Weird and wonderful mushrooms are worth an epic hike
Apr 19, 2023
Jun 5, 2023
Submitted photo Park visitors check out mushroom samples collected by the Central Pennsylvania Mushroom Club.
LEWISTOWN — As the days get warmer, walking through the woods can be as therapeutic as it is educational, and an epic hike of summer certainly can motivate you through the cold winter months.
Summer brings the opportunity to explore local forests and parks or even your own backyard for those weird, fascinating organisms – mushrooms.
Rather than gazing at the treetops, direct your gaze to the miniature world at your feet, and see how many kinds of mushrooms you can spot on your next hike.
"They might find mushrooms growing on trees, logs or out of the ground," said Jen Moore, environmental education specialist at Greenwood Furnace State Park in Huntingdon.
"Attendees might be surprised to learn which mushrooms are harmful or that some fungi glow at night," she added.
Want to know more? You’ll have to attend the Huntingdon County park's Mushroom Walk from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The event is free; no registration is required.
Join the Central Pennsylvania Mushroom Club for an introduction to fungi. The program includes a short orientation on mushrooms and how they grow followed by a walk to forage.
Attendees should bring a basket or plastic bags to collect samples for identification.
A brief primer
Mushrooms are the fruit of mycelium, a network of a single-cell thread just under the ground. If you kick up loose material from the forest floor and see what looks like a thick, white spiderweb, that's mycelium.
It creates a symbiotic relationship with the trees and other organic matter around it, and when it gets enough nutrients – and the conditions are right – up pops a mushroom.
Where to find them?
Mycelium can be found almost anywhere, which means mushrooms can pop up anywhere.
Many require water or moist conditions to make their final push through the soil.
Moore was leading another program at the park last week and saw toadstools.
"The Central PA Mushroom Club usually brings mushrooms with them that they have collected at other places," Moore explained.
While the hike should certainly quench the adventure thirst of nature enthusiasts, those who cook with mushrooms might also benefit.
"Folks that are interested in collecting wild mushrooms to eat should attend to learn which ones not to eat, and the effects if eaten and how to identify them."
On Saturday, the walk will start at Pavilion No. 1. For more information, please visit http://events.dcnr.pa.gov.
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