Through the trees around the Whirlpool Trails was a gathering of people of all ages holding woven baskets and sheer paper bags huddled around a man as he examined the underside of a mushroom.
This foray is the first meeting of the Oxford Mushroom Club. Monday was its first day, and around 20 people showed up to hike in the woods about 0.1 miles off the trailhead at Whirlpool Trails. The people looked carefully among composting leaves and fallen tree branches and found large golden-orange mushrooms to miniscule red capped mushrooms, stopping every so often to gather for a lesson on a particular mushroom. Dr. Jason Hoeksema and graduate student Mariah Meachum led them through the crowd.
Taylor Brame, senior general studies major at the University of Mississippi, saw the ad for the club in the Local Voice. He said, “I wanted to learn more about the local fungi. It looked like something fun to do this summer.”
During the 30 minute forage, he spotted small red mushrooms no bigger than a child’s pinky, bumpy white fungi hidden among tree roots and bright orange mushrooms with wrinkled caps. He gathered a good bit, but not as many as the toddler Natalie Getz.
She and her mother, Angie Getz, found so many mushrooms their wax bag was nearly to the brim. Angie saw the ad for the club also but in the Facebook group for Whirlpool Trails since she runs there regularly. She was drawn to the ad because it was yet another gathering hobby for her rambunctious daughter.
Angie said, “This is my first time in the (Oxonian) woods actually. Natalie picked quite a few mushrooms. We have a wildflower collection where we press the flowers Natalie picked.”
Mariah Meachum, a University of Mississippi graduate student, said, “The Oxford Mushroom Club is just in the beginning phases and is being started to increase appreciation for fungi in north Mississippi and to provide a community for mushroom enthusiasts.”
Dr. Jason Hoeksema, an associate professor of biology at University of Mississippi, led this foray. Here is a video of him explaining a group of mushrooms among the collection gathered by the Mushroom Club.
He taught the members identifying features of the mushrooms, especially which is and isn’t edible. He held up a burnt orange mushroom with a thin flat cap, a Candy Cap, and said, “You can bake these into cupcakes and the house will smell great.” He paused and said, “But please don’t go home and pick wild mushrooms and eat them right away.” He said this because with an inexperienced eye the Candy Cap can be confused with poisonous Galernia.
For the rest of 2015 the Oxford Mushroom Club members will meet to learn more about the abundance of fungi in the city’s woods. Meachum said, “This year I plan to have several more forays and potentially a class on some aspect of mushrooms, maybe on precise identification of mushrooms or their ecological roles in forests.”
Callie Daniels is a staff writer and reporter for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.