take them home and eat them anyway.

He also showed me some in another part of the road that had been widened, and the stalks were very short and the caps pretty small.  I think the shape was because most of the top soil had been scooped away.  I will sample then
tonight, but I am sure that they are the pinophilus too.

Not much else appearing at that elevation, except a few Amanitas here and there.

Monday, July 15: As I sat down and started to work on my July newsletter, I realized that I had not been out looking for mushrooms for over a month.

So, I decided to go up to an area above Chester to see if I could find some of the summer Butter Boletes (B. appendiculatus) (correction, the B. abieticola).

After I only found 2 very wormy specimens, which could have been the Boletus regius, a couple with their children asked if they could tag along with me as looked for mushrooms.  The father wanted his sons to see a mushroom.

I first showed them the two wormy ones, and then walked around the area again, saying "the more eyes the better".  I was glad I did, as we, actually they, immediately found a small puffball which I squashed between my fingers to show the kids the spores.  Then they found a very large Hydnum rimosum, and I pointed out the teeth under the cap.  Then they found a couple of large, brown Gyromitra californica growing along the side a creek, and I showed them the mostly hollow interior.

I also found one small gilled mushroom along side of the same creek and pointed out the gills as compared with the pores in the Boletus.

What started out seeming to be a wasted trip, turned out to be a very enjoyable one.

Friday, July 26: Today we took a friend to Drakesbad (above Chester) for lunch, and on the way back, Cecelia found a couple Lentinus ponderosus. Because they were already beginning to dry out, I will continue to let them dry for later use in a soup.  It might mean that it is worth another visit to the general area and see if there are some fresher ones.  Cecelia had seen two fresh ones nearer to the resort, but we left them because we were still in the Lassen Park boundaries. These were too much to carry anyway (10-12" in diameter) because the trip to the car was about another 1 1/2 mile walk.

Mushroom-Picking Permits for Plumas and Lassen National Forests II  (top)

In the last issue, I talked about the status of the new mushroom picking permits in both the Lassen and Plumas National Forests.  This year, I kept close contact with both forests and it seemed to pay off.

The result in the Lassen NF was a new permit that is unlimited in quantity for all mushrooms other than King Boletus and Morels, which were limited to 20 pounds per day, and the permit was good from April 19 to December 31.  A mushroom picker's handout, written by Mike Boom, was issued with the permit, and a couple of pages were included that talked about the reasons for the permit.

Here is wording of the handout, rewritten by Mike from an article he had written years ago for the MSSF's Mycena News:

Picking mushrooms is an enjoyable activity that takes no more than a simple basket, a knife, and a good knowledge of the forest and its fungi. To make it enjoyable for everyone, please consider the following picking tips:

- Don't leave holes in the duff. It dries out the fertile ground underneath. Mushrooms are the fruit of a mycelium, an invisible web of threads that lives in the ground year round. Holes in the duff can dehydrate and shrivel the mycelium so that it eliminates mushroom fruiting. If you pick up duff to check out a promising mound or you leave a hole when you pick a mushroom, put the duff back when you're done. And be sure not to rake the duff to look for mushrooms -- it's very damaging to the mycelium.

- Do carry your picked mushrooms in a basket, mesh bag, or bucket with holes drilled in it. A picked mushroom continues to drop spores. By carrying it in an open-air container, you help it distribute spores so the mushroom can reproduce. Carrying mushrooms in a closed container eliminates spore dispersal. Not only that, it often ruins the mushrooms. A non-breathing plastic bag full of mushrooms can quickly turn into a bag full of mush!

- Don't uproot, overturn, or smash mushrooms that you don't want. A mushroom stands upright so that it can drop reproductive spores and protect its spore-bearing underside from the rain. An upside-down waterlogged mushroom is not a successful spore disperser, and it's ruined for anyone else who wants to examine it closely, photograph it, or eat it if it's edible. If you pick a mushroom to examine it and decide you don't need it, put it back in the ground stem down so it looks like it was never picked and can continue to drop spores. Better yet, try to identify the mushroom by feel before you pick it. If you're looking for boletes, for example, and feel gills under the cap there's no need to pick it.

- Do bury your mushroom trimmings under the duff if they're unsightly. Although mushroom trimmings decompose pretty quickly, they look like trash while they're in the open. And if you're a mushroom picker who likes to keep your favorite picking site a secret, mushroom trimmings are the best advertisement that you've found a nice spot. Bury them and let them decompose under the duff.

An artful mushroom picker leaves no trace of their presence in the woods -- a practice that helps the mushrooms, other pickers, and yourself.

-Mike Boom

In the Plumas NF, after repeatedly asking about the status of the new permit, I was told that they had decided to no longer require permits for picking mushrooms.  I am not quite sure if this means forever or not, but this was the response I got:

Sorry Herman for not getting back to you.  I met with the Forest Supervisor on 4/26 and then was gone all last week.  Basically, since the requests for permits have been very low, the forest has determined that a permit system is not necessary.  We will not be issuing permits for mushroom gathering any longer.

Charles C. Brown
Public Service Staff
Plumas NF, Mt. Hough RD

Last year, the Plumas permits were $10 and only for a very limited season.

I guess it does pay after all to offer to help where needed and to be persistent.

Does Picking Mushrooms Cause Ecological Harm? (top)

The following is an excerpt from a message by fellow MSSF member Debbie Viess, used with her permission.  I thought it was good information to add to my newsletter:

Does picking mushrooms cause ecological harm? That depends. In a long-term study of the effects of harvesting chanterelles in Oregon, it has been shown that mushroom production actually increased with picking. Kinda like a chicken producing more eggs when you remove them. And if you can carry a basket when you harvest, the spores from your collected mushrooms will drop through and be dispersed. Which, of course, is the whole point of the mushroom, an ephemeral structure that is not designed to linger. Hell, for all we know, humans may well be part of the mushroom's grand design for spore dispersal. I would imagine that the spores survive their trip through our digestive systems, not to mention the spore load that we carry on our persons after handling mushrooms. 

Now certainly thoughtless collecting can harm the mycelia, and if we were to collect every single mushroom that emerged, or collected mushrooms when they were too young to produce spores, then there could be a deleterious effect. But I (and others that care about the health of our forests and continued presence of our fungal friends) always try and collect in a conscious and caring manner...I replace the duff when I pull out a 'shroom, I walk carefully so as not to tear down a slope, and I put unwanted mushrooms back for others to enjoy. I also don't collect all of the mushrooms that I find. 

You don't cut down a tree to harvest apples; if you are conscious and caring in your woodland pursuits you will not cause harm to the mycelial organism.

- Debbie Viess

Featured Mushroom, Lentinus (now Neolentinus) ponderosus (top)

This issue’s featured mushroom is the Lentinus ponderosus, now named the Neolentinus ponderosus.

This is one of the few mushrooms that seem to brave the heat of summer in the Sierras.  It is one of the largest mushrooms I have found, and is supposedly used as a Shitake or Matsutake substitute.  I still have some dried and powdered ones from last year, and will probably use them as a thickening agent in a sauce or soup.

Here is the link to the L. (N.) ponderosus at the Mykoweb website: Neolentinus ponderosus