BY DAVID WELTON
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
October 21, 2015
The Whidbey Camano Land Trust sponsored a “Walk & Talk with Fungi” along the forest trails at the Whidbey Institute on Saturday, Oct. 17. Ida Gianopulos, Land Protection Assistant at the Land Trust, emphasized the ecology of Fungi.
The Whidbey Institute is one of many organizations and individuals that have established conservation easements in partnership with the Land Trust to preserve the environment. Similar Whidbey Camano Land Trust’s guided tours involve the community, fostering appreciation and protection for our natural surroundings.
“The first ground-rule of mushroom hunting is keep your eyes on the ground,” said Ida Gianopulos, Land Protection Assistant at Whidbey Camano Land Trust, as she guided 20 or more curious souls through the forest at the Whidbey Institute.
Gianopulos bantered with her students while communicating her knowledge of the biology and “lifestyles” of the fungal “Kingdom.”
Despite a lifelong interest in Mycology, wild edibles and a degree in Ecology from Humboldt State University, Gianopulos professed not to be expert at identifying the thousands of mushroom species and relies on a field book. Incorrect identification can result in disaster. “If you don’t know what it is,” she said, “kick it; don’t pick it.”
A student shared her discovery of a mushroom cap just as it was bursting through the soil. It may be the immature fruit of the deadly Amanita, Gianopulos noted, which can develop beautiful red and white coloration.
“Don’t eat this,” Gianopulos advised. Toxins are not absorbed through the skin, but it’s important to wash your hands before handling food.
“Deadman’s Fingers” contribute to the decay of fallen branches, restoring nutrients to the soil. Some mushrooms feed on cellulose, others on lignin, the chemical that imparts stiffness and rigidity to trees.
Georgia Edwards tapped a puffball, prompting the release of a cloud of spores.
Nick Lyle got a close-up of Jean Whitesavage’s orange mushroom, with a “baby” at the base of the stem.
“Sometimes if you look up from the ground, you’ll see shelf mushrooms on trees,” Gianopulos said. Some are specific to spruce and others to Douglas firs.
Paloma examined a pretty mushroom under the watchful eye of her mother, Jennifer Schiavone-Ruthensteiner. Paloma was the youngest participant and was most excited by the “puffballs.”
Image at top: Ida Gianopulos, Land Protection Assistant at the Land Trust (all photos by David Welton).
David Welton is a retired physician and staff photographer for Whidbey Life magazine.
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