Foraging Journal 2020

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End Of The Mushroom Hunting Season? - November 2020

Above: Two Russula mushrooms. Identifying Russulas is hard.

I haven't posted anything in a few weeks, so the pictures here represent a few different hikes and forays around the southern end of Vancouver Island.

Of course, these are just the highlights, but there were many great and interesting finds.

The cauliflower below is the grown up version of the "sad" cauliflower mushroom I posted a while back. I was a bit put off by the pale yellow colour since some sources say that this means the specimen has gone bad. However, I took a chance and it turned out to be harmless as well as delicious.

Another excellent find were the many Cortinarius mushrooms that are good for dying. You can see a pile of them below. I think the haul includes Cortinarius semisanguineus (yellowish cap, red gills), Cortinarius smithii (brown-red cap, red gills), and Cortinarius croceus (yellow-orange cap and gills).

We also found pine mushrooms! You can see and read more about those below.

A small belly-button mushroom

Above: Belly-button hedgehog.

A cauliflower mushroom growing from the ground

Above: Sparassis radicata, cauliflower mushroom.

A pile of bright cortinarius mushrooms, used for dying wool and fabrics

Above: Mushrooms for the dye pot. All Cortinarius species.

My main goal this season was to find pine mushrooms - and I did!

It took some slogging through very dense bushes and undergrowth, but well worth it in the end.

You can see the best find to the right, but we also found a few large "flags" (mostly bug-eaten) and the two little buttons below.

Once at home, I found them tricky to clean due to dirt sticking to the soft veil layer. However, the more difficult spots can be peeled off quite easily.

Cooked with butter and salt. They were delicious!

Two pine mushroom buttons, one picked
Holding a pine mushroom
Booted knight mushroom, Tricholoma focale

Above: Tricholoma focale, AKA the booted knight. A relative of the pine mushroom.

A cutting board covered in mushrooms, including pine mushrooms, hedgehog mushrooms, and one winter chanterelle

Above: Catch of the day, including 3 pine mushrooms and some large hedgehogs.

Now that the season is (just about) at an end, there will be a slow-down in new posts. I'll be starting a new journal page for 2021.

Hunting For Liberty Caps On Vancouver Island - October 2020

A deer wandering through a pasture near a fence

So I took a walk today with the express purpose of finding liberty cap mushrooms (Psilocybe semilanceata).

These mushrooms are known to appear in old wet pastures, so that's where I went looking.

I was generally surprised with the lack of mushrooms ( given our recent weather), but I eventually managed to collect a variety of little brown field mushrooms that were not liberty caps.

I'm still a novice when it comes to liberty caps, so perhaps I missed something, but I'm pretty certain that none of the mushrooms pictured below are Psilocybe semilanceata.

I'll keep trying for a few more weeks to see if I can find the elusive liberty caps. Any tips welcome!

A handful of small mushrooms

Above: A handful of little brown mushrooms found in a field.

Little brown mushrooms

Above: The unusual suspects. No liberty caps.

Cowichan Valley - 17 & 18 October 2020

If you live somewhere in the southern to south-central region of Vancouver Island, and you're interested in mushroom hunting, then you have to visit the Cowichan River Valley.

The Cowichan Valley has a magical climate for fungi, both warmer and wetter than the surrounding area, so it's a great place to find all kinds of mushrooms.

We payed a short visit from the 17th to the 18th and it did not disappoint. We found chanterelles pretty much everywhere we looked, as well many varieties that we don't usually find elsewhere.

Overall, we collected about a coffee-table's worth of chanterelles, including some absolute giants. Unfortunately, no pine mushrooms, but we'll keep looking, and we'll definitely be returning for some off-season camping next year.

Cooking golden chanterelles over a fire
Two large white chanterelle mushrooms

Above: Two giant white chanterelles.

Hydnellum aurantiacum fungus

Above: Hydnellum aurantiacum, related to the more famous "bleeding tooth fungus".

Cluster of young winter chanterelle mushrooms
Cluster of Xeromphalina mushrooms
Examples of chanterelle mushrooms

Above left: Winter chanterelles (top) and a look-alike Xeromphalina species (bottom). Above right: Some examples showing the variety of chanterelle shapes and forms.

