4 Weird & Wonderful Fall Fungi in North Vancouver

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.

fall-fungi-fly-amanita

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.

fall-fungi-fly-amanita-man

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.

fall-fungi-angel-wings

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…

Orange-Jelly-Fungus

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 nvosas@gmail.com and we’ll post it for everyone to see. Otherwise, happy fungus hunting friends.

-Mark

 

Photos and Words by:

Mark Tallman

President, NVOSAS

Mark-Tallman-NVOSAS

 

Outdoors on the Shore: Brothers Creek

There are many fantastic ways to spend your weekend on the North Shore: kayaking in Deep Cove, cliff jumping in Lynn Canyon, or mountain biking on Mt. Fromme. As long as we North (and West!) Vancouverites are in the great outdoors, we’re generally pretty happy.

Last week, our Treasurer Mark “Zaboo” Tallman and his girlfriend hiked a relatively unknown trail in the forests of upper West Vancouver: the Brothers Creek Loop. This is what they found.

At a glance

Distance: 7 KM (round trip)

Time you need: *3-4 hours

*The actual hike takes 2-3, but you’ll want to stop for a lovely picnic lunch (and maybe even a swim!) at Lost Lake.

What to bring: Water bottle, first-aid kit, binoculars (if you plan on bird-watching), picnic lunch, and a swimsuit if you want to take a dip in Lost Lake!

Difficulty: **2/5 mountain goats

**Easy for outdoorsy folks, but still expect a hill or two you might have to hustle up

forest-hike
A beautiful romp through the forest awaits

Things to look for

A Majestic Waterfall:

Right after the Brothers Creek trail junction and across the bridge you’ll wander South down the hill…right into the path of a stunning waterfall view. Take a moment to experience its awe-inspiring power.

waterfall-vancouver
Listen to the water roar. Take in its glory.

Birds:

We saw a Sapsucker pecking away at a tree for insects. It was mesmerizing: we must have stayed there watching it forage for at least 10 minutes. This is a lush forest so there are tons of birds – stop once you get in deep, and have a seat on a log/rock/patch of ground to listen for them.

Download the Cornell University Bird app if you want to identify your new winged friends, or just take pictures and ask Jason “The Situation” Bigelow later – he’s our resident bird expert on the board! Email your photo to nvosas@gmail.com or Instagram it and tag @nvosas to get speedy expert identification.

sapsucker-bird
Hungry birds make for hole-filled tree trunks

 

Fungi:

Some people like puppies, some like snakes…I like fungi. Close to a water source (ie. the creek part of Brothers Creek) and deep in the shady forest are the best places to see these beauties. Look for them growing on the trunks and at the bases of trees. It’s probably best not to eat any from the forest unless you’re absolutely sure they are safe. If you’re set on eating em’ fresh, grow your own on a mushroom log by following this instructable.

fungi-tree-big
Massive tree-clinging fungi can sure be a handful

 

Amphibians:

If you decide to stop at Lost Lake (which you most definitely should) take a look into the bottom of the lake. If you remember to keep the sun in your face – meaning your shadow won’t scare off the lake critters – you might just see a salamander or frog in there!

amphibian
Their amphibious lifestyle means these creatures live in the water and on land

 

Skunk Cabbage:

My favourite pungent plant, the Skunk Cabbage, covers some areas beside the trail. Particularly in the moist, boardwalk zones. Look for clusters of broad, green leaves and the distinct whiff of “eau de skunk” to identify them. Fun fact: bears eat Skunk Cabbage in the Spring as a laxative to aid their digestion…so if you encounter some bear scat on your path, just blame the cabbage.

forest-plant
A smelly part of a healthy, moist forest eco-system

Springboard Stumps:

The North Shore is full of fascinating archaeological artifacts from its forestry days. The Springboard Stumps you’ll see along the Brothers Creek trail are stellar examples. Loggers used to stand on boards stuck into massive tree-trunks so they could cut the prime wood up high. Trunk bottoms are extremely tough – that helps in a windstorm, but makes them extremely difficult to cut down and use for lumber. Hence the creepy face-looking stumps you’ll see scattered around the forest.

springboard-stump
The blackened parts mean this tree (or one around it) was probably hit by lightening.

Fallen Giants:

If a colossal tree falls in the forest, will a counsellor come along and explore its root system? Yes! These are your chance to see how far your favourite tree’s (mine is the Western Red Cedar for the record) root system goes into and across the ground. Good stuff. When it comes to experiential learning by seeing, feeling, and doing this is tough to beat.

roots-tree-fallen
If a tree falls in the forest, will an alumni be there to climb it?

Getting there

The hike starts in upper West Vancouver on Millstream Rd. – it’s accessible by car and by bus, but make sure to leave extra time if you plan on busing up. There is a small gravel parking lot (about 6 spots) right by the trailhead, so grab a spot if you get there early enough. If not just park on the street. Make sure to be respectful with your parking: don’t block any driveways!

Use this handy dandy Google Map (below) to find your way there.

 

Final thoughts

Brothers Creek Trail is a fantastic day-hike for people of all ages. It’s kid friendly and relatively bug (and tourist) free; it’s a great place to take friends from out of town, your friends, or even a date. Enjoy the hike, swim the lake, and take in the diverse flora (plants) and fauna (animals).

Oh, and let us know if you go on the hike by tagging @nvosas in your Instagram pictures.

Happy hiking friends!

-Mark “Zaboo” Tallman