Fall Fungus Fun: The Mushrooms of Autumn

The landscape is transforming, as it always does this time of year. Vegetation becomes more nuanced, more colorful, and gradually returns to the earth. Within these new blankets of leaf litter, you’ll find a variety of interesting organisms, including amphibians, invertebrates, and perhaps most notably, mushrooms.

For National Mushroom Day this past Sunday, Luke Smithson, a head chef and field mycologist, and Sebastian Harris, a herpetologist and conservation easement steward, led Heritage Conservancy members on a hike through Hart’s Woods in Doylestown to hunt for mushrooms and salamanders.

Luke Smithson (above) is an amateur field mycologist and community scientist with over 25 years of experience collecting and identifying mushrooms. He is a past president and the current Education Chair of the New Jersey Mycological Association and the FunDiS (Fungal Diversity Survey) project leader for the Philadelphia Mycology Club. His fungal passions lay in taxonomy and identifying lesser and unknown mushroom species, as well as foraging edible mushrooms.

Sebastian Harris (above) is a herpetologist with over a decade of experience working with amphibians and reptiles. He earned his M.S. in Biology from East Stroudsburg University where he studied Timber Rattlesnake ecology. He is passionate about herpetology and has spent countless hours in the field looking for amphibians – especially salamanders.

On the walk, our group found a snake, this Redbacked Salamander (above), and other interesting salamanders.

And of course they found several interesting mushrooms growing out of dead trees and hiding under leaf litter.

The turkey tail mushroom is an easy one to spot, and is pretty common to find on dead tree trunks this time of year.

The Resinous Polypore is another one popping up on tree trunks.

And the group spotted a Bluet Mushroom among the leaves.

Varieties of Amanita Mushroom were also found.

There’s no shortage of interesting fungi that become plentiful at this time of year, and we encourage you to get out and observe some of that diversity on your own. Keep your eyes on the ground. You might be surprised at just how much life there is on the forest floor during the autumn months.

Of course you should never eat a mushroom unless you are certain it is edible. Not all of the mushrooms listed above are safe for consumption. Also, beware of look-alike mushroom of common edible varieties, and consult an expert before consuming any mushroom.

Read more about some of Sebastian’s favorite mushrooms. And learn more about our next Members-only hike in November, a birdwatching walk at Columcille Megalith Park.