At last, I can report on the very pleasant and productive foray that the Arizona Mushroom Club held in the White Mountains on the weekend of Aug. 23-24, 2014. I apologize for the lateness of this posting. Some of our other members, including especially Serge Klokov and Rob Mize, sent me large numbers of beautiful, high-quality pictures from our outing, and I have been remiss in sorting through them all until now.
Like last year, turnout was near the limits of what a single foray party can manage without everyone stepping on each others’ toes and toadstools. There were fifteen or twenty carloads, with fifty-odd foragers participating for at least part of the weekend.
As usual, we met early Saturday morning in the relatively barren surroundings of Springerville, where new members were probably wondering where all the trees were. Not to worry; after a pre-foray briefing by club president Dr. Chet Leathers and foray coordinator Terry Beckman, an hour’s drive southward led us past the looming bulk of Escudilla Mountain, through the burned-over wastes of the Wallow Fire, and up to the evergreen-clad oasis of Hannagan Meadow.
Conditions were moist and productive. By mid-afternoon we had collected a cornucopia of species and discussed their finer points at length.
Among the edibles, there were boletes (King, Barrows’, and aspen), lobsters, oysters, Caesar’s amanitas, shrimp russulas, and many more.
Inedible and toxic species were myriad. Amanita muscaria, Gomphus/Turbinellus, Cortinarius, and conks were common. There was any number of LBM’s (little brown mushrooms) and JAR’s (just another Russula) and GDL’s (G**-D***ed Leucopaxillus.)
And of course there were the questionable sorts that daredevils with cast-iron stomachs eat, but which this page cannot recommend for general consumption: Ramaria, Pholiota, and Tricholomopsis rutilans among them.
A few of the most noteworthy things presented to Dr. Leathers for his inspection were as follows:
- An Amanita egg, appearing to be from A. caesarea/”cochiseana”. This one is worth close inspection by beginning foragers. If you cut open a delicious white “puffball” and see this kind of architecture inside, instead of a uniformly white appearance like a marshmallow, you had better not eat it. It could be a very toxic young Amanita. Even though this one was growing immediately adjacent to some identifiable mature specimens, I don’t eat Caesar’s amanitas until I can clearly see butter-yellow gills under the partial veil. These are too white for me and could be from some other branch of the Amanita family tree.
- A beautifully colored grisette in the Amanita vaginata complex, found by Ed Coleman. Just a gorgeous, unique, metallic bronze or even golden color that looked like a little polished bell. Never saw anything like it in Arizona, although a few pictures on the Internet resemble it.
- Strobilomyces floccopus, the distinctive Old Man of the Woods. Also known as S. strobilaceus. Instantly recognizable, and the first I’ve seen in Arizona. This species is edible, but renowned for its muddy mediocrity. Regrettably, I’m not sure I got a picture of it. This could be it, but looks more like a hawk wing (Sarcodon imbricatus), of which there were many. If anyone got a good picture of it, please send it to me.
- Sparassis, the cauliflower mushroom. Everyone loves to see these big, beautiful mushrooms, and everyone loves to eat them too. One of my top three favorites. Many people call it S. crispa, although that is a misnomer as S. crispa is a European species. Know-it-alls will sometimes call it S. radicata, which is the dominant form found on the West Coast. However, recent studies show that our Arizona version is most closely related to the S. americana of the East Coast. In fact, it has been recently designated as its own subspecies: S. americana var. arizonica. Read all about it on one of our recent posts: Cauliflower Tales: Arizona’s Unique Sparassis. And look at the people gawking at it and photographing it in the picture below. Finding one is a memorable event in the lonely life of a mushroom hunter.
- One mushroomer brought along two green-spored parasols, Chlorophyllum molybdites, from her irrigated garden in the Valley. If you’ve been into fungi for any length of time, you’ve already had calls from your friends in the Phoenix suburbs wondering if they can eat the big, beautiful white mushrooms that popped up in their lawns. Nine times out of ten, it’s C. molybdites, and no they can’t eat it, unless they have a great love for prolonged vomiting and diarrhea. These images and the article linked above ought to be studied by novice mushroomers, as it is the leading species for mushroom poisoning in both people and pets– though thankfully, not fatally. Notice that these are of differing ages, with the markedly green-gilled specimen being older and a snap to identify. The lighter-gilled specimen somewhat resembles the delicious parasol mushrooms in the Lepiota/Macrolepiota family, but will still drop a green spore print.
- Hey look! A morel! Oh rats….. just a couple of wooden hiking staffs with carved morels on top. There were a lot of double takes and disappointed pouts when these were first seen. I still believe there is mushroom magic in these little totems, however. We’ll see if they can summon the fire morels after the Slide and San Juan fires earlier this year.
That evening, it was time for happy hour back at the hotel, then dinner, then slicing up our collections to go in the dehydrator. Serge and I had struck it rich on clean, firm porcini and Barrows boletes earlier, so we fired up a camp stove and prepared them in a skillet until everyone who wanted some was satiated. This took some time, but we did manage to set aside a bit for the dryer… Some good wine was drunk, and then at supper at the Rusty Cactus, a bit more, and then back at the hotel, a drop or two more was drunk. Maybe that is why our numbers thinned a little on Sunday’s foray…
A still-strong contingent of mushroom fans did manage to roll out of the rack for Sunday’s foray. This time we headed west to the Greens Peak area. A similar, fairly abundant assortment of familiar species was again found.
There was another Sparassis, and finally some chanterelles…
There was also a club coral, Clavariadelphus truncatus, the first I’ve seen and tasted. It’s a good edible, distantly related to the chanterelle, and has a sweet flavor that can be used in desserts. I want to find a lot more of these! Supposedly it can appear in large clusters when there is a good fruiting.
The Amanita below is bad news, perhaps a Destroying Angel (A. ocreata/bisporigera) or one of its near relatives. Look closely and learn, young Padawan… White mushrooms with a volva, ring, and white gills are not to be trifled with.
I highlighted the picture below not because the Little Brown Mushroom or its lichenous neighbor is distinguished, but because it is just such a beautiful magazine-quality picture from Rob Mize. Who would believe this verdant carpet was found in the “desert wasteland” of Arizona?
All too soon, it was time to return home to the mundane world of traffic jams, dust storms, and the drudgery that supports our fungal obsessions this time of year. As I write this, however, the remnants of Hurricane Norbert are soaking the state, and there is a good possibility that a one-day Arizona Mushroom Club foray will be called next weekend to close out the season. I’ll be out there for sure, club foray or no. See you great folks up on the Rim this weekend, or at the holiday party, or out in the field next season!