I have always liked photographing mushrooms, but have never taken the time to understand or truly appreciate anything about them until Tuesday October 16th, when our class took a trip into the part of the arboretum reserved only for university studies. Our class has, for the most pat, become close and I liked the community feeling when we all attempted to meet up and walk through the arboretum to the meeting spot together. This elective has given us a chance to try many new experiences and interact with people we otherwise would not have met.
Upon arrival, we were introduced to Chris Earley, and along with a few other returning guests, we listened as Diane explained that days activity, a mushroom foray. No one in our class had really done a mushroom foray of this kind before and so it was new to all of us. For our mushroom foray, we split off in small groups to hunt the forest floor for mushrooms, fungus, and any other related creatures. There were plenty of species that varied significantly in size, shape, habitat, colour, even smell! We learned to go slowly and be very observant as we scoured the ground and trees for mushrooms.
Afterwards, we all gathered back together to discuss and learn about our findings. Most of us knew that mushrooms were not plants but knew little about how mycelium networks worked. Diane taught us that mushrooms are comparable to flowers on a plant, and that they are connected underground where they absorb nutrients, like a web. We were able to observe different distinctive features, such as fibrous rings on the stem, and learned new terms for the anatomy of mushrooms.
Coming from Mississauga and having never actively looked for mushrooms, I was very surprised by the size of some of the samples other groups found. I knew bigger mushrooms existed than the ones common to grocery stores but because they seem to be exotic and rare, I did not expect species like the giant puffball to be right on campus just a 10 minute walk away. The diversity of species found by our class in a relatively short time astounded me.
One question that intrigued me during class was when one of the students asked if mushrooms could be invasive. After further research, it turns out there are invasive species in Canada. The death cap mushroom has become a problem in British Columbia, linked here (https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hra/invasive-species/Publications/Factsheet%20Death%20Cap%20Mushroom%20Aug%202017.pdf). The mushroom foray allowed us all to get a taste (without actually eating any because some are poisonous) of what a mushroom foray is like and why it is a worthwhile activity. I am so glad that Diane got to share one of her passions with the class and we all got to gain exposure to something we might otherwise have overlooked.