October 2019 Mycoscope
Mushrooms and biodiversity
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The wild mushroom season is coming to an end. Since last spring, hundreds of hikers have followed our guides in the forest in search fungal Eldorados. A few days ago, residents of Montreal’s suburb of Rigaud made their first find: an amazing chicken of the woods (see photo).

Those who have not already registered for one of our last seasonal excursions will have to wait next spring. We have already scheduled a few outings for 2020: May 17 and July 26 in the Eastern Townships and August 15 in the Lower Laurentians.

In the meantime, you can participate in our introductory recreational evenings, like our workshops on fermentation or mushroom cultivation or our hunter-gatherer training program. 

Mushroom cultivation is increasing in popularity and fortunately, methods for cultivation have improved. In the 1950's, working conditions were very painful. Workers on mushroom farms had to breathe the fumes of formaldehyde that were used to disinfect. When the harvest was ready, they were on the job at 4 o'clock in the morning, wearing wet and icy overalls, in the dark, with both hands in the manure used to grow mushrooms.

Today, mushroom cultivation has become safe and popular. Mycoboutique hosts workshops and has a wide range of books on the topic. Our growing kits make it easy to produce mushrooms in the comfort of your home while our dowels for outside log cultivation yield several yearly harvests.

In October, while supplies last, these dowels are on sale: $15 for 100, instead of $20, $65 for 1000, instead of $80. Go for it before winter!

Our gift ideas suit all tastes and wallets. Among them, identification books that are (or will become) classics including the late Gary Lincoff’s Audubon Guide to North American Mushrooms, McNeil’s revised edition of Le Grand livre des champignons, Després’ Champignons comestibles du Québec. These must-haves are on sale: their price is reduced by 15% in October. It`s an opportunity to take the iniative in anticipation of the holidays.

Mycoboutique’s library will be the first to receive Lawrence Millman’s Fungipedia, a short and funny encyclopedia and the two volumes of Fungi of Temperate Europe by Laessoe & Peterson which is more serious with their descriptions of more than 2800 species and  7000 photos.

The dodos and the mushrooms

The dodo was a clumsy bird, native to Mauritius. Soon after the arrival of humans on the island in the seventeenth century, it disappeared for ever. It became the archetype of victims of the hunt. Biodiversity is a concern of our time and some fungi could suffer the same fate as the dodo's, following the loss of natural habitats rather than by hunting.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature keeps a list of all threatened species worldwide. In 2016, this list included 105,700 species of all kinds. Only five fungal species four of which were lichens (symbiosis between cyanobacteria and fungi), were counted. The only mushroom that does not deserve this status is the Elf Oyster (Pleurotus nebrodensis). It has long been believed that its habitat was limited to an area of ​​less than 100 square kilometers in Sicily. We now know that there are also some in Greece and the Middle East. In addition, it is easily cultivated, and its mycelium is available on the internet.

It is difficult to anticipate extinctions precisely: mushrooms are underground and their fruiting body appears only surreptitiously. Over all, the number of species is estimated by extrapolation to be several million of which, only a tiny fraction are known to date. No barcode in wild fungiland yet!

Some European countries have established their own list of threatened species based on picker's experience. There is nothing like it on our continent. For the sake of public health rather than conservation, a few American states have chosen to restrict wild mushroom sales to species that do not pose a risk of confusion. In her book, The Mushroom at  the End of the World, Anna Tsing argues that matsutake will survive human turpitude. The resilience of fungi thwarts calculations: yet there is no doubt, species will suffer the fate of the dodos while new species appear, better adapted.

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