The many Pacific Northwest folks fascinated by all things fungi won’t have to wait much longer for the Mount Pisgah Arboretum Mushroom Festival. On October 25, this annual event, which began in 1982, will feature hundreds of mushroom species, as well as live music, educational workshops, culinary demonstrations, and guided tours.
Brad van Appel, executive director of the Mount Pisgah Arboretum, describes the festival as a big, fun community event with lots of family activities. It’s the Arboretum’s largest annual fundraiser (proceeds go toward native habitat stewardship and environmental education) and a collaboration with the Cascade Mycological Society, Lane Community College’s Science Department, and other local organizations.
“We’ll have a giant exhibit of mushrooms, generally thought to be the largest mushroom display on the West Coast,” he says, adding that almost all the mushrooms are collected in Lane County by members of the Cascade Mycological Society. Last year, they had 539 species on display, including chanterelles, morels, and others. (The Pacific Golden Chanterelle is the official mushroom of Oregon.)
This year, the festival will be virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic. “This is a 5,000-person event, so there’s really no way to manage it live,” van Appel says. “But we will have a day-long schedule of activities.”
A variety of mycological experts will be available to identify the many mushrooms scheduled for display. “They’ll talk about how to look for different mushrooms and provide information on how to determine what species are poisonous and what species are edible,” he says.
The festival, which typically features merchandise booths, baked goods, and plant sales, is designed for people who really enjoy mushrooms. “Even though people won’t be able to physically attend the event this year, we’re still trying to keep it entertaining,” van Appel says. “There’s value in that and it’s important to maintain community spirit.”
Cheshire Mayrsohn, president of the Cascade Mycological Society (CMS), shares that sentiment and points out how important the Arboretum’s annual festival is to mushroom enthusiasts everywhere. “I know many, many people who live and breathe mushrooms, and I’m one of them,” she says.
The CMS, she says, is a nonprofit organization created in 1999 by individuals who share a common interest in and appreciation for mushrooms. The mission, according to its website, is to study fungi, educate members and the public about fungi identification and ecology, promote conservation of fungi, promote health and safety in the gathering and consumption of edible fungi, and, of course, to have fun.
Mayrsohn says the many highly skilled mycologists within the CMS are eager to share their mushroom expertise. “There’s a fellow at OSU who’s an expert on coral mushrooms,” she says. “We definitely have a cadre of quite knowledgeable people who can identify everything.”
She adds that the festival is an all-volunteer event with tons of folks taking part in the collection of mushrooms and setting up displays (previous festivals have had more than 200 volunteers). “I don’t have any particular role—I’m just one of the many people involved in putting on the show,” she says.
And the show keeps evolving. “It’s morphed into a much larger festival,” Mayrsohn says. “There are mushroom artists, people selling books and food, and we also have a lichen display. . . . It’s a nice fall festival; you’ll learn a lot and it’s fun.”
October 25, 10 am-5 pm (virtual)