Date: April 8, 2015
Leader: Mike Hopping
The run-up to the Asheville Mushroom Club’s first foray of the 2015 season had been a weeklong drumbeat of dismal forecasts: rain and thunderstorms with the potential for damaging hail or frogs from heaven. Fifteen club members and author Langdon Cook (The Mushroom Hunters) were not deterred. In search of morels we girded up our loins for the trip into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The day dawned soupy with fog. It dissipated at the state line. Conditions in the Cosby section of the park were warm and partly cloudy. The woods were bursting with fresh shades of green. Wildflowers bloomed in profusion.
Mushrooms weren’t numerous, but a few young Dryad’s Saddles were found along with a couple of Ganoderma lucidum buttons. For the second year in a row we saw a trouping terrestrial species with a smooth brown convex cap, pale brown gills and a fragile, white, hollow stalk. A spore-print settled last year’s disagreement between Charlotte and I about the genus. As she suspected, the spores were blackish. The combination of habitat and fruiting in yellow morel season fits a species new to the club record: Psathyrella pseudovernalis, the Spring Brittlestem.
Morels were found too. Robin Brooks topped the list inside of regulation time, with twenty-two blacks. Most were quite small, this being Cosby, as were the yellows and few poplar morels brought in. (The reason for the size peculiarity at this site remains unclear. An unreliable source claims it to be the result of a Native American curse gone wrong. Instead of afflicting warriors of the neighboring village as intended, the curse merely stunted their morels.) Given that history it seems appropriate to acknowledge Cosby’s uniqueness. This year’s winner in the micro-morel category was Laurie Jaegers, whose poplar morel wouldn’t cap a Bic pen. A few foray participants, including Lang Cook, stayed late. That paid off with a couple dozen bonus blacks.
To end on an ominous note: We talked with a crew of park employees who were treating ash trees in hopes of holding off the emerald ash borer. The bugs have reached Gatlinburg and are killing trees in about two years. Preventive treatment consists either of injecting trees with pesticide or, preferably, splashing a different compound around the root zones. Treated trees are marked with pink to red paint. Be alert for this paint when hunting edible mushrooms around ash in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.