Grand County furnishes fruitful fungi forays for North American Mycological Association
An environment abundant with mushrooms, lichen, molds and fungi welcomed the mycologists and mycophiles who gathered over 150 different species during the North American Mycological Association’s annual foray hosted in Granby over the weekend.
Over 250 mushroom enthusiasts gathered at Snow Mountain Ranch from Thursday through Sunday to collect, learn about and share fungi species growing in Colorado. Participants spread out across Grand County throughout the weekend to forage and identify as many species as possible.
“This year by far, especially in terms of our local porcini mushroom, the boletus rubriceps, they’re just popping up like weeds,” said Dr. Andrew Wilson, the assistant curator of mycology for the Denver Botanic Gardens and an event organizer.
Groups explored Berthoud Pass, Meadow Creek Reservoir, Columbine Lake, Church Creek, Robber’s Roost and more, finding 152 species as of Sunday morning when identification was still taking place. Wilson noted it’s a decent amount of diversity even though there are at least a hundred more species in the region that weren’t found over the weekend.
“There were a couple forays that were really pretty interesting in terms of bringing back unique species for Colorado, things we’re not used to seeing,” Wilson said. “I know there’s another 100 species out there that people didn’t collect largely because they were tripping over all these boletes.”
Foragers collecting the fungi would photograph it in its natural habitat before picking it and note where it was found, as well as any environmental or physical markers that may help in identification. Anything that was collected was brought back to a team of graduate students and knowledgeable mycophiles at Snow Mountain Ranch to identify.
With the bounty of fungi available this year, foragers were able to find some species that stumped even the experts and weren’t identified. Several people puzzled over a blue tinged cortinarius, a mushroom genus with over 600 species, but none could positively name it.
The fungi that are identified over the weekend are compiled into a dataset that provides physical attributes, environmental conditions, the collector’s name and location for each species, which is shared publicly by the North American Mycological Association, according to NAMA Recorder Adele Mehta.
Once physical fungi specimens are identified, they’re photographed, dried and packaged in wax paper bags to be transported to the Denver Botanic Gardens, which holds Colorado’s fungarium or fungi collection, as well as Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.
“When we dry them out, I call them mushroom mummies, and we stick them in individual boxes with taxonomic data,” Wilson said. “These collections provide a reference for researchers in the future to ask questions … about how important a species is, how unique it might be or how widespread, which can tell you something about its interactions in the environment.”
Beyond collecting and identifying species, the annual foray brings together specialists, enthusiasts and researchers from across the country, sparking conversations, ideas and more passion.
This year’s head mycologist Dr. Amy Honan closed out the weekend by thanking everyone for their interest and contributions, noting there are thousands of species of fungi for every mycologist, so the help is key to future discoveries.
“There’s not enough of us because fungi is a kingdom,” Honan said. “There’s no way we’ll ever figure it all out with the number of mycologists that we have. We need more people to know fungi.”
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