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.

Vancouver Island expert offers practical advice on mushroom gathering

Mushroom fest organizer shares tips, safety advice for would-be mycologists

Terry Taylor knows his mushrooms.

Along with the rest of the Arrowsmith Naturalists, Taylor recently helped host the Mid-Island Mushroom Festival. Taylor’s involvement in the B.C.’s mycological scene dates back to the 1970s.

The mushroom festival played host to vendors of all kinds, but the most popular exhibit by far was a line of mycologists from across Southern B.C. and Vancouver Island. They were on hand to help people identify wild mushrooms they brought in.

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 Vancouver Island home.

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

“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, etc. 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 world’s deadliest mushroom, known as the death cap mushroom, which has popped up across parts of southern B.C. It’s often found on boulevards and in gardens.

Mushroom poisoning is on the rise in B.C., according to the The B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

The BCCDC recently put out a release stating that 2019 is on track to be a record year for mushroom poisoning calls. 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.

The report also says to exercise extreme caution when foraging in remote areas.

Taylor seconded that. 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

Parksville Fire Department crews attended the scene of a house fire on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 at the end of Foster Place in Parksville. No injuries were reported. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Fire crews called to battle house fire in Parksville

No injuries reported, kitty rescued

Emma Nunn from Alberni Valley Rescue Squad waits at the summit of Mount Arrowsmith for the rest of the AVRS rope rescue team on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY DAVE POULSEN, AVRS)
UPDATE: Injured hikers among three rescued in the dark from Mount Arrowsmith

‘It was a very bad, very precarious spot to be able to locate them’

Kim Burden, executive director of the Parksville and District and Qualicum Beach Chambers of Commerce. (PQB News photo)
PQBeat: Chamber of Commerce executive director Kim Burden looks ahead

Podcast: Talk includes 2021 business plans in Parksville, Qualicum Beach, events and more

The Village Way and Highway 19A roundabout is the Town of Qualicum Beach priority for a grant application. (Google Map)
Qualicum Beach council favours roundabout over turf field project

Mayor believes road project has better chance of landing grant

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Egg producers in B.C. aren’t obligated to reveal their production sites. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Officials say there’s not enough Vancouver Island eggs to meet demand

BC Egg Marketing Board doesn’t regulate labelling, supply needed from off-Island

A Courtenay resident labours to remove the snow build-up from around her car in February 2019. The area may see snow throughout the coming weekend. Black Press file photo
Snow, winter might not be done with Vancouver Island quite yet

Flurries, snow and cold temps predicted for the weekend for mid-Island

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Most Read