Who’s ‘Shrooming Who?

20150111_144814Happy Imbolg! This ancient Gaelic celebration falls halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. It’s traditionally a time of divination – of weather in particular, watching to see if serpents or badgers emerge from their dens (the basis for the American Groundhog Day). It also marks the beginning of the growing season, the lighting of candles and fires representing home and hearth, and the power of the sun as the days grow longer. At this beginning of spring, when the Earth begins to wake up from deep within its wintertime slumber, B. and I celebrate fifteen years together at Salt Point State Park.

20150111_134548In these woods, all the senses are engaged: citrusy scent of coast redwood and evergreen mingling with earthier fallen leaves on the forest floor; ocean’s roar all the way down the hill; pecking of a woodpecker glimpsed through a clearing; riot of texture and color in leaves, branches and bark, pine cones and acorns. Amidst Douglas firs, oaks, rhododendron, huckleberry, and other local species – not to mention various wonderful lichens and mosses sprouted when December’s rainstorms lashed this area, although it hasn’t rained since – we did find some Sonoma County gold:

The Sickener!

Ivory-stemmed, red-capped russula emetica, the Sickener (no, we didn’t eat it!). A vivid yellow (possibly a gilled bolete). A lovely pale lavender (cortinaria?). Endlessly amusing puffballs. “Little brown mushrooms,” discarded because we couldn’t identify them (many such mushrooms are highly toxic; spore prints are the best way to positive ID). Then B. spied our jackpot under a low underbrush of huckleberry bushes and oak: hedgehogs, chanterelles, and black death trumpets (non-toxic, they’re black chanterelles, and delicious).

Note: please be respectful and tread lightly on the land, and ONLY forage with experts like a local mycological society or if you’re absolutely sure of the mushrooms you identify.

Spore print

Chanterelles and Hedgehogs galore



About thislittleplot

Writer, hiker, loafer
This entry was posted in Birds, Family, Local Area Hikes and trips, Nature, Seasons, Uncategorized, Weather and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Who’s ‘Shrooming Who?

  1. Carol Feiner says:

    I LOVE your posts on ancient celebrations. There’s always a corresponding Jewish celebration which only confirms that everything comes from “pagan” nature celebrations. Tomorrow (Feb 3) is Tu B’Shevat, or the New year of the Trees, when trees are traditionally planted, and it’s a custom to eat a “new” fruit like grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

  2. Chris Stevens says:

    You guys have way more courage than me! I love looking at wild mushrooms but I don’t think I could ever trust my ID skills that much.

  3. tara linda says:

    Aaah this brings back North CA Coast foraging memories ;) Yum! I love how you give the roots and origins of holidays. Thank you!

  4. I would be too afraid to ‘forage’ for mushrooms by myself.
    Truth is, I would probably be afraid to eat a mushroom that I picked, even if I was accompanied by an expert from the ‘mycological society!’
    As my post ‘Mushroom in the Woods’ said–my mom scared me out of every considering hunting for mushrooms except at the grocery store.

    • Probably best to be safe; we did choose those that had no poisonous counterparts, so have been very lucky in enjoying the fruits of our foraging (but fortunately you don’t need to pick mushrooms to enjoy a walk in the forest)!

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