Oak Bay - October 2020

Three death cap mushrooms of different ages

Above: Death cap mushrooms, Amanita phalloides

I visited the University of Victoria campus last week, remembering a spot where I'd seen death cap mushrooms the previous year.

Sure enough, there were death caps growing there again. Left and below you can see three pictures I took of these mushrooms, showing their development from pale green and white "eggs" poking up through the grass, up to the mature mushroom with light-brown cap.

For more detail on how to identify death caps, read our page on poisonous mushrooms.

We also found many slippery jack mushrooms (Suillus luteus) which we harvested and have been eating since. These mushrooms are most associated with pine trees.

Slippery jacks have quite smooth caps (not grainy or scaly) and also aren't that slippery when dry. Make sure to peel them before cooking.

Two young egg-like death cap mushrooms growing from grass

Above: Two young death cap mushrooms.

A young and a mature death cap mushroom

Above: Young death cap with intact volva next to a mature specimen.

Caps of mature slippery jack mushrooms among grass, pine needles, and leaves

Above: Slippery jack mushrooms look like pretzel buns when dry.

Underside of a young slippery jack mushroom

Above: A young slippery jack mushroom (Suillus luteus) showing veil and pores.

South Vancouver Island - 12 October

Cascades chanterelle under moss, Cantharellus cascadensis

Above: Bright yellow cascade chanterelle, Cantharellus cascadensis

A short trip down the Galloping Goose turned into an excursion when we found a side trail leading into some promising-looking woodland.

Thanks to all the recent rain, there were a number of mushrooms popping up.

We found oysters, russulas, some slimy gomphidius (Gomphidius glutinosus), and many boletes (mostly of the Suillus genus).

The most exciting finds are pictured here. First, a cluster of chanterelles which I suspect are Cantharellus cascadensis. This variety is considerably larger than other chanterelles, with a noticeable contrast in colour between the gills (pale) and cap (bright yellow). They have a short stature, often resulting in them being hidden under moss, and grow in isolated but crowded clusters.

The other main find was a large number of shaggy parasols. We have three varieties in British Columbia: Chlorophyllum rachodes, C. brunneum, and C. olivieri. Along with some other features, these are mostly identified by having pale spores and staining orange when bruised. Avoid green spores, or any parasol-like mushroom with red, orange, or pink scales.

Very large white mushrooms

Above: Some large white mushrooms we found. Lens cap for scale.

Three shaggy parasol mushrooms

Above: Shaggy parasol mushrooms

South Island Adventures - Late September to Early October

Over the past two weeks or so I've visited a number of south island spots, including a new location around Shawnigan Lake.

While mid-islanders are reaping a bumper harvest of golden chanterelles, we're lagging behind down here. However, we have found more white chanterelles than ever (for us), and I've been enjoying learning more about these elusive mushrooms.

Other interesting finds include a large (but old) flush of chicken of the woods, a lot of dyer's polypore, and increasing numbers of puffballs, boletes, and even cat's tongue AKA jelly tooth mushrooms.

I also found a few false chanterelles (pictured right). Although these mushrooms occupy your mind when you're first searching for chanterelles, you soon learn that they're actually quite rare, so finding them is quite a novelty.

More rain should be coming this week, and then we'll be out looking for more golden chanterelles!

False chanterelle, Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca

False chanterelle, Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca. Note the similar colouring and gills running down the stem, causing confusion with C. formosus.

Cap of a white chanterelle hidden in moss

A white chanterelle, Cantharellus subalbidus. White chanterelles are usually hidden in or under the moss.

Wolf's milk slime mold

Wolf's milk, Lycogala epidendrum. A kind of slime mold with an odd balloon-like texture and bright pink colour.

Suillus sp. mushroom

Some kind of Suillus mushroom. These are often called "boletes" even though they're not in the Boletus genus.

A lush, healthy forest in the Pacific Northwest

The picture on the left represents a healthy forest. This forest has a mix of trees, mosses, lichens, and undergrowth. Trees include big leaf maple, western hemlock, red cedar, alder, and Douglas fir all together. Other plants include various kinds of ferns, huckleberry bushes, salal, and oregon grape.

These types of forests often host a wealth of mushrooms that you're unlikely to see elsewhere. As such, they're worthy of our care and protection.

Sooke Hills - 19 September 2020

We finally replaced our stolen camera - so quality pictures are back.

