Foraging Journal 2021

Metchosin & Sooke Hills - Mid September 2021

Wood woolyfoot mushroom with dense mycelium on forest floor

I've been doing a few trips and walks around the southernmost portion of Vancouver Island. We still seem to be below the current mushroom frenzy going on just a short distance north (Port Renfrew - Vancouver lattitudes and up).

However, mushrooms are still popping up, and some interesting ones too.

Here I've assembled some photos of a few finds.

Of particular interest are the Wood Woolyfoot (left) or Marasmiellus peronatus (previously Gymnopus peronatus). This mushroom is a transplant from Europe and makes dense mats of mycelium, which I managed to capture in the picture. It's now quite common in southern BC forests.

I also got some pics of Phaeomarasmius erinaceus (below right). Apparently this mushroom is quite rare and pops up only after heavy rains. I had to get some help from Twitter identifying it because it wasn't in any of my books. I suspect that the classification isn't accurate though, being borrowed from European varieties.

yellow staghorn mushroom, calocera cornea

Small staghorn - Calocera cornea

Many small white mushrooms growing from a Douglas fir cone on moss

(Douglas) Fir cone mushroom - Strobilurus trullisatus

Three small shaggy mushrooms growing from an alder log

Phaeomarasmius erinaceus

Cowichan Valley - Early September 2021

We spent a few days camping in Cowichan Valley. It seems like this was the weekend that the fall rains really got started, so although it was wet the mushrooms didn't really have a chance to get going by the time we got there.

However, with that said, we did find a few interesting specimens (see below). We also found some very sad and confused looking lobster mushrooms.

We also found a grand total of three (3) small chanterelles. This was a little disappointing as people have started to find impressive hauls of these mushrooms around Port Renfrew and north, and the Cowichan Valley is usually pretty good for mushrooms.

Hopefully we'll get a chance to return later in the season.

Lake Cowichan in the Cowichan Valley on a sunny day
Young red-belted polypore mushroom showing guttation

Could be a young red-belted conk, Fomitopsis mounceae

Three brown mushrooms growing from a log

Deer mushroom, Pluteus exilis

Colourful dyer's polypore mushroom

Dyer's polypore, Phaeolus schweinitzii

Sheep polypore mushroom cluster

I think this is an Albatrellus sp. Perhaps the "sheep polypore" A. ovinus

A chanterelle mushroom growing from under a log

Areas with logs and ditches are great for finding early chanterelles, as they sometimes form little micro-climates that encourage growth.

The remains of an old track through the forest

A track through the forest, I assume for transporting logs once upon a time. Maybe just a metal track? Unlikely that they'd set up a whole rail system...

Late August Foraging 2021

We've been out a few times this month, once as far north as the Cowichan Valley. However, it seems that the drought has really taken its toll. One spot where we found bumper crops of lobster mushrooms the previous two years was barren, except for one rotten specimen.

We did find a few small rainbow chanterelles (sadly no pics), as well as a large and fresh dyer's polypore (bottom left) and velvet rollrim (bottom right). The velvet rollrims (also known as velvet-footed pax) were especially out in force.

Both of these mushrooms are great for the dye pot, and that's how we plan on using the few that we collected. There are reports of chicken of the woods, lobsters, and some chanterelles in some places.

To the left is a simple diagram that I made for a special project I'm working on 😉

A bright young dyer's polypore mushroom

Above: Dyer's polypore or dyer's conk - Phaeolus schweinitzii

Velvet rollrim - tapinella atrotomentosa mushrooms growing from a tree

Above: Velvet rollrim - Tapinella atrotomentosa

Making Blackberry Wine - August 2021

Many of the local plants are suffering due to the drought. However, the invasive Himalayan blackberry seems to be doing okay.

In wetter years, it's common to lose a flush of berries to rot and mold once they get rained on. This year, we have the opposite problem, with many berries simply drying up on the vine.

On the other hand, thickets growing near a water source are doing quite well. So, of course, we made the best of it and managed to harvest two large buckets of high-quality berries in a relatively short amount of time. We then set about making some blackberry wine.

We've done this twice before, with mixed results. Our first attempt turned out well, while the second batch produced a watery wine that was prone to souring, and we still have bottles of both.

As it turns out, with some water, sugar, yeast, and some effort, you can produce more wine than you can drink (responsibly).

I'll post this year's recipe and brewing method over on our Patreon page soon (it's up!). And of course, stick around for updates on how it turns out.

thicket of flowering himalayan blackberry bushes

Thicket of flowering blackberry bushes

Closeup of bubbles formed by fermenting process in bottle of blackberry wine

Yeast releases carbon dioxide as it feeds on the sugar.

bucket of blackberries

A bucket full of berries. We added some frozen ones to the mix as well.

Paradise Meadows - Strathcona Park - July 2021

We identified many of these plants with the help of this book.

Mountain Flowers of Vancouver Island

Last month we took a camping trip up the coast a short distance from Mount Washington, Vancouver Island's tallest peak.

While there, we took a drive up to a favourite spot of ours - Paradise Meadows on the western side of the mountain, the gateway to the Forbidden Plateau.

It was blazing hot and dry and we took a walk along the boardwalk trail. As hot and dry as it was, it was wildflower season up there, so we got some good photos of flowers.

See the pics below for some good examples, identified to the best of my abilities.

Hopefully we get a chance to visit again in the fall to pick some berries and see some of the weird and wonderful mushrooms growing at that altitude.

The bog blueberries are a particular favorite of mine. While their flowers are pretty, the berries manage to achieve a range of flavours, all from one plant, so you never know what you're going to get.

Thankfully, the rains have just come, so we'll try to get out and see some mushrooms soon. Cheers!

