It was slim pickings for fungi this fall.
Fungi-expert Larry Evans, who’s been involved with Sicamous’ September Fungi Festival for about a decade, suggests that a lack of rain and a long fire season may be to blame.
“We had a pretty dry season and the smoke definitely affected mushroom production,” he said from his home in Missoula, Montana.
Evans was in Canada in September to help with the Fungi Festival.
He said he was surprised they were able to find tray-fulls of mushrooms during the festival.
“It was pretty darn dry out there,” he said.
Evans found the most fungi this season in rotting logs.
He said usually, there’s plenty of oyster mushrooms, but not this year.
“Some of the stuff we expected to see in September simply wasn’t there,” he said.
George Landry, who is active in the Sicamous- Chase area said he also found it was “slim picking” this year.
“Mushrooms normally appear year after year in the same spot, but this year the normally abundant venues were barren,” he said.
Landry said in past years he has picked Begbie, MacPherson and along the Illecillewaet, but this year didn’t venture east of Three Valley Gap.
In his experience, Landry said Russulas were rarely seen and the Lobster mushroom, which grows off its stem was also sparse.
“The coveted Chanterelle and ‘pine’ mushrooms were almost totally absent,” he said. “In fact, the forest floor was so dry that almost nothing was produced, hence the saprobes and parasitic fungus that grow on decomposing or live trees were the only reliable harvests.”
After some rain at the end of October, Landry said he started to see some of the usual suspects growing, but the early snow storm put an end to the season.
Closer to Revelstoke, Carmen Dolinsky said she also had some trouble picking mushrooms this year.
One of the reasons Dolinsky moved to Revelstoke was to forage for fungi.
“My hopes were to devour my fill of a variety of mushrooms, as the Columbia Mountains are infamous for being the most biodiverse in mushrooms within North American,” she said. “It’s in the combination of moisture that drops off the Monashees and bounces against the Selkirks and the presence of old growth forest that makes for a perfect fungi environment.”
Dolinsky tried a number of popular spots, but was only able to come away with a few mushrooms.
The one exception she said, was when she went near the flats and came away with two pounds of white Chanterelles.
“I hoped Revelstoke and its forests would deliver this season, but with the combination of a dry summer and onset of an early freeze, the mushrooms had a very short and weak window to druit from their mother mycelia,” she said.
But with all the fires this summer, Evans predicts next spring will be flush with morels, which like to grow in areas affected by burning.
Back home in Montana, Evans is still on the lookout for fungi.
“Like the squirrels,” he said, “I’m still looking for truffles.”