If you’ve been into the woods lately, you’re probably noticed all kinds of strange and colourful things growing out of the forest floor, an abundance of mushrooms and fungi like we haven’t seen in years. It’s not your imagination.
Bob Brett, who coordinates the annual Fungus Among Us mushroom festival in Whistler, confirmed that this year was spectacular.
“There are so many different mushrooms and so much volume,” he said. “Whatever kind of mushroom people are looking for, they’re finding it. I think it’s a combination of a few things. We had lots of warmth over the summer and then perfectly timed rain, which had to help, but there’s also the fact that eventually the species has to reproduce. Even experts don’t have much of an idea why mushrooms come up some years and not others, and in this case we’ve had a few not-so-good years and eventually (the mushrooms) have to come up and spore-ulate.
“Paul Kruger, one of our experts, predicted that this year would be huge last year and boy was he right.”
Fungus Among Us runs over two days, Oct. 18 and 19, with over 20 mushroom experts helping out. Last year over 100 people showed up to walk the woods and learn more about the different species that thrive in Whistler’s different forests.
Friday night is a series of talks by experts. Bryce Kendric,, the keynote, will be presenting “Fungi: Now you see them, now you don’t” which looks at what scientists know about the reproductive habits of mushrooms and why they appear some years and not others. Whistler Naturalists members pay $8. Non-members pay $10.
On Saturday morning, people can meet with experts at 8:30 a.m. at Myrtle Philip Community School to join a walk in the woods with the mushroom experts. The guided walk runs from 8:30 a.m. until noon and the cost is $10 for members or $15 for non-members. From 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., Edward Dangerfield from the acclaimed Alta Bistro will put on a two-hour mushroom cooking demonstration. These cooking demonstrations are incredibly popular and there is limited seating available. The cost is $20 for members or $25 for non-members.
From 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. the experts will be displaying some of their more unique finds, while inviting members of the public to bring in mushrooms they’ve found for identification. As well, there will be a demonstration display of wools coloured using mushroom dyes. This event is free to everyone.
A pass to all of the events is available for $35 for members or $45 for non-members. Under 18s are free. As well, you can purchase a membership to the Whistler Naturalists and support events like Fungus Among Us and the annual BioBlitz.
Brett is also the biologist behind the Whistler Biodiversy Project, which is attempting to log each and every type of living species in the Whistler area, from wetland insects to trees to large predators, to better understand and protect the local ecosystem. According to Brett, in the past 10 years of Fungus Among Us (this is the 11th anniversary) visiting mushroom experts have helped add to the list of mushrooms to bring the total number of species identified to 720 — just under a quarter of all species identified.
For more, visit www.whisternaturalists.ca. The Whistler Biodiversity Project is at wwwwhistlerbiodiversity.ca.