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Sycamore Grove/Veterans Park, Livermore, CA
Saturday, January 15, 2011

An amazing number of people showed up for our 4th joint BAMS/LARPD Mushroom Madness foray on Saturday at Sycamore Grove/Veteran's Park in Livermore. Seventy five folks from around the Bay and beyond, and representing many different nationalities. Our farthest flung attendee was Doug Smith, who had just flown in from Geneva, Switzerland.

Veterans Park participants find a Pluteus cervinus

Foray participants find a double Pluteus cervinus. © Photo by David Rust

Donald West drove down from Davis to attend our foray, a member of the newly named and revitalized Sacramento Area Mushroomers.

A very fungiphilic Japanese family also attended, and their 8 year old son was already well versed in the biology of mushrooms, and eager to learn some taxonomy, too. Mom was no slouch, either — it was she who pointed out to me the difference in cap texture between two purple gilled mushrooms that had been collected (blewits were common here) — and indeed, one of her mushrooms was a purple gilled cort! Sharp eyes and attention to detail are useful atributes for any pot-hunter.

We also had a family from Russia, and their Mom let us know that she did indeed eat some of the acrid Lactarius (after pickling) that we eschew, as well as pretty much all of the Suillus. Different strokes, and different cultural norms. Great to get these perspectives from folks who have been mushrooming for generations, even if I am not always eager to follow in their footsteps.

Oh yeah, and the weather was amazingly perfect, warm and sunny but not too hot.

tiny white mushroom emerges from rotting log

A small white mushroom emerges from mycelia on rotten log. © Photo by David Rust

If you've never visited Sycamore Grove/Veteran's Park, there are several habitats, and lots of planted trees to mix things up. Sycamore Grove is traversed by Arroyo del Valle Creek, which flows out of del Valle Reservoir. Most of the 744 acre park extends uphill into open grasslands. Tule Elk were seen here in December, 2010. Sycamore Grove was named for it stand of sycamore trees, perhaps the largest in the state, with a few alder and Coast Live and Valley Oak. By contrast, Veteran's Park a mere 32 acres. Here, you'll find a variety of trees including palm, eucalyptus, oak and pine — and the mushrooms are more diverse.

Folks had fun scattering across the landscape, finding fungi here, there and everywhere. A few rarities came in: a pholiota-esque brown spored woodrotter, an unknown Galerina and the handsome Arrhenia epichysium, growing on mossy, well-rotted wood. There was a really old oyster mushroom on an Alder in the creek bottomland, but it was left to finish its work.

Debbie Viess talks about one of the mushroom finds. © Photo by Studio Choo

The uncommonly collected Amanita protecta was also found by a Ranger earlier in the week and brought to our display table. This site has been producing the also uncommon but apparently increasing Amanita calyptratoides, but despite their presence in Santa Cruz the prior weekend, none were found this past weekend. Some lovely examples of Volvariella speciosa, the "Paddy Straw Mushroom," were also brought in. This mushroom, edible and cultivated in Asia, bears a scary resemblence to Amanita phalloides, with its volva-encased base and greenish cap. Volvariella lacks a partial veil however, and has pink rather than white spores.

Lentinellus ursinus

Lentinellus ursinus © Photo by Debbie Viess

Lactarius alnicola was common, Helvella lacunosa delighted the crowds, a stalked, brown cup fungus (similar to Tarzetta catinus, still under review) grew in close colonies, Amanita pantherina provided the crowd with a frisson of danger, Suillus pungens reared its slimy green head and Trichs and mycenas, psaths and Inocybes and even a few corts greeted our eyes. One of the coolest fungi that we found was the dramatically lobed and hairy-capped Lentinellus ursinus, with its serrated gills and sessile growth on well-rotted willow wood. See more photos of Lentinellus ursinus at Mushroom Observer...

This joint foray is the brainchild of Amy Wolitzer, a Ranger and Naturalist at the Park and and a fairly new convert to the wonderful world of fungi. She told me that this is her favorite event for the whole year. Our walk has grown in popularity, and the insidious tentacles of mycophilia have started to reach beyond the confines of our small yet fervent group... three of Amy's photos of fungi were included in the 2011 Sycamore Grove calendar, put out for sale to benefit the Park. Way to go, Amy!

Keep on walking and learning and teaching. It's the BAMS way.

Debbie Viess