You may be asking yourself, what is a mushroom foray? It’s really just a fancy term for a group of people who go foraging in the woods for fungi. The purpose of a foray can be to search for edibles, collect for scientific study, or even just to observe the beauty and diversity of mushrooms. Forays are often led by someone who is knowledgeable on the subject, in this case our foray leader was Jack Barnett from the Delaware Highlands Mushroom Society.
Jack started the program with a general introduction to mushrooms before heading out on our search on Saturday. Initially there was some concern that we may not find much due to the recent drought; however, last week’s rain proved to be sufficient enough to allow a variety of mushrooms to pop up through the forest floor.
A group of 20 participants almost immediately split up into smaller groups and began foraging for fungi off the main trail. After each find, we gathered around Jack to learn more about the mushroom, as well as try to identify it before heading back into the woods to hunt for more. Mushrooms grow in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes, and there are many species that look almost identical to each other, which can cause an identification nightmare. It is critically important to be sure you have correctly identified the mushroom if you are going to eat it.
A variety of species were found on our foray, including the more common edible Fawn mushroom, Pluteus cervinus, which can be easily identified by its brownish cap and free gills (not attached to stem) that begin whitish but soon turn pink or fawn colored. Another popular edible, the oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus, was also a great find. Some of the other favorites of the day were an edible bicolor mushroom, Boletus bicolor, coral fungi, Clavicorona, Voluminous-latex Milky, Lactarius vilemus, and Indian Pipes, Monotropa uniflora.
Sincere thanks to Jack for a very fun and informative afternoon at PPL’s Shuman Point Natural Area. I’m hooked! I already went out and bought my Audubon field guide to Mushrooms…. I know I will look a little more closely next time I’m hiking the trails!
-Sarah Hall, PPL Education and Public Outreach Assistant