And what better place to get pictures of mushrooms than Sooke Hills? The Sooke Hills park is undergoing some large "improvements" with a new parking lot, bridge, and a widened pathway.

Apart from those in the pictures, I also found some decent looking oyster mushrooms and one small, moldy chanterelle. There was also a suspected chicken of the woods, which turned out to be a ray of sunshine illuminating leaves in the distance.

I added one of the oyster pictures to our oyster page because it showed a rather prominent stem, which is relatively rare for oyster mushrooms.

The mushrooms to the left I think are Marasmiellus candidus.

Hopefully the park improvements are for the better and the area keeps its "quiet" feel.

Cluster of small red Mycena mushrooms

Blood foot, Mycena haematopus

Dyer's polypore mushroom

A beautiful dyer's polypore, Phaeolus schweinitzii

Cauliflower mushroom

A sad cauliflower mushroom

Metchosin - 13 September 2020

Old chicken of the woods mushroom Laetiporus conifercola on Vancouver Island

We found this old "chicken of the woods" mushroom. Probably Laetiporus conifericola, which I think tends to be frillier and grows on conifers. We'll be coming back here.

Slug-eaten chanterelle

We found these slug eaten chanterelles. I think this is a white chanterelle, due to the colour and stocky stature, even though the gills are slightly orange.

Cowichan Lake - 5 September 2020

We went to Lake Cowichan for some camping. Being a long weekend, the area was pretty busy. Lots of boaters and partiers - but the forests were quiet.

After a brief search we found some chanterelles not too far from the lake. And there were white chanterelles mixed in - the first I've found.

They seem to grow more squat than regular chanterelles, making them even more prone to being buried under leaves and moss. Overall, it was really dry and we found quite a few large, dried-out chanterelles around. The white chanterelles were in better condition - so maybe they prefer the drier weather.

The forests were also very mixed, with no tree or type of undergrowth clearly dominating. I think white chanterelles prefer slightly older forests, but still with quite a bit of overlap with gold chanterelles, hence them often being found together.

As you can see from the picture to the left, white chanterelles stain yellow and orange.

A river near Cowichan Lake BC

Took a hike out to a beautiful river.

Pacific Golden Chanterelle gills or wrinkles

Cool up-close shot of chanterelle gills.

Parksville BC - 29 August 2020

Above: Rosehips

We took a trip to visit Rathtrevor Beach and I got to do some mushroom hunting while we were there.

I took a short walk and saw a lot of rosehips (left) and came across a surprise patch of very dry chanterelles (below).

Rosehips can be made into tea and jelly, and they grow in good numbers for these. They have a few too many seeds and hairs that can cause gastric upset to be eaten directly.

As for the chanterelles I found, I initially spotted some tiny buttons, barely 1 centimetre across the cap.

After searching around I found a few more larger buttons, and then after circling back again I found some more, well hidden beneath the branches and ferns. They were almost invisible.

I noticed that when chanterelles become dry they lose their yellow color, becoming more tan or tawny in colour, and they also become brittle. Some of the mushrooms snapped apart as soon as I tried to pick them.

A dry mix of branches, ferns, and salal. Chanterelles hidden underneath.

One chanterelle. Very smol.

Four chanterelle buttons. ~1cm across.

South Island - 22 August 2020

Chanterelle button cap

Encouraged by all the reported chanterelle finds , we ventured out to one of our south island chanterelle spots to see if anything was happening.

Most chanterelle hauls were coming from the Cowichan area and regions to the north, so we weren't sure if anything would be fruiting this far south.

However, as you can see from the pictures, we found what we were looking for. Nothing huge - the picture of our chanterelles cooking below represents the entire haul - but there were signs that more were on the way.

Interestingly, we also found some chanterelle pins (below left), and some other mushrooms, like dyer's polypore, velvet-footed pax, and what we think may be angel wings (identification pending).

Chanterelle mushroom pins

This is my first time clearly seeing chanterelle pins. Eager to return to record their growth.

Chanterelle mushrooms growing underground

Most of the chanterelles were growing in ditches, under logs, or in small spaces under sticks and leaves.

Pan cooking chanterelle mushroom buttons

An easy way to cook chanterelles is to toss them on high heat in a pan before baking them in an oven.

