Emily Vance photo - Terry Taylor is a mushroom expert and member of the Arrowsmith Naturalists, who organized the fifth annual Mid-Island Mushroom Festival in Coombs on Oct. 27. The event was a hit, drawing people from up and down the island, with mycologists bringing in over a hundred samples of different types of mushrooms.

Vancouver Island expert offers practical advice on mushroom gathering

Mushroom fest organizer shares tips, safety advice for would-be mycologists

Terry Taylor knows his mushrooms.

Along with the rest of the Arrowsmith Naturalists, Taylor recently helped host the Mid-Island Mushroom Festival. Taylor’s involvement in the B.C.’s mycological scene dates back to the 1970s.

The mushroom festival played host to vendors of all kinds, but the most popular exhibit by far was a line of mycologists from across Southern B.C. and Vancouver Island. They were on hand to help people identify wild mushrooms they brought in.

However, even the experts were stumped at some of the fungi they saw. Taylor says that’s just due to the sheer variety of mushrooms that call Vancouver Island home.

READ MORE: Giant mushroom find makes Thanksgiving tastier for B.C. couple

“In this local area, there’s probably several thousand species of mushrooms. That’s why we have a lot of difficulty putting names on a lot of them,” said Taylor.

Mushroom foraging can be a rewarding pastime, with the forests and mountain slopes near Parksville and Qualicum Beach offering an array of varietals, including delicacies like pine (matsutake) mushrooms and golden chanterelles, to name a few.

However, Taylor and other experts caution against going out to find edible varieties without knowing exactly what you’re looking for.

“Best to go with somebody who knows already. Preferably join a mushroom club, or mycological society,” said Taylor.

The closest mycological society to the Parksville Qualicum Beach area is in Victoria, but the Arrowsmith Naturalists often get together in the fall to go on mushroom walks.

READ MORE: Experts warn against picking Vancouver Island’s magic mushrooms species

“Mainly, go after the mushrooms you know already. The ones that are easy to identify, and learn the details of them. Chanterelles, pine mushrooms, etc. Also learn the poisonous mushrooms – the other mushrooms that are similar.”

The pine mushroom in particular has a deadly lookalike called Smith’s amanita that Taylor says has caused problems in the past. It even grows in the same areas, making accurate identification an even more important part of harvesting pine mushrooms.

“Every year the poison control centre in Vancouver and St. Paul’s hospital usually has someone on kidney dialysis from making this mistake,” said Taylor.

Also making headlines lately is the world’s deadliest mushroom, known as the death cap mushroom, which has popped up across parts of southern B.C. It’s often found on boulevards and in gardens.

Mushroom poisoning is on the rise in B.C., according to the The B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

The BCCDC recently put out a release stating that 2019 is on track to be a record year for mushroom poisoning calls. They are urging people to use extreme caution when foraging for or eating wild mushrooms, and to keep a close eye on children.

READ MORE: World’s most poisonous mushroom spreading in B.C.

“Approximately two thirds of mushroom related poisoning calls in 2019 involved children under the age of five,” said Raymond Li, a pharmacist with Poison Control. “It is important to be aware of dangers from consuming unidentified mushrooms, especially death cap mushrooms. We would like to remind mushroom hunters, parents and pet owners to be vigilant as they enjoy city, parks, forests and even their own backyard.”

The BCCDC report says that the death cap mushroom has been popping up in Victoria and south Vancouver Island, as well as the Gulf Islands and the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley region.

The report also says to exercise extreme caution when foraging in remote areas.

Taylor seconded that. Mushroom foraging often means leaving the beaten track, and that can be deadly for mushroom pickers who leave no evidence as to where they’re headed.

“There’s a real issue collecting mushrooms because a lot of mushroom collectors are secretive. They go out alone, they leave trails, they go up steep slopes, and then they have an accident and nobody knows where they are,” said Taylor.

“So there’s at least as much danger in collecting mushrooms if you’re careless as there is in poisoning yourself if you’re careless.”

That being said, with the right precautions, spotting mushrooms out in the woods can be a rewarding pastime.

“For me, it’s just finding new species and going out on a hiking trip and finding something that’s coming up. I combine it together with hiking. And it’s just sort of going out in the woods and finding things you haven’t seen before. As well as occasionally coming across something like a chanterelle or a pine mushroom,” said Taylor.

emily.vance@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Good Food Boxes are packed in Gold River to go out to people of that community. Greenways is working on expanding the program to other communities including Campbell River. Photo supplied by Greenways Land Trust
Good Food Box program coming to Campbell River

Greenways’ program will provide food delivery to six communities in Strathcona area

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

Eden Robinson will be ‘on hand’ for a special online screening of Monkey Beach, based on her 2000 novel, presented by the Museum at Campbell River through the Tidemark Theatre Feb. 4. Photo by Bluetree Photography
Museum at Campbell River to screen Monkey Beach and Q&A with Eden Robinson

Last year’s Haig-Brown Writer-in-Residence’s work has skyrocketed to justifiable fame in the past year

Tahsis mayor Martin Davis stands with an old-growth tree in McKelvie Creek Valley. The village of Tahsis signed a Letter of Understanding with forestry company Western Forest Products to establish McKelvie watershed as a protected area. Photo courtesy, TJ Watt.
Landmark deal expected to protect Tahsis watershed from logging

Tahsis and WFP agree on letter of understanding to preserve McKelvie Creek Valley within TFL 19

Sawyer, a northern saw-whet owl that became synonymous with Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, passed away peacefully over the weekend. Sawyer would make numerous public appearances with MARS staff in and around the Comox Valley and Campbell River. Photo supplied.
Popular MARS ambassador owl dies

Submitted MARS Wildlife Rescue has lost one of its mightiest ambassadors. Tiny… Continue reading

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Shown is Quality Foods at 319 Island Highway in Parksville. The Island-based grocery chain announced on Jan. 25 it made a $2-per-hour pay premium, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. (Mandy Moraes photo)
COVID-19: Quality Foods makes $2-per-hour employee pay premium permanent

Island-based grocery chain had extended increase twice in 2020

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)

Most Read