Puget Sound Mycological Society holds festival

Dedicated to the study and enjoyment of fungus, the Puget Sound Mycological Society has over 1,200 members, making it one of the largest organizations of its kind in the US. Due to growing attendance at their annual wild mushroom show, the society chose to hold this year’s at the Bellevue College, in the cafeteria and adjoining rooms of the C building.

The show was on Oct. 10 and 11, though the fungus began arriving friday evening in pallets, pots and logs to be sorted and identified. The show featured hundreds of different species of mushrooms organized by genus, displayed with their scientific names, and tagged with the colors green, yellow or red to indicate edibility.

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The show hosted lectures on mushroom identification and mycology in the D building, while the cafeteria was filled with the scent of chefs at work. Vendors from as far as San Francisco came with their wares. Representatives of Olympia based Fungi Perfecti were present selling cultivation equipment and spores, as well as pre-inoculated starter kits for all manner of mycelium. The BC cafeteria was wall-to-wall mushrooms, along with the living specimens were works of art for sale ranging from chew toys for dogs to wind-chimes, watercolors and washcloths.

Members of the PSMS worked as volunteers at the show answering questions about the fungi and providing information relevant to their culinary, medicinal and other properties. Stewart Wechsler, a volunteer at the show and member of the Native Plant Society stressed the importance of fungi as symbionts, not just decomposers. His work has included the artificial insemination of the species of phantom orchid found in Lincoln Park, which shoots up only a flowering stalk semi-annually “as a plant with no leaves and chlorophyll it needs a fungus to feed it” said Wechsler.
Visitors were invited to bring in mushrooms for identification by expert members of the PSMS, a service that is also accessible through their weekly ID clinics held at the UW center for urban horticulture. The clinics are Mondays 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. throughout the spring and fall wild mushroom seasons.

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Those who join the society can embark on the field trips they organize throughout spring and fall, where members meet at a designated location starting at 9:00 a.m. with coffee, tea and advice from the experienced, then spread out and search for mushrooms. Master identifiers are present on each outing to verify any finds, and the trips typically end with a potluck. Additionally, members of the PSMS have free admission to the annual show, access to the society’s library, a subscription to the “Spore Print” newsletter and an invitation to the yearly “Survivors’ Banquet” a potluck at which the society’s new leadership is announced.

Those who would like to join the society can apply online or at their weekly clinics, there is an annual due of $30 for individuals or families, and full time students can join for $20.
Information about the PSMS can be found on their website, psms.org.

The Fall fruiting season for wild mushrooms typically lasts until first frost, the hunt is afoot.