Watershed park

Mushroom ID 101

Have you watched the documentary Fantastic Fungi on Netflix? Yes? then you know that much of the footage was shot in Olympia, WA and guided by our very own local, Paul Stamets.

Haven’t seen it? then watch it and take the magical mystery tour, without the need to ingest any psilocybin.

Small wonder that I would see my move here as an opportunity to delve into the world of mushrooms. So last week I took a Mushroom ID 101 workshop with the South Sound Mushroom club at Watershed Park, a seven minute drive from my house. The teachers were a team of two young mycologists from Evergreen College whose enthusiasm for the wonders of the forest erupted in a constant flow of shared discoveries and encyclopedic knowledge. With their guidance, the trees, mosses, leaves, and streams, which I am accustomed to enjoying, became a backdrop to a fascinating and downright magical other world of bizarre and beautiful “fruits” that I had never noticed before. 

fountain pen, watercolor and white gouache on beige toned paper

Only a rudimentary vocabulary of mycology managed to find a home in my awestruck brain. Instead I found myself thrilling at my own “discovery” of a lone mushroom with a colorful cap and pure white veil and stipe nestled in the leaves. The delight of the scavenger hunt. The feeling that Nature herself had left it in my path as an invitation to join in. And then the pleasure later of sketching and matching nature’s shapes and colors with my brush and paints. And with no need to taste them or get any high-er on them.

collection basket

Some mushrooms that made it into the basket after being passed around the group and discussed. Gilled mushrooms, corals, boletes and polypores.

And at the end of the day, all forest treasures spread out on the classroom table. Some tiny mushrooms were so small that a jeweler’s loop was required to see the intricate beauty.

Meanwhile at home, work has begun on the garage studios and the sound of a saw and hammering has become music to the ears.

Yes, it rains a lot here, about every day at some point. And it’s cold and damp. But there are warm clothes to wear, and so much forest life yet to explore!