Cowichan Valley - 2 August 2020

We took a drive up to the Cowichan area over the long weekend to look for lobster mushrooms. We were not disappointed and brought back a decent haul.

We were also surprised to see a decent amount of huckleberries, and there was an abundance of salal berries as well.

The Cowichan Valley tends to be an excellent area for mushroom hunting, and some are even finding chanterelles there at this time of year. I'm excited to go back in search of pine mushrooms in the fall.

Cap of lobster mushroom growing from the ground

A lobster mushroom, looking particularly attractive from above.

Fresh processed lobster mushroom pieces in a bowl

A bowl of processed lobster mushrooms, ready for cooking.

Prince mushroom cap growing from the ground

Royal Roads - 25 July 2020

I went for a walk around Royal Roads. There weren't many mushrooms out.

Only a few half-formed lobster mushrooms, and this slightly past-prime prince mushroom, Agaricus augustus (left).

Lobster and prince mushrooms are Vancouver Island's two main summer mushrooms.

Prince mushrooms (Agaricus augustus) have the following identifying features:

  • Fine, toasty brown scales over the cap

  • Strong smell of almonds

  • Dark to black gills and black spores

  • Long stem (usually with a veil) extending quite deep into the ground

Little Qualicum Falls, 3-6 July 2020

This past weekend I went on a camping trip to Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. I also took a short hike up the slopes of Mount Arrowsmith (a great mushroom hunting spot).

One highlight of the trip was the abundance of edible berries on offer, particularly huckleberries. I've never seen so many huckleberries, including bushes bent over from the weight of them.

On Mount Arrowsmith, in the cleared and logged areas leading to the trail head, there were wild black raspberries and also local blackberries. Unfortunately, the thimble berries (my favourite) were not yet in season.

Trailing blackberries, native blackberries of Canada.

Trailing blackberry (Rubus ursinus). Delicious berries, nasty thorns.

A bowl of huckleberries

A bowl full of ripe huckleberries. One of many filled during the weekend.

Summer (Rainbow?) Chanterelles

Two summer chanterelles, possibly Cantharellus roseocanus

Perhaps the most interesting discovery of the trip were a few sad chanterelles.

I've heard of chanterelles appearing in spring and summer, but haven't found any until now.

I suspect that they might be Cantharellus roseocanus, or rainbow chanterelles.

Past prime and hollow, I didn't eat them.

A cluster of summer fruiting chanterelle mushrooms

Rainbow chanterelles (Cantharellus roseocanus) acquired species status in 2012. Identifying features include growing in clusters, having dull or mottled tops, and brighter orange false gills. They are also summer appearing.

These could also be regular chanterelles fooled by irregular weather and stunted by the poor growing conditions.

A snow melt waterfall on Mount Arrowsmith, Vancouver Island
Monotropa uniflora, the ghost pipe plant, a fungi indicator species

Ghost Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

Ghost pipes (Monotropa uniflora), also known as the corpse plant or ice flower, don't photosynthesize their nutrients like most plants. Instead, they are a parasitic mycoheterotroph, meaning that they feed on fungi mycelium. Ghost pipe plants only feed on fungi in the Russulaceae family.

We saw a number of these interesting plants around the campsite.

Ghost pipes are an indicator species for fungi in the Russulaceae family, including brittlegills (Russula mushrooms) and milk caps (Lactarius sp.)

The Great Morel Hunt. Colwood & Metchosin, 25-26 April 2020

This past weekend I set out to find some morels. I was a little optimistic, since they have already been appearing north of here for a few weeks , and the weather has been good (it rained quite heavily last Wednesday).

So, on Saturday morning I set out to scour some promising spots in Metchosin and Colwood. I started with Metchosin, and hit about 4 different areas that seemed good. Mixed hardwoods, old orchards, sunny slopes - all the places that are supposed to be morel-friendly.


Then on Sunday I set out to search in Colwood. After more than 3 hours of hiking around (again, looking for old apple trees, sunny slopes etc. etc.), I finally stumbled across my first morel for the season...

Blonde morel under bushes and leaves on Vancouver Island

Can you see it?

This picture is actually the second one I found (one of only two).

However, both were quite large and old, indicating that they had been around before the rain.

