August 8, 2022
Good evening, friends,
This past weekend, hundreds of mycophiles from across the country descended upon Stonehedge Gardens in Tamaqua, PA for this year’s Mycofest, a festival for mushrooms and art. Hosted by William Padilla-Brown and the team at Mycosymbiotics, this is quickly turning into one of my favorite weekends of the year. This was my second year in attendance and the new setting, the music, and the robust schedule were all major improvements from last year’s festival.
As is usually the case following these stimulating and deeply inspiring weekends, my brain is mush. My heart, however, is full, and I’m secreting good vibrations from every pore of my body. Hopefully some of them are transferable through email. We’re going to do a picture round-up of the weekend, starting with a picture of the identification table below, and then we’ll get back to the regular scheduled programming next weekend.
What makes Mycofest unique is that it attracts a broad spectrum of people ranging from bonified PhD’s to people just looking for a comfortable place to ingest psychoactive mushrooms (there’s some overlap in that Venn diagram, folks). It’s commonplace to take in a presentation on the cis-trans isomerism of psychoactive compounds in mushrooms, only to look to the left and see the dude next to you smoking a bowl. You’ll revel in a presentation on the history of the Susquehanna River comprehensive enough to include a Kobe Bryant death conspiracy. You’ll be jamming out to some of the fantastic live music and see the person that presented on the taxonomy of entomopathogenic fungi burning down the dance floor (figuratively, of course) right in front of you. It’s a great place for novel thought, discussion, and building connections.
Although there was no official keynote presentation, it felt like the buzz was most palpable for the folks from Oakland Hyphae – amassing the large crowd seen above. Reggie and Ian presented on the research and development that went into conducting the first Psilocybin Cup – a competition to measure the quantity of psychoactive compounds in magic mushrooms submitted to them by growers from around the country. My favorite part of the festival was seeing people I met last year and basically picking right back up where we left off. We hadn’t seen each other in a year and we didn’t miss a beat. The cultural mycelium is strong.
There were UV light forays both Friday and Saturday night. Leaving at 10:30 PM, we took special UV flashlights into the woods to see which flora, fauna, and funga fluoresced under this wavelength of light that is invisible to us in broad daylight.
This millipede, which in daylight is mostly black with yellow accents, fluoresced a neon blue under UV light. Everyone speculated why they might emit this vibrant color or whether they even know they reflect this color to begin with. I noted the white patterns on my shirt were quite active under the UV light, but I wasn’t cognizant of that when I put it on, so perhaps the millipede is in a similar situation.
What’s also interesting is that any plant with chlorophyll will fluoresce red, as seen in the grass above (I believe it’s invasive Japanese stilt grass, Microstegium vimineum). I tried to look up why this occurs and it went a bit above my head, but it has to do with the UV light exciting the electrons in the chlorophyll and causing them to reflect light at the lowest energy wavelength (which happens to be red light). My friend Rick got a good photo of this preying mantis too:
Now let’s get fungal and look at some of the neater finds from the two forays I participated in this weekend. One took place in Tuscarora State Park and the other was at Locust Lake State Park. Although it’s been a dry summer across the northeast, we got some substantial rain on Friday afternoon which gave us a nice flush of small, ephemeral mushrooms popping out of oak leaves and pine duff.
Below is a little bonnet mushroom (Mycena) growing out of an oak leaf, perhaps the Purple-edge bonnet (Mycena purpureofusca).
Another cluster of Bonnets (Mycena) growing out of oak wood.
The Blackfoot polypore or Elegant polypore (Cerioporus varius – I wrote about this mushroom here). The fascinating part of this specimen was that it developed pores on the top of it’s cap in addition to the regular pore surface underneath the cap.
Rick’s macro-lens photo of this phenomenon is really beautiful. To the extent of my knowledge, it’s unknown why some polypores develop pores on the top of their cap.
Slammers (as my friend Adam called them) or Lactarius psammicola. Mycorrhizal with oaks, the potently acrid taste and “in-rolled cap margins” (see how the edge of the cap droops down) are identifying characteristics.
Below are mushrooms I identified in the field as small chanterelles (Cantharellus minor). However, after researching online and conferencing with the much sharper mycologists in the NYMS zoom ID session, I believe this is the Flame chanterelle (Craterellus ignicolor). The color of the false gills was subtly pink, which unfortunately doesn’t come up in the photos, and the bellybutton in the cap also suggest C. ignicolor.
Someone found Ochre Jelly Clubs (Leotia lubrica).
Finally, my favorite find of the weekend: Goldenthread Cordyceps, Tolypocladium ophioglossoides:
We felt like archeologists as we were down on our knees carefully parsing through the leaf litter and excavating the soil millimeter by millimeter. We followed the yellow mycelium not to the Emerald City of Oz, but to the deer truffle (Elaphomyces) on which this fungus feasts. I have a bunch of pictures of these fascinating fungal parasites but this will probably be next week’s feature mushroom (unless I see something even more rad this week), so I’ll just let you marinate in anticipation until then.
Lastly, I made my central Pennsylvania local Fox affiliate television debut this weekend which you can take in here. Is this non-speaking, three second cameo the break I need to launch my fungal career to a viral influencer level? Likely, yes. I always knew I was destined for a medium greater than email. I’ll try to remember you all when Timothée Chalamet and I are apprenticing truffle hunters under Nic Cage’s gruff guidance in Pig 2, before, low and behold, Nic’s beloved truffle pig gets kidnapped again and we’re tasked into a rescue mission bigger and bolder than the last one. Coming soon to a theater near you.
This Thursday night we’ll have a galactic clash with the last super moon of the calendar year, the “Sturgeon Moon”, upstaging the peak of the Perseid Meteor showers (there’s no physical clash, the bright moon will likely just make it more difficult to see the meteor showers),