For those who have never hunted any of the other wild mushrooms, I suggest you learn to identify the deadly ones first. Although many mushrooms are poisonous, most just make you sick. However there are a few that are extremely toxic ones. Only a small bite of a galerina or a destroying angel can be enough to kill you. There have been many deaths attributed to eating poisonous mushrooms, but the ones below have been the most lethal and caused numerous deaths among both novice hunters and age-old pros. I cannot stress enough the old mushroom hunters adage "when in doubt, throw it out." There are old hunters and there are bold hunters, but there are no old and bold hunters. The most common deadly mushrooms found in our area that you should know are:
- Deadly Galerina (Galerina autumnalis)
- Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporigera)
- Death Cap (Amanita phalloides)
- The Jack O'Lantern (Omphalotus illudens)
Once you have memorized the traits of the deadly ones you can move on to the good ones. I recommend starting out with ones that have no poisonous look a-likes and do not require more extensive identification techniques such as spore printing and staining. Here is a list of ones to start with:
- Black Trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides)
- Chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)
- Hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa)
- Hedgehog or Sweet tooth (hydnum repandum)
- Lion's mane or Bearded tooth (my favorite is Hericium erinaceus)
- Indigo Milky (Lactarius indigo)
If you would really like to learn more about mushroom identification proper, then I suggest you consider joining the Missouri Mycological Society (MoMs). They have an upcoming foray June 20-22 at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in south central MO. I am currently planning to attend. I am by no means a mycologists, so it is nice to go on forays and learn from those who are more professionally trained and those "so-called" amateurs who have been hunting for 30-50 years. The wisdom they share can be priceless. MoMs often holds forays in the eastern part of the state so this is a great opportunity to stay close and hunt with them in our own backyard.
Speaking of opportunities, MoMs is considering starting a central Missouri chapter, meaning there would be more opportunities for organized local forays around Mid-MO. I know a few of you have contacted me about hunting in the summer and fall. If you would be interested in joining a Mid-MO mushroom group, please let me know. If 5 to 10 people contact me, I would be more than happy to work with MoMs to set it up and organize some more structured forays in our area. Membership in MoMs is very reasonable ($15 annual dues) and the benefits and knowledge you can get are well worth the investment. I have met a few of the people and they are great. I have yet to make it to an event, but I hear the food cannot be missed. So, if this sounds like it might be for you, let me know.
With the rain last night and more predicted for this afternoon, I might just hit the woods this holiday weekend to see if there are any early black trumpets or chanterelles about. A lot of summer and fall mushrooms have also been reported to have overwintered and already been found. I myself came across some fresh small hericiums a few weeks ago and I have seen reports of some nice chicken of the woods already being found across the state. Usually I don't find these until June, but with such an exceptional spring for mushrooms there is no telling what may have popped up already. If anyone thinks they may be up for a hunt, let me know. I will probably be going out sometime on Sunday or Monday.