living solamar adventures

Field Mycology Excursion Journal
August 9, 2010 by Mr. Solamar

What better way to enjoy nature than by taking a walk in the Woods?!

Below you will find some after action reports from Field Mycology, a class at East Tennessee State University that I was enrolled in this summer. Every Monday, we would visit a different location in the local area and collect specimens from the kingdom of fungi for observation and study. While the description of each walk could be quite detailed if each specimen was catalogued and identified, I chose to highlight a different aspect of the excursion each week, as you can see from the reports themselves. I hope you enjoy these, as I very much enjoyed the walks. Dr. Ekaterina Kaverina was our muse of fungi, and professor of the course. If you get a chance to sign up, I highly recommend it.

July 19, 2010
Location: Hinkle Branch Trailhead, Elizabethton, TN

This field outing was made with Dr. Kaverina and our class to a mountain forest location near Elizabethton, TN. Once we parked at the trailhead, we immediately entered the primary habitat for the area of exploration, which was high appalachian mountain typlcal (rhododendrons abound), coupled with old growth deciduous and coniferous forest. A good sized clear mountain stream ran along most of the trail, providing moisture to the area, which increased our likelihood of finding a variety of fungal specimens. It was raining fairly steadily.

We immediately began to find specimens of typical Appalachian genus, including Russela, a common polypore locally known as the "Turkey Tail" and some examples of the Agaricus and Antaloma. Wince this was my first expedition, I did not do a complete catalog of genus and number, but rather attempted to learn each genus well enough to be able to do rough field identification of macroscopic fruiting bodies. Farther along in our travels, we found some of what I would consider fine edibles of the fungal kingdom, members of the true Boletus genus and some variety of Chanterelle. These last are very distinguishable, with easily identifiable gill structure, color, and shape. I felt very comfortable with identifying these mushrooms in situo after a viewing. Also, the Boletes surveyed were fairly easy to identify by the characteristics of their pores and caps. This genus looks promising and bears further study.

We walked uphill along the path, which crossed the stream numerous times and were able to identify a number of other species, which we harvested to discuss. After a moderate hike, we turned back. At this time of the year, expect this trail to be difficult due to the number of deadfalls blocking the trail itself. We were able to traverse most of them, but they were a challenge due to the topography and the size of the trees. The rain made the experience quite nice, however, keeping us cool during our clambering.

When we returned to the trail head, we again reviewed our collections from the day, going over the characteristics of each genus and descriptive ID points. Some observed specimens from the day were left in place, as in cases like slime molds or decaying fruiting bodies. Overall, excepting cases like the Chanterelle, there are many similarities between species in most genus, so careful attention paid to the characteristics of each should be learned before assumption of ID. Overall, a very nice hike, I'm looking forward to next week, and I need to order a field guide, ASAP.

July 25, 2010
Location: Underwood Springs Branch Road trailhead, Bluff City, TN

A nice forest walk along a burbling brook created by a spring pouring out of the mountains overlooking Bluff City, TN. Alissa and I walked the trails up to the grotto one afternoon. I did not do the same outing as the class this time, but rather went to the outing location a day before due to some conflicting business. This required a novel approach to this outing, so I catalogued all my findings on my digital camera to avoid taking fruiting bodies that the class could identify the following day. The slideshow of what we discovered is available at the end of this entry.

The habitat was typical Appalachian mixed habitat forest with the creek allowing a shift of diversity towards the wet side. Lack of rain suggested this area could have been more fertile for species collection under other circumstances. However, many familiar species were observed, including members of the Russela family, Turkey Tails, Boletes, and some other rarities like Dead Man's fingers and crimson slime molds.

Slide show here: A show of wonders at Underwood Springs

August 2, 2010
Location: Laurel Fork Trailhead, Elizabethton, TN

This excursion was along a blue blaze offshoot of the Appalachian Trail which is a popular destination among local hikers. Although we did not see it this time out, there is a waterfall that can be hiked to along this path, and as before in our other outings, the habitat was similar. This time out, we began our walk discussing habitat sampling, the various techniques for conducting one, and how that information can be used in a mycology setting. To that end, although I did bring the camera for a few nice pictures of our finds, I chose to conduct this excursion as a defacto field survey of genus. While we only walked along the path and didn't do habitat dissection in squares, this should give a general idea of the location and the species that can be found there. Where specimens were found in quantity, alas we did not have time to count them, so I present this in the form of a names list (proper or common) below. Agaricus, Mirasmus, LBM - typical, Entoloma, Russela, Lactarius, Chanterelle, Lactarius, Pilus Clitocybe, Russela, Boletus, Two Colored Bolete, Amanita, Tricholomopsis, Two Colored Bolete, Chrisoma felina, Slime molds, white, Entaloma, Amanita var. Death Angel, White polypore, Agaricus var. resinomycena, Agaricus desc. Mauve gills, Oyster mushroom, Blusher, Lactarius, Black footed polypore, Brown Lactarius, Russela, Cordiceps, Leptonia, Amanita var. Lepidella, Blusher, Amanita, Russela var. Emetica, Agaricus, Boletus var. Swilous, Xeromphalina campanelle, Gymnopus, Mirasmus, Agaricus, Bolete var. gilled polypore, Two Colored Bolete, Boletus Grasselas, Amanita, Amanita, Gilled Bolete.

August 9, 2010
Location: Buffalo Mountain Park, Johnson City, TN
Today's walk was an interesting contrast to the excursions prior to this one. Dr. Kaverina chose this location to allow us to contrast habitats from the similar locations we've visited in the past. While Buffalo Mountain does have certain locations that are reminiscent of others, it also has suffered a fire within the last few years, creating wide swaths of sandy, rocky low growth scrub. This higher altitude and condition seemed to favor mauve colored, bitter boletes, and a strange brown gasteromycete that we tentatively identified as a species known as "Dyers's Puffball. This mushroom was historically used to dye fiber, likely a brown color. This hike was along a very narrow trail with a steep drop-off, which made hiking to the summit rather exciting. If you have balance problems, I would avoid heading for the summit. After we proceeded some distance, we headed back towards where we began, and took a different route down into a valley with a creek bottom. Mushrooms we in abundance, especially choice Boletes, Bradley relatives, and many other Amanita and other exciting specimens. We found a specimen of a mushroom colloquially known as "Old Man of the Woods" which has to be my favorite fruiting body to date. The mushroom is dark grey with a typical cap, but has velvety purple spots growing all over it. It's amazing. I also found a lone Chanterelle, which I saved. Overall, this location has had the highest density of quality fruiting bodies, and I think many more could be located with time spent in the area. After class, I had identified enough edible specimens that I had a nice collection for a later meal, my first of edible fungi. So after I got home from work later in the day, I made a wild mushroom scramble with eggs and white sharp cheddar. It's got to be the best mushroom dish I've had in a long time. As with all edibles, I took care to took the mushrooms thoroughly, sauteing them in butter and garlic over slow low, then high heat before cooking them into the eggs.