Fall is one of the best times of the year to explore the forest for mushrooms. As the rains come, so does an array of fungi, popping up on rotting logs, among fallen leaves, and in the soil on the forest floor. Our Scouters Mountain Nature Park packet is our celebration of this fall wonder.
I recently attended a Mushroom Discovery Hike at Scouters Mountain to learn more about this fall phenomenon. This is one of the outdoor educational programs provided by Metro in conjunction with the Oregon Zoo. The hike was led by a mushroom expert (officially called a mycologist), who taught the group a lot about the world of fungi. Here are some of the things I learned.
The Nature Walk
After learning these amazing facts about fungi, we were off onto the trail. During a short hike around the top of Scouters Mountain we found dozens of mushroom discoveries. Whenever someone spotted a new fungus find, we’d gather around it and the mycologist would help us determine what type it might be. During this program we were allowed to pick a few mushrooms and pass them around - even give them a smell. Be aware that this is NOT typically allowed at parks like Scouters Mountain; it was a special feature of this nature walk.
Highlights from the Mushroom Discovery Hike
The day before the this hike, we held a family group hike where we saw many of the same mushrooms. It was great to be able to go back and learn more about those finds!
Here are some of my favorites:
This is a cluster of violet toothed polypores (Trichaptum biforme) growing from a log. It looks a lot like a similar mushroom commonly called a ‘turkey tail,’ but without as many layers of color.
We found tons of these tiny, beautiful mushrooms growing out of Douglas fir cones. Commonly called a ‘Fir-cone mushroom’ (Strobilurus trullisatus), you’ll find them popping out from between the scales on Douglas fir cones all around the forest floor. If you see them growing out of a clump of moss, dig a bit and I bet you’ll find a cone underneath.
These little beauties are Parasola plicatilis, a great super nature find in the fall forest. Commonly referred to as a ‘pleated ink cap,’ it has a paper-thin cap that looks like an umbrella. It often pops up in little groups, and you can even find these in your lawn sometimes after a rain.
The final mushroom feature here is Agaricus, one of the most common mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest forest. It is a larger, whitish colored mushroom that is related to many of the common button mushrooms we buy at the store.
Tips for Mushroom Exploring with your Kids
If you are going out to learn about mushrooms with your little ones, it's important to remember that several types of mushrooms out there are poisonous. Do not eat wild mushrooms unless you are experienced and skilled at identifying them. Make sure to review this rule with kids before heading out.
It's also important to remind kids of the complex role that mushrooms play in nature. Get a closer look to see what you notice about the mushrooms and where they are growing, and leave them in their forest habitat.
I hope you can find a time this fall to get outdoors, explore the trails at area parks like Scouters Mountain or Tryon Creek, and discover some mushrooms on your own.
Bryna R. Campbell