Mushroom quest

Leslie was headed to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to visit Rita, seeking mushroom scholarship.  I just happened to be free and on the way, so she picked me up for another of our road trips!  Thanks to Atlas Obscura, we had to stop by and visit the elephants Thelma and Louise while passing through South Carolina.

We’d recently ended our time in the Ragged Islands in the company of Roam, Texas Two Step, and Magic.  

Rita has always been a self-proclaimed mushroom fanatic and after meeting, Leslie wanted to learn more from her for future treks in the mushroom rich Pacific North West.  

Rita and Will have a lovely home on tranquil Lake Toxaway surrounded by State and National Parks and scenic waterfalls around every one of the many bends.

We had two and a half days to search and learn.  Baskets in-hand, we hit the forest.  They were soon overflowing.  I also brought along my new macro lens for a true field test.  

Our timing could not have been better.  Mycelia were in bloom everywhere.  

Leslie and I were avid learners, equipped with field guild and many reference books back at home to conduct our research.  It looks like I’m gonna need a few new books ~ with awesome titles like “All That the Rain Promises and More”.  I’m running out of cerebral real estate with all of the birds, butterflies, fish and shells floating around in there.  

The search is thrilling, reminiscent of a beach walk seeking treasures.  

Some mushrooms are relatively easy to spot with vibrant colors poking out of the background.  

Others blend in so completely with the decaying vegetation and you need a trained eye to find them.

Identification is a unique challenge due to the diversity and yet similarity of many mushroom species.  We learned to recognize mushrooms in genuses amanita, russula, boletus, lactarius, along with chanterelle, coral and conk mushrooms.

Amantia mushroom

Russula mushroom

Bolete mushroom

Lactarius mushroom

Chanterelle mushroom

Coral mushroom

Conk mushroom

We learned about stems, gills, polypores, sponges, veils, teeth and spore prints…  

Stems & gills vs. false-gills







White spore print

Some mushrooms are tasty, some are deadly ~ with names like the death cap and death angel!

Death cap mushroom

Death angel mushroom

Mushroom quests top most other forms of gathering in that you get to eat the result!  We ended our days with mushroom laced meals and a flight tasting of various species.

For nature lovers (& geeks) like us, field identification and discovery was the perfect way to immerse ourselves in mushrooms over the course of several days.

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As an added bonus, mushrooms & related species of all shapes and sizes were the perfect muse for me and my lens.

© M&M 2019