Things I'm starting to learn about blonde morels:

  • Don't mind dryer weather

  • Relatively solitary

  • Happy in shade or partial sun

As you can see, this one was growing under salal and oregon grape.

The first one I found was more exposed, but still under dense tree cover.

I'm glad I found the two, and I got to see many other beautiful sights on my excursions, but I'm eager for the flushes of black morels to start sprouting down here.

Oysters have also started to make a big appearance after the recent rains, so keep a look out for those.

Another surprising adventure from this weekend was losing my phone, only realizing once I got home, and then having to drive back and attempt to backtrack my way through dense bushes to find it. Luckily, I did :)

young oyster mushrooms

Witty's Lagoon Regional Park - 23 April 2020

Cryptoporus volvatus, veiled polypore mushroom

This park used to be a farm so it has a beautiful meadow dotted with various old fruit trees - promising ground for finding interesting mushrooms!

Perhaps our most interesting find was the veiled polypore AKA Cryptoporus volvatus (left). This mushroom appears as a hard, nut-brown bubble growing from the side of fir trees. With age they become more pale and dry, looking like cracked macarons.

They never lose their veil naturally (hence "veiled") and rely on beetles burrowing into their body to pick up and distribute spores.

The pictures below were taken at the same park.

Galloping Goose / Matheson Lake - April 11 2020

Fairy slipper, Calypso orchid in British Columbia.

On the long Easter weekend we took a long walk down the Galloping Goose trail near Matheson Lake in Metchosin.

The temperature was quite warm, and the area has many different habitats to explore.

We didn't find any interesting mushrooms (no morels), but we did find some interesting plants. For example, the Calypso or "fairy slipper" orchid (left).

Exceptionally delicate plants, care should be taken near them so as not to damage their roots. Apparently they develop a dependence on local fungi to survive.

Sooke Hills Wilderness Park - April 4 2020

On Saturday we visited Sooke Hills Wilderness Park for a short hike. This is a beautiful forest with a huge array of mushrooms to discover.

We didn't find any edible mushrooms to report this time around, but the park still offered more than enough to see.

For one, the informal south entrance is undergoing preparation for a new parking lot. A new parking lot will improve safety and could be followed by some trail renovations as well.

However, it also feels like our "secret spot" is about to be discovered. But really this area of the park is fairly well known and popular - hence the development.

The three pics below are from our short hike...

Building a new parking lot off Sooke Road.

Creeping moss over a cedar root.

Salmon berry (Rubus spectabilis) blossom.

Colwood BC Foraging (31 March & 1 April)

Above: The bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) sprouts these blossoms in spring. Harvest them when they're new. Eat fresh, cook them or put them in salads.

Morels have started to appear on Vancouver Island. I went out on a tentative search for them in the Colwood area near Victoria, but without much hope since sightings have mostly been along the east coast near Nanaimo. morels were found. However, I did harvest some bigleaf maple blossoms, fiddle-head ferns, and nettles.

The forest below is near Colwood's soon-to-be-developed gravel quarry. I have some hope for this area in the coming weeks and will be visiting it often. At the very least, there will be a lot of maple blossoms for the picking.

Forest path with maples. Morel habitat.

Above: An old abandoned apple orchard, dotted with maples. A great habitat for morels.

Early Spring Foray near Nanaimo BC - 1 March 2020

This past Sunday, we went for a short hike and tentative mushroom hunt in the Cedar area near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. It's still early in the season, so we weren't expecting to find much.

However, we did see a few interesting mushrooms poking through all the dead winter leaves, especially a small, bright-yellow waxy cap (no photo unfortunately).

We also paid a visit to one spot where we found morels last year. The temperature hasn't consistently gone above 10'C lately, so it's still not warm enough to reach the preferred ground temperature for morel growing (roughly 13'C).

Hopefully, we can return in 2-3 weeks to check again.

Otherwise, we found some black earth tongue fungus, and the early blooming Oemleria cerasiformis (AKA osoberry or Indian plum).

Indian plum can be identified by the strong cucumber taste of the leaves, which are edible, along with the berries. See the picture below for a close look at the leaves and flowers.

Black earth tongue fungus

Earth tongue fungus. One of the many black varieties.

closeup of Indian Plum leaves

Oemleria cerasiformis, AKA "Indian Plum" has both edible leaves and berries.