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All that rain produced a feast of fungi: Mushrooms are popping up all over

  • A basket of different types of mushrooms that were found on a mushroom walk in Gilford that met at the Gilford Library on Thursday, August 9, 2018.  Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Mike Hanson carries Russula Brevipes mushrooms he found on the mushroom walk. Maddie Vanderpool / Monitor staff

  • Larry Christmann hold out his mushroom find to show the group on the mushroom walk in Gilford on Thursday, August 9, 2018.  Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • An edible Black Trumpet mushroom is picked by a member of the group on the Gilford Mushroom Walk in Gilford on Thursday, August 9, 2018.  Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Gail Furey looks at a bright purple Cortinarius Iodes mushroom that she found on the Gilford Mushroom Walk in Gilford on Thursday, August 9, 2018.  I Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Kent Seekins and Gail Furey inspect a mushroom while on the Gilford Mushroom Walk in Gilford on Thursday. This summer has seen an especially high volume of wild mushrooms. Maddie Vanderpool / Monitor staff

  • At the Gilford Library mushrooms from the mushroom walk are laid out on tables so that they could be identified on Thursday, August 9, 2018.  Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • A Pink Russula mushroom and two others grow between two rocks off the side of the road in Gilford on Thursday, August 9, 2018.   Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Stephanie Doyle explains some basic characteristics of mushrooms on the Gilford Mushroom Walk in Gilford on Thursday, August 9, 2018.  Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • People in Gilford gather for a mushroom walk at the Gilford public library on Thursday, August 9, 2018, to learn and gather mushrooms on a nearby hiking trail. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Crystal Pelletier picks a Caesar Amanita one of the few edible Amanita mushrooms on the Gilford Mushroom Walk in Gilford Thursday, August 9, 2018.  Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Linda Richter holds a poisonous Amanita mushroom while how to identify it is being explained on the Gilford Mushroom Walk in Gilford Thursday, August 9, 2018.  Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor



Monitor staff
Friday, August 10, 2018

If you’ve been outdoors in the past few weeks and it seems like the ground is suddenly sprinkled with little multi-colored domes, don’t be surprised. The dry start to the summer followed by consistent rains since mid-July have been perfect for luring mushrooms above ground, and these fungi have been sprouting in unusual number and unusual variety.

“I go outdoors three, four times a week. Two weeks ago I might have tallied about 30 species, and yesterday when I went out, the count was up over 100 species, for the same amount of time, same amount of effort,” said Rick Van de Pol of Sandwich.

Van de Pol, a wildlife consultant, is one of the state’s experts on wild mushrooms. He is one of the first people contacted by fire responders when there is suspected poisoning from eating a mushroom.

“I got my first couple of calls last week – one was a child, another was a dog. Fortunately, both of those were non-toxic,” he said.

The dog, by the way, was a black Labrador retriever, which didn’t surprise him at all.

“At least 90 percent of my calls (about dogs) are black labs. Black labs, they’re notorious for consuming mushrooms. It’s an odd trait for a canine,” Van de Pol said.

Eric Milligan, primary owner of New Hampshire Mushroom Co. in Tamworth, said the current mushroom boom is notable, but not entirely surprising.

“In really dry springs and then a deluge of mid-summer rain, that’s going to bring out a lot of species that might have been waiting to come out, especially with species that mainly fruit every five or 10 years,” he said.

Mushrooms are the visible portion of underground fungus that can be surprisingly big – in fact, the largest living organism on Earth is thought to be a fungus in Oregon that sends up mushrooms over a distance of more than two miles.

“They’re like the apple on a tree. It’s the fruit body of a larger organism,” said Milligan. The main job of above-ground mushrooms is to spread spores or seeds that spread underground fungus, which is known as mycelium.

“If there’s mycelium underground that has not produced a fruit body in a while, doesn’t have the right conditions outside to produce a mushroom that could produce spores, it just hangs out underground and waits for the opportunity. … Then if it comes along they’re like, ‘Wow, if I’m going to get my spores out, I’d better do it now’ and they put up a lot of fruit bodies. In a group that would normally be only one mushroom a year, 50 or 60 come out,” he said.

This summer’s crop, he said, is particularly notable. “They are all the colors of the rainbow, and different sizes, and every time you stop you find something new,” he joked. “On Sunday I picked a bunch of things I had never ever seen before.”

But he hasted to add that not all of them were exotic: “There are LBMs, which stands for ‘little brown mushroom’.”

New Hampshire Mushroom Co. grows as much as 1,000 pounds of mushrooms a week indoors on various wood substrates, such as red oak sawdust, and it also buys wild mushrooms from people. That gives Milligan another view on how many mushrooms have suddenly appeared.

“I usually can tell by the amount of people who call me and see if I want to buy mushrooms,” he said. “Right now I’ve got to turn a lot away. We got over 100 pounds this week.”

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

Sidebar:

One drawback to having lots of mushrooms is the possibility of lots mushroom poisonings, when people lured by abundance assume that a mushroom is safe based on appearance.

“Always confirm the identification – not from a book but from somebody who knows more than you do, and who you trust,” said Rick Van de Pol of Sandwich, who is high on the state list of people called by first responders to aid when a person or animal gets sick from eating a mushroom.

How do you know who to trust? “As long as you haven’t named that person in your will, you’re pretty safe,” he joked.

“There really aren’t any hard-and-fast rules that will say whether or not something is safe to eat,” said Eric Milligan, primary owner of New Hampshire Mushroom Co. in Tamworth. “There are only a handful around here that will kill you, but there are hundreds that will make you so sick you will wish you were dead.”

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has issued warnings twice in recent years about mushroom poisonings because of high numbers of illnesses following a burst of mushroom appearances. No major reports have come in so far this year, however.