Emily Vance photo - Terry Taylor is a mushroom expert and member of the Arrowsmith Naturalists, who organized the fifth annual Mid-Island Mushroom Festival in Coombs on Oct. 27. The event was a hit, drawing people from up and down the island, with mycologists bringing in over a hundred samples of different types of mushrooms.

Emily Vance photo - Terry Taylor is a mushroom expert and member of the Arrowsmith Naturalists, who organized the fifth annual Mid-Island Mushroom Festival in Coombs on Oct. 27. The event was a hit, drawing people from up and down the island, with mycologists bringing in over a hundred samples of different types of mushrooms.

Festival in Coombs offers practical advice on mushroom gathering

Co-organizer Terry Taylor shares tips, safety advice for would-be mycologists

The fifth annual Mid-Island Mushroom Festival in Coombs brought together fungi-aficionados from up and down Vancouver Island. The event at the Coombs Fairgrounds was well-attended, by curious onlookers and mycological experts alike.

Co-organizer of the event, Terry Taylor, knows his mushrooms. He’s been involved in mycology in B.C. since the 1970s, back when he was helping to host mushroom shows in Vancouver.

Now Taylor is a member of the Arrowsmith Naturalists, the group responsible for organizing the event.

The fair was host to mushroom vendors as well as art, clothing, pottery and more, but the most popular exhibit by far was a line of mycologists, on hand to showcase samples of different mushroom families and help people identify the mushrooms they brought in.

READ MORE: Giant mushroom find makes Thanksgiving tastier for B.C. couple

However, even the experts were stumped at some of the fungi they saw. Taylor says that’s just due to the sheer variety of mushrooms that call the mid-Island home.

“In this local area, there’s probably several thousand species of mushrooms. That’s why we have a lot of difficulty putting names on a lot of them,” said Taylor.

Mushroom foraging can be a rewarding pastime, with the forests and mountain slopes near Parksville and Qualicum Beach offering an array of varietals, including delicacies like pine (matsutake) mushrooms and golden chanterelles, to name a few.

However, Taylor and other experts caution against going out to find edible varieties without knowing exactly what you’re looking for.

“Best to go with somebody who knows already. Preferably join a mushroom club, or mycological society,” said Taylor.

The closest mycological society to the Parksville Qualicum Beach area is in Victoria, but the Arrowsmith Naturalists often get together in the fall to go on mushroom walks.

READ MORE: Experts warn against picking Vancouver Island’s magic mushrooms species

“Mainly, go after the mushrooms you know already. The ones that are easy to identify, and learn the details of them. Chanterelles, pine mushrooms, etcetera. Also learn the poisonous mushrooms – the other mushrooms that are similar.”

The pine mushroom in particular has a deadly lookalike called Smith’s amanita that Taylor says has caused problems in the past. It even grows in the same areas, making accurate identification an even more important part of harvesting pine mushrooms.

“Every year the poison control centre in Vancouver and St. Paul’s hospital usually has someone on kidney dialysis from making this mistake,” said Taylor.

Also making headlines lately is the death cap mushroom, which has popped up in Vancouver and Victoria, often found on boulevards and in gardens.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control recently put out a release stating that 2019 is on track to be a record year for mushroom poisoning calls. The BCCDC says they are urging people to use extreme caution when foraging for or eating wild mushrooms, and to keep a close eye on children.

READ MORE: World’s most poisonous mushroom spreading in B.C.

“Approximately two-thirds of mushroom related poisoning calls in 2019 involved children under the age of five,” said Raymond Li, a pharmacist with Poison Control. “It is important to be aware of dangers from consuming unidentified mushrooms, especially death cap mushrooms. We would like to remind mushroom hunters, parents and pet owners to be vigilant as they enjoy city, parks, forests and even their own backyard.”

The BCCDC report says that the death cap mushroom has been popping up in Victoria and south Vancouver Island, as well as the Gulf Islands and the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley region.

Taylor says that there’s no evidence it’s spread up the Island yet, but it’s still good to exercise caution.

Another safety precaution Taylor offered was to be careful when heading off into the woods. Mushroom foraging often means leaving the beaten track, and that can be deadly for mushroom pickers who leave no evidence as to where they’re headed.

“There’s a real issue collecting mushrooms because a lot of mushroom collectors are secretive. They go out alone, they leave trails, they go up steep slopes, and then they have an accident and nobody knows where they are,” said Taylor.

“So there’s at least as much danger in collecting mushrooms if you’re careless as there is in poisoning yourself if you’re careless.”

That being said, with the right precautions, spotting mushrooms out in the woods can be a rewarding pastime.

“For me, it’s just finding new species and going out on a hiking trip and finding something that’s coming up. I combine it together with hiking. And it’s just sort of going out in the woods and finding things you haven’t seen before. As well as occasionally coming across something like a chanterelle or a pine mushroom,” said Taylor.

emily.vance@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Patricia Taylor and Debra Strut at the Salvation Army on Friday, Nov. 27, handing out winter boots and gift bags to those in need. Taylor says they'll be back until all her supplies are gone.(Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville residents distribute gifts and winter boots in Salvation Army parking lot

‘I’m hoping to open the eyes of the community to realize that everybody has value’

Qualicum Beach resident Harold MacDougall won $75,000 off a Casino Royale II Scratch & Win ticket, purchased the ticket at Qualicum Foods on Memorial Avenue. (BCLC photo)
Qualicum Beach man $75K richer thanks to scratch-and-win ticket windfall

MacDougall plans on trips to Cape Breton and Scotland

Regional District of Nanaimo will be receiving $1.17 million from the B.C. government in COVID-19 safe restart grant money. (News Bulletin file)
Regional District of Nanaimo directors getting started on budgeting decisions

Proposed tax requisitions for 2021 range from 7.3-per cent increase to 2.2-per cent decrease

David Darmadi, owner of Kalvas - The Log House restaurant, is offering a sweet initiative for SOS. Guests can bring in a new, unwrapped gift or financial donation for SOS, and receive a free dessert. (Lissa Alexander photo)
Sweet initiative to support Parksville Qualicum Beach residents

‘A lot of our guests are very generous and they want to help out’

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Most Read