It’s a bad year for certain kinds of popular mushrooms on Vancouver Island. We went mushroom hunting with two local experts to find out what’s happening
It’s dumping rain when I pull into the tiny parking lot at Blinkhorn Lake in Metchosin. Andy MacKinnon and Kem Luther are Gore Texed and rubber booted, pocket knives at the ready. More importantly, their impressively encyclopedic minds are running through everything they see as they scan the ground and skim up trees looking for fungi.
MacKinnon veers off the trail, having noticed what might be a poison pie. He brings the specimen back to the group of artists he and Luther are guiding. Cell phone cameras come out of raincoats and the artists dutifully record what they see for later reference. They’re part of a group making a series of mushroom art cards as a fundraiser. MacKinnon and Luther will identify the mushrooms and write the descriptions on the cards, which will be sold as a fundraiser for a Metchosin community group.
A few more steps and now it’s Luther off the trail. He’s found a clump of Russula fragrantissimam, which have a maraschino cherry scent, to him at least; it turns out mushrooms have the breadth of variety of scents to a mycologist as wines taste to a sommelier.
“We’ve got coconut, and one that smells like bubblegum. Smells are some of the best parts of it. The popular pine mushroom is interesting, because half the people will smell a sweet cinnamon-like smell, and the other half smell gym socks. Unfortunately, I’m a gym sock.”