I got up a little after 5:00 am today and got myself ready to head out with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne a little after 6:00. Roxanne and I were going to the Mushroom Mosey in Grass Valley (about an hour east of Sacramento).
The Mushroom Mosey was taking place at Kenny Ranch which is adjacent to the Twin Cities Church at 11726 Rough and Ready Hwy, Grass Valley, California 95945 (at an elevation of about 2000 feet) and was being hosted by the California Native Plant Society and the Bear Yuba Land Trust. The trails are open t the public for free, so they’re available year round.
We got to the location about 8:30 but then had to wait for everyone else to show up and get two different waivers signed. There were maybe 20 people in the group including our guides Daniel Nicholsen and Shane Hanofee.
Start Time: 9:00 am
Start Temperature: 43º F
End Time: 12:00 pm
End Temperature: 48º F
Weather: Foggy and mostly cloudy
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 8 hours
Miles Walked: 2
It was a chilly 43° when we arrived, and the foothill fog was dragging its belly across the hills, so it was very wet and felt colder than it really was. As the mosey went on, though, the fog lifted and it got up to about 48°.
The place presents a mix of habitats in a small space including mixed conifer and oak forests, some chaparral, and riparian areas. Lots of heritage Incense Cedars, Gray Pine and Black Oak trees there, along with manzanita, alders, invasive French Broom, and wild plum. This time of year is supposed to good for mushroom hunting, and in the spring, it’s supposed to be a great wildflower spot.
Overview of the “Mosey”, the Positives: Some of us were given loupes (tiny powerful magnifying glasses that you have to hold up to your eye to use) but I was satisfied with the macro attachment on my cell phone.
Shane and Daniel said the cellphones couldn’t see enough detail to do any real scientific identification work, but mine works well for my own purposes. Several people saw me using it and were so impressed by how easily and well it worked that they asked me about it and took photos of the attachment so they could buy their own.
One of my favorite things from the walk is that it showed me new places to look for things. It never occurred to me to look at the plum trees or French broom for galls; or to look at the tiny tips of a cedar tree for mushrooms. Those were called “Earth Tongues”.
“…Saprobic fungus with small, brightly colored fruit bodies produced on Incense Cedar and Yellow Cedar needles. Easily recognizable by the habitat, in combination with the gelatinous texture, and convex to round ‘heads’ and short to nearly indistinct stipe…”
I learned that fungi can have about 36,000 sexes. Split Gill, for example, has more than 23,000 different sexes or “sex types”. “More combinations of genes help protect against potential threats like droughts or parasites.”
An article Discovery magazine tried to explain it:
“…The “sexes” don’t really involve physical differences either, as we might think of when the word “sex” comes to mind. The variations are all in the genome, at two separate loci, or locations, each of which has two alleles, or alternate forms. The loci are called A and B and the alleles are termed “alpha” and “beta.” That makes four possible sexes, but there’s another twist. Every A-alpha/beta and B-alpha/beta can have many different variants, called specificities. It amounts to more than 339 specificities for A and 64 for B. Putting those two together yields thousands of possible unique sexes.
The fungus can mate with any specificity as long as it’s different somewhere on both A and B. So, two prospective mates could both have the same A-beta and B-alpha, but have different A-alphas and B-betas and they’d be fine to hook up. If they shared A-alpha and A-beta, though, their pheromones wouldn’t be compatible, meaning that they couldn’t carry out the reproductive process. That leaves a ton of options for mating, though, and essentially means that anyone a fungus meets is fair game for sexy time…”
We also learned that the whole taxonomy system for mushrooms and other fungi has been turned on its head over the last decade, so a lot of the field guide are now out of date. They’ll give you a good starting point for an ID, but aren’t the end all and be all. Some of the smaller mushrooms, too, can only be sorted out on the microscopic level, which is why mycology is a difficult discipline. Shane and Daniel said they’ve logged about 1200 species between them in the region, but there were several small specimens they saw today that they felt hadn’t been added to their database yet, so they collected those.
We were shown how to catch the scent of some of the mushrooms (by crushing the cap or stipe) and how to differentiate some by how they stain. We got to see the Bleach-Scented Mycina, Mycena leptocephali, and the Garlic Mushroom, Mycetinis scorodoniu. Both of them looked very similar to me, but the smells were very distinct. That will be something I’ll be checking more from now on.
And I also got to see several species we don’t see in Sacramento because the habitats and elevations are different here. I saw my first Apricot Jelly Fungus which looked like a horn-shaped gummy bear, Rock Tripe which kind of looked like sheets of brown slime covered with black warts, Lung Lichen which looked like sheets of lung tissue from a smoker’s lung, and Bladder Plum Galls.
Those galls were weird. I’d never seen one before, and would have passed it by completely if our guides hadn’t pointed it out. It’s a Bladder Plum Gall caused by a fungus called Taphrina pruni, on a wild plum tree. The fungus causes the tree to “abort” the fruit (plum) and replace it with this sac-like gall which the fungus then fills with its spores. The galls feel kind of flexible and rubbery at this stage. There were several on the tree we saw.
What’s doubly cool is: this is we were seeing these galls in the winter; shriveled and about an inch long. In the spring/summer, when the galls are new, they’re bright green and about 3 inches long. ((So, now I need to get back out there in the galls season!))
