The fungal kingdom is complex, and mastering all the details can lead to a drab existence.
You see, there’s quite literally no chance that an individual could ever learn every subtlety that makes an Amanita an Amanita; a Russula a Russula; a polypore a polypore; a stinkhorn a stinkhorn; a slime mold a slime mold, etc. (Okay, well technically the latter is not considered a fungus at all, but you get the point.)
Regardless, knowing that we’ll never know everything is a good thing… especially when it comes to mushrooms. Boredom rarely inflicts the valiant forager who’s open to exploring a world of sticks, logs, trees, leaf litter, soil, leftover pizza, and dingy basements… for these substrates give rise to peculiar organisms that humans like to dub “fungi.”
Ah fungi… the great recyclers, decomposers, symbionts, and parasites of planet Earth. Mastering this kingdom is tantamount to understanding the origin of life.
Now, I know this doesn’t sound reassuring… especially if there’s a budding mycophile within you… though good news awaits. Humans certainly do understand some facets (okay, many facets) that comprise the fungal kingdom, and every year, new discoveries are being made.
Recently, I was invited to speak at Jennings Environmental Education Center in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania on the topic of wild mushrooms. The event was hosted by 3MJC — an organization that stewards three natural areas in Western Pennsylvania, including McConnells Mill State Park, Moraine State Park, and the Jennings Prairie. In this presentation, I discussed various aspects of wild mushroom hunting, including identification, taking a spore print, poisonous species, medicinal mushrooms, and more.
Interested in learning a thing or two about our fungal allies? Check out the video!