As the days get a bit colder and the air more crisp, the leaves tumble down from their loft perches and blanket the ground. It’s autumn in New England, a time when our thoughts turn to apples, pumpkins, Halloween, and mushrooms. Wait, mushrooms?
On Saturday, October 6, the Rochester Land Trust led their first “mushroom walk,” where residents were invited to join local mushroom expert Wesley Price for an afternoon of exploration and education on fungus.
Price, a construction field supervisor, first became interested in mushrooms while on a walk through the woods one day.
“I was just out taking a walk and I had one of those epiphanies that everything is connected,” said Price. “Fungi, at the base ecological level, are what’s necessary for nutrient cycling in the forest. They are what connects everything in a lot of ecologies.”
He joked that his real obsession with mushrooms began with a fondness for Smurfs when he was younger.
The woods by Church’s Field on Mattapoisett Road served as the ecological stage for Saturday’s walk. Over 20 people attended, many from surrounding towns like Middleboro, Marion, and Mattapoisett.
“I love mushrooms. I don’t know much about them, but they’re really cool,” said Zane Ham, a youngster who went on the walk. “I love being outside. I’m all about nature.”
Ham had collected about thirty seemingly different varieties, but with over 5,000 species of mushrooms in the United States alone, and many of which look similar, identifying them can be a trick.
After the walk, people took the mushrooms they’d collected back to the roadside to learn about what they had found. Over 100 samples were laid out on the tailgate of Price’s truck. He also brought with him over a dozen different photo-identification books, but still hit a wall with naming a few mysteries species.
“The better understanding everybody has about the ecology around them, they more likely they are to treat our environment better,” he said.
Norene Hartley of the Rochester Land Trust was very pleased with the turnout for the day.
“This was a good year for mushrooms,” she said. “We wanted people to feel free to come out, take a walk, and enjoy being outside.”
She added that the Church Field property is always open to the public for walks and exploration.
With such a strong attendance, Hartley said that there’s the possibility the Rochester Land Trust will be having another mushroom walk in the spring.
“If you guys have one, I’d love to be here to do it,” said Price.
By Eric Tripoli