Paradise meadows trail

Slender bog-orchid - Platanthera stricta

White bog-orchid - Platanthera dilatata

Bog blueberry - Vaccinium uliginosum

Bunchberry - Cornus canadensis

White rhododendron - Rhododendron albiflorum

Mountain heather - Phyllodoce empetriformis & Cassiope mertensiana

Rockhounding on Vancouver Island - Flowerstone & Dallasite

It's hot and it's dry - not great weather for mushrooms. But, it is great weather for the beach, and Vancouver Island's beaches are covered in interesting treasures including many semi-precious and collectable stones. Below are two types of stone found almost exclusively on Vancouver Island, both prized by hobbyists and collectors.

Vancouver island flowerstone

Vancouver Island Flowerstone

Vancouver Island's flowerstone is a kind of basalt (a fairly common volcanic rock) dotted with feldspar crystals. In some cases, these crystals have formed into a flower-like pattern, hence the name.

The best specimens have clear, well-formed white flowers on a black background, while others appear on dark grey or greenish backgrounds with faded, green, or even orange-ish flowers. Many also have malformed flowers or just a lot of scattered "petals".

Based on one source that I read, these rocks were likely formed in the Triassic Period some 200 million years ago when feldspar crystals suspended in lava were attracted to each other, forming clusters before the lava cooled.

I believe our flowerstone is different from the chrystanthemum or peony stones found in some parts of Asia which are also called "flowerstone".

Vancouver Island Dallasite

Dallasite is a kind of breccia - which is formed when one type of rock (or rocks) fracture and have the gaps between them filled in by something else. In the case of dallasite, the infill is quartz, but can also contain a number of other minerals that create some colour variation.

Most dallasite specimens consist of a white background covered in jagged light-green or tan shapes, which are themselves highlighted by a spotty black outline. The ratio of these three elements (background, shapes, and outline) can vary. For example, in some specimens the black outlines almost completely overtake and fill the background.

Dallasite is named after Dallas Road in Victoria and they are sometimes used in jewelry due to the fact that they polish up very well.

Vancouver Island dallasite

Spring Garden Flowers - May & June 2021

Things have been pretty quiet this spring on the mushroom front.

I've found a few oyster mushrooms, but haven't been able to get out and do a big search for morels. I checked the spot where I found some last year, but nothing, affirming what I already knew about morels being elusive.

I have been spending more time in the garden, and so I've decided to post some pretty spring flower pictures here. Some are garden varieties, other native.


Spring Flowers & Edible Plants - April 2021

White trillium flower growing in spring

One of the undeniable signs of spring is the plants and flowers budding and sprouting up in every direction.

Trillium ovatum, or the Western Trillium (left) is one of the most iconic spring flowers we have here in British Columbia. They start off a brilliant white, but gradually turn pink and then purple as they mature. I've heard that this change is triggered by polination, carried out by ants, but I'm not sure.

Spring is also a great time to harvest fresh green edible plants. Below are two examples...

Bottom left: The still-furled shoots of young Lady ferns, known as fiddleheads. Be careful if you plan on harvesting these. First, they can be hard to identify. There are many fern varieties and some are thought to be toxic - so beware! Next, the edible varieties are not very abundant and grow in sensitive areas, so harvest sparingly if at all.

Bottom right: Stinging nettles. Again, there are some similar looking plants for the unexperienced and you should definitely use gloves when picking or handling these. They really do sting! Thankfully, the stinging effect goes away after cooking, and both fiddleheads and nettles are great for blanching as a healthy side or baking into savory dishes.

Two young fiddlehead fern shoots growing from the ground

Above: Young fiddlehead fern shoots

Two stinging nettle plants seen from above and growing on Vancouver Island

Above: Fresh stinging nettle leaves

Hiking Around Thetis Lake - 21 March 2021

Young western red cedar tree on Vancouver Island

This past weekend we went for a walk around the north side of Thetis Lake near Langford BC.

The weather is just starting to warm, so a few plants and fungi are peaking out. We didn't find much, except for the common spring mushroom Cryptoporus volvatus, the veiled polypore.

Cryptoporus volvatus is commonly seen in the spring, growing from dead conifers. The mushroom's spore-producing parts remain completely enclosed in a hard veil, making them look like a nut-brown bubbles growing from the tree. To spread their spores, they rely on beetles crawling inside and carrying them to other trees - like fungal polinators.

You can see on the left a beautiful young western red cedar growing near a river. These trees prefer wetter areas, near rivers or swamps, and tend to alter the ground around them once they form durable stands. I believe they do this by acidifying the area, making it difficult for many plants (and fungi) to grow.

I've resolved to take more tree pictures and I plan to write something soon for identifying common trees in British Columbia, so look out for that!

Also: A reminder about two articles I've posted here. One is on some of the difficulties and sources of confusion for species classification on the west coast, and the other is about edible Russula mushrooms in BC.

Moss and lichen growing on a log

Lipstick lichen, the result of a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae.

Closeup of fungus, Cryptoporus volvatus - veiled polypore

Cryptoporus volvatus - veiled polypore

First of the Season - 6 March 2021

Bunch of oyster mushrooms growing next to a stream
Closeup of oyster mushroom gills

Hey, we're back!

The weather was great on Saturday so we went for a walk in a nearby park. Of course we were going to keep an eye out to see what might be growing, but we also weren't expecting much.

However, we spotted these lovely oyster mushrooms growing (where else) in a creek bed filled with dead alders.

They actually weren't super fresh. As you can see, they've gone a bit "crispy" at the edges, implying that they've been out for a while.

I think we'll be back to collect some soon.

If you want to learn more about oyster mushrooms, check out our full-length guide, or pick up this illustrated summary.