Fall fun with fungi

courtesy: Roo Vandegrift

Leaves aren’t the only thing changing color this season. While you are out looking at the burnt oranges, lemony yellows and pomegranate reds above you, keep an eye out for hidden shapes and colors on the forest floor.Fall is mushroom hunting season. Mushrooms thrive in Oregon’s cool, wet climate. Morels, porcini, chanterelle and truffles are just a few of the fungi that call our soils home.

Turkey Tail (courtesy: Roo Vandegrift)

While some of our mushrooms are edible, many are also poisonous, so it’s a good idea to leave the picking and eating to the experts.

Elfin Saddle (courtesy: Roo Vandegrift)

Fungi are important to all ecosystems.

“As primary decomposers, particularly of wood, they allow nutrient cycling to happen,” says Roo Vandergrift, a PhD student at the University of Oregon. “In a forest without fungi, all of that wood would just build up, and build up, and build up.”

Fungi help the forests recycle. Just imagine what the Pacific Northwest would look like if the trees never broke down. We wouldn’t have the new trees, the lichen, the moss and turquoise ground cover you see in our old growth forests.

Learn more about mushrooms at Sunday’s Mushroom Festival at the Mt. Pisgah Arboretum.  The festival is one of the largest displays of mushrooms on the west coast. Sip freshly pressed cider as you look at hundreds of different kinds of mushrooms and learn about fungi folklore. Take a hay ride through the Arboretum and dance to live music as you munch on fall-inspired food.Take a free shuttle from Civic Stadium.

Still curious? Check out photos from last year’s event.

The Oregon Truffle Festival returns to Eugene January 25-27, 2013. Truffles reach peak ripeness in January. Register now for cooking classes, Truffle Dog Training and the famed Grand Truffle Dinner. Sunday’s Marketplace is open to the public and features special wine and food pairings, truffle dog demonstrations and cooking classes from acclaimed chefs.


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