For some, the Fall season marks the tragic decline of Summer: the temperature drops, leaves fall, and the rains torrent down in full force. But for those in the know, Fall is a wonderland filled with colour and life. Why? Fungi!
Scientists estimate there are over 10,000 species of fungi living in the Pacific Northwest (Northern California to Alaska) and up to 1.5 million species worldwide. Since we don’t have time to cover all 10,000, here are 4 relatively common (and super weird looking) fungi we found right here on Vancouver’s North Shore. We found these mostly in Capilano Canyon and on the Kennedy Falls hiking trail, but many of these can be found on lawns and in gardens even in the city! Let’s dive in with a Super-Mario looking mushroom, the Fly Amanita.
1. Fly Amanita
The Fly Amanita is a cheerful looking fellow, with bright red cap dotted with many white warts on it. The cap can either by round like this one, or convex like a bowl. You can find it pretty much everywhere there are pine, spruce, fir, birch, or aspen trees around between June and November. Danger: this mushroom is dangerous to eat or even touch without gloves so be careful.
Why fly in the name? Traditionally, this mushroom has been used in homemade fly traps. People would crumble small pieces of the cap into a bowl of milk – the flies are attracted to a chemical in the mushroom, then are poisoned by it and drown in the milk.
Fun Fly Amanita Fact: This mushroom was said to be a favourite of the ancient Romans to poison their enemies.
2. Angel Wings
Moving from devilish to delicate, the Angel Wings fungus is easy to spot growing on coniferous nurse logs throughout the forest from September to October. It has a thin, wavy top, usually no stem to speak of, and thin dense gills underneath.
Be careful when petting the dense gills underneath, as this fungi is fragile.
3. Orange Jelly
Many fungi like the Fly Amanita and Angel Wings have a defined structure to them. Others are alien blobs of goo. That’s the category Orange Jelly fungus falls into…
This is definitely the weirdest looking fungus we found in the forest this season, and you can probably go find it as well. It grows from coniferous wood (see our rundown of common BC trees here) from May to November. Moist mountain valleys like Lynn Canyon and Capilano Canyon in North Vancouver, or Paradise Valley (Cheakamus Centre) in Squamish are the best places to look for these.
Fun Jelly Fungus Fact: Jelly Fungus is easiest to spot when the weather has been super rainy – it soaks the moisture up and swells to the size you see in the picture above. When moisture levels drop, the fungus dries up to lay in wait for the next big rainfall.
4. Crested Coral Fungus
While the coral reef isn’t doing too well in the ocean, coral fungi – named for their resemblance of oceangoing coral – are abundant on the forest floor. We think this here is Crested Coral Fungus, but it’s tough to tell between that and Pink Coral Mushroom which happens to be super poisonous.
Regardless, both kinds can be found on the ground underneath coniferous trees like Western Hemlock and Douglas Fir. It isn’t a good idea to eat any kind of Coral Fungus, but they sure are neat to look at and feel with their interesting structure.
Fall Fungus For Everyone
That’s all folks! If you have any weird or wacky fungus you’ve spotted this season, send us a picture at email@example.com and we’ll post it for everyone to see. Otherwise, happy fungus hunting friends.
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