Fungi come in many different kinds. Moulds and rusts are fungi, and so are mildews and yeasts. Of the 100,000-odd fungal species so far described (possibly another 100,000 await discovery!), most are very tiny or even microscopic. A few thousands, however, do form conspicuous fruiting bodies, and these we popularly call mushrooms.
Most mushrooms are extraordinarily widespread. Because they disperse by wind-blown spores, many species are cosmopolitan, occurring in virtually all corners of the globe. Chances are, a mushroom you find growing in the Trophy Mountains also occurs in the Alps and Himalayas.
How many species of mushrooms are known to occur in Wells Gray? About 200. That figure, however, is based on very preliminary field work, and doubtless represents less than half of the actual total. The total number of other kinds of fungi probably runs into the low thousands.
Mushrooms have two seasons in the Clearwater Valley: early spring and late summer. The spring fruiting commences shortly after the snows melt, and is generally over by the last week of May (but later in the mountains). It is then that the morels (e.g. Morchella elata
and Morchella esculenta
), the brain mushrooms (Gyromitra esculenta
) and all manner of cup fungi are at their most conspicuous.
The late season fruiting is more variable in its timing, but normally begins in late August, continuing through early October. The most profligate mushrooming happens after prolonged rain – the kind of weather most campers hate. In the week following, the forests may be literally alive with them, though less so if the weather has been dry during the months preceding.
Douglas Fir Cone Mushroom
Listed below are a few of the more common and easily identified late season mushrooms in the park. Though most are fairly widespread, don’t waste your time searching for them in deciduous forests and wetlands, as both habitats are curiously unproductive of mushrooms. Bogs, however, sometimes yield some interesting species, as do late-lying timberline snow patches. Check also along the rims of the canyons for some special delights, including the almond-scented Hygrophorus monticola
Text extracted, with partial updates, from the 2nd edition of Nature Wells Gray: A Visitors’ Guide to the Park, by Trevor Goward & Cathie Hickson © 1995, for several years out of print, and now awaiting sponsorship toward a third, much improved edition.