Morning photo: Late summer

Monsoons and mushrooms …

Summer rolls by fast in the high country, but it’s not over yet. During a building El Niño year like this, subtropical moisture could linger over the southern Rockies late into August, and even early September, extending the monsoon and mushroom season. Already, this season’s abundant moisture has resulted in a bumper crop of fungi, not to mention a slew of glorious cloudscapes and carpets of wildflowers from the valleys up to the highest peaks. This short set includes a few of my favorite shots from the past week in Summit County, Colorado.

Morning photo: Got ‘shrooms?

Yes, it’s mushroom season in Colorado

FRISCO — I haven’t been posting about mushrooms as often as in past years, but that’s not because I’ve lost my fascination with the curious, ephemeral forest fruits that only appear for a few weeks in summer and early fall. I’ve noticed a general uptick in interest in fungi during the past few years and am hoping that it goes beyond simply harvesting for the table to an appreciation of the incredible role that mushrooms play in forest ecosystems. To advance that appreciation, I suggest checking in with the Colorado Mycological Society, which holds mushroom forays on many summer weekends, when you can learn from experts. Of note, the group will hold its annual mushroom fair this year on Sept. 6 at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Another great chance to learn about mountain mushrooms is at the 19th annual King Bolete Festival in Buena Vista.

Study: Western pine beetle outbreak may have weakened next generation of trees by wiping out key fungi

Hawk's wing Colorado mushrooms

Important mushroom species that help trees grow were wiped out by the mountain pine beetle epidemic, potentially leaving future forests more susceptible to renewed insect attacks. @bberwyn photo.

Widespread mushroom die-off dramatically lowers seedling survival rate

Staff Report

FRISCO — The recent pine beetle outbreak in western forests may have left the next generation of trees more vulnerable to future pests, Canadian researchers concluded in a new study that examined how the wave of tree deaths affected fungi that grow together with lodgepole pines.

Many trees, including lodgepoles, are partly dependent on certain fungi that enable a nutrient exchange at the cellular level. But the pine beetle outbreak was so widespread that many of the beneficial fungi disappeared. Continue reading

Why do some mushrooms glow in the dark?

These are N. gardneri mushrooms growing on the base of a young babassu palm in Gilbués, PI, Brazil. Credit Michele P. Verderane/IP-USP-2008

These are N. gardneri mushrooms growing on the base of a young babassu palm in Gilbués, PI, Brazil. Credit
Michele P. Verderane/IP-USP-2008.

New study examines bioluminescence in fungi

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dartmouth scientists say they’ve figured out why some mushroom species glow in the dark, and like with many other biological mysteries, the answer is both simple and complex at the same time.

Reporting their findings in the Cell Press journal Current Biology, the researchers said the light attracts the attention of beetles, flies, wasps, and ants who spread the spores, helping the fungi colonize new territory.

The study also shows that the mushrooms’ bioluminescence is under the control of the circadian clock. In fact, it was that discovery that led the researchers to suspect that the mushrooms’ light must serve some useful purpose. Continue reading

Unlocking the secrets of truffle aroma

Scientists say soil microbes key to fungi’s distinctive aroma

An Oregon white truffle, courtesy Oregon State University

An Oregon white truffle, courtesy Oregon State University

Staff Report

FRISCO — Mushroom season may be over the Colorado high country, but in parts of Europe, it’s the peak of the truffle season, as hundreds of gourmets scour oak forests to find the fragrant buried fungi, often with the help of animals.

Now scientists say that the scent of the hidden edible treasures is largely produced not by the fungi itself, but by soil bacteria trapped inside truffle fruiting bodies, a discovery of interest not only to mycophiles, but to scientists speciazing in food flavors.

The study involved white truffles from the Piedmont region in Italy, which can cost up to 5,000 Euro per kilo (about $4,000 a pound), and black truffles from the Périgord region in Southern France. Particularly large specimens even fetch prices of up to 50,000 Euro per kilogram at auctions. Continue reading

Morning photo: Treeline!

‘Shroom hunting in Colorado

Evening vista in Mayflower Gulch, Summit County, Colorado.

Evening vista of the Tenmile Range, Summit County, Colorado.

FRISCO — Aug. 31 is a bit late for the peak of the mushroom season in Colorado, but after a stream of rainy days, we headed up high, near treeline, to search for fungi. In some of the moist, north-facing draws along the rough road into the Tenmile Range, we found a profusion of mushrooms, as many as 10 species in a square meter, including funky corals, puffballs and tasty wild agaricus, an edible variety closely related to grocery store mushrooms.

Seeing the mushrooms at peak season, bursting through a living tapestry of moss and lichen, makes me realize how big a part of the forest life force these humble fungi really are, locking carbon deep in the soil and helping the trees, old and young, absorb nutrients from the thin Rocky Mountain soil. Continue reading

Morning photo: ‘Shroom hunting!

Prime time for Colorado fungi

Colorado mushrooms

Clavaria purpurea, purple coral mushroom growing in the Tenmile Range near Frisco, Colorado.

FRISCO — For a couple of weeks every summer I need to set aside extra time every few days to search for wild mushrooms. It’s not just the eating — I’m totally fascinated by the role fungi have in forest ecosystems, with some recent studies suggesting that they may be the key drivers of the forest carbon carbon cycle because of how they interact with plants to sequester carbon deep in forest soils. This morning, during a short walk in the Tenmile Range, I found one decaying section of a log, about two square feet, home to at least six species of fungi (that I could see), along with many more types of moss and lichen, all woven into a living, organic mat on the forest floor. And, as icing on the cake, I did find a couple of Boletus edulis, delicious edibles sought after around the world under various names, including porcini and cep. Continue reading


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