We also found a few very nice specimens of Bird’s Nest Fungus, Crucibulum laeve. The nests in this species have a cap over them at first, hiding the little “eggs” inside. Once they pop their lids, though, the eggs — which carry the spores — are visible. Each egg is attached to a tether.
“…[This] cord, which is called a funiculus in Mycologese, is the egg’s mechanism for attaching itself to sticks, leaves, and other plant debris. When a raindrop falls into the nest, the eggs are projected out of the cup. As this happens, the cord is stretched to its limit–then breaks away from the nest, remaining attached to the egg. Where the cord was attached to the nest, it becomes frayed, since it was torn away. The little frayed ends are adhesive, and when they come into contact with, for example, a leaf, they attach themselves. This stops the flight of the egg, which then swings back and attaches itself to the leaf as well…”
Overview of the “Mosey”, the Negatives: The group was a large one, as I noted, but none of the guides paid attention to how the group expanded and contracted along the trail. Rather than having someone at the front and someone at the rear of the group, making sure everyone was accounted for and everyone was able to see and hear with the guide in the front was talking about, all of the guides stayed at the front of the group. That meant that if you stopped to get a photo of the first species you were shown, you then had to rush to rejoin the group and missed what was being said about the second specimen. It was VERY frustrating.
At one point, one of the guides threw away the specimen before the rest of the group even got a chance to see it. He was done talking about it, and that was that. Ridiculous. I felt like I was cheated out of half of the information I should have been getting.
The pace was also waaaaay too fast for me. It wasn’t a “mosey”, it was a “power walk”. The ground was slippery with wet clay mud, slippery leaves and rocks that rolled under your feet, and I really struggled to keep up — which meant I wasn’t able to really appreciate the landscape around me. I had to keep watching where I was stepping.
By the end of the walk, I was about a half mile behind the guides – and not one of them came back to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for. I also don’t think the guides ever did head-counts at ANY point of the walk, so there would be no way for them to tell if they lost people. To me, that’s inexcusable – and dangerous for the participants. Yes, you sign the waivers when you come it, but that doesn’t the excuse the trip leaders to IGNORE basic safety principles in the field.
That last stretch was a slippery uphill road, and by the time I got to it I was so sore and exhausted I just couldn’t make it any further. Roxanne was with me, but it’s not like she could carry me up the hill. Luckily, a woman named Rae Anne was near us. She’s a teacher at a school near the church and went on the trails often, so she knew where everything was and how to get there. She could see that I was struggling and even though she didn’t know me from Eve, she offered to (literally) run up the hill, get her car, and drive it down to where I was. She then taxied Roxanne and I up to the parking lot where we started. I was sooooooooooo grateful. I think I said Thank You about six times. Hah!
We’d “only” walked for about 3 hours, but the pace was too fast and the terrain was a little too rugged for me (at that speed). It wore me out.
All in all, although I liked seeing a new place and finding some new-to-species, I was very disappointed by how the outing was handled. Once we were back at the parking lot, Roxanne and I didn’t stay for the trash pick-up detail and instead headed back to Sacramento.
The location is easy to get to and the trail is relatively easy to walk (I’d actually call it “moderate” for me, really, not “easy”but it’s probably easy for most people), and the place holds a lot of promise. I’d very much like to go back there…but if I do, it won’t be with a group and it will be at my own pace.
- Acuminate Ink Cap, Coprinopsis atramentaria var. acuminate [scant veil, bell-shaped cap]
- Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni
- Apricot Jelly Fungus, Guepinia helvelloides
- Bicolored Bracket Gloeoporus dichrous
- Birds Nest Fungus, Common Bird’s Nest Fungus, Crucibulum laeve
- Black-Footed Polypore, Polyporus badius [The Bad-Ass Polypore]
- Bladder Plum Gall fungus, Taphrina pruni
- Bleach-Scented Mycena, Mycena leptocephali [dark, very small mushroom]
- Bryum Moss, Bryum capillare
- California Barberry, Mahonia pinnata [spiny leaves]
- California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
- California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
- Conifer Mazegill, Gloeophyllum sepiarium
- Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
- Earth Tongues, Gelatinodiscus flavidus
- False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum Ostrea
- French Broom Gall Mite, Aceria genistae
- French Broom, Genista monspessulana
- Funeral Bell Galerina, Galerina marginata
- Garlic Mushroom, Mycetinis scorodonius [pale, very small mushroom], before 2005 was listed as Marasmius scorodonius
- Gem-Studded Puffball, Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum
- Giraffe’s Spots Fungus, Peniophora albobadia
- Globular Springtail, Ptenothrix marmorata
- Golden Mushroom, Floccularia luteovirens [video; stained red]
- Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
- Honey Fungus, Shaggy Cap Honey Fungus, Armillaria sinapina
- Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
- Jelly Spot Jelly Fungus, Dacrymyces chrysospermus
- Lung Lichen, Lobaria anthraspis
- Manzanita Leaf Gall Aphid, Tamalia coweni
- Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa [fern-like leaves]
- Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
- Poison Pie Mushroom, Hebeloma crustuliniforme
- Rock Tripe, Umbilicaria phaea
- Rosy Short-Head Millipede, Brachycybe rosea
- Sierra Plum, Prunus subcordata
- Smokey Bracket Fungus, Bjerkandera adusta
- Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens [White lichen on rock with black apotheca]
- Split Gill Fungus, Schizophyllum commune
- Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
- White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
- White Cup Fungus, Calyptella capula [no gills]
- White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida
- White Russula, Russula brevipes