Mushroom maniacs, lichen lovers and fungus fanatics will unite Saturday during the first meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Mycological Society.
“There are numerous species of mushrooms here and a lot of interest in them,” said Steve Scott of Soldotna, president of the newly formed society and the person largely responsible for its inception.
Scott, who has been interested in mushroom identification and collection for more than 12 years, said he remembers what it was like have an interest in mushrooms, but little to no knowledge.
“It’s tough to start in the right direction. We want to educate those that want to learn,” he said.
Mushroom hunting is not a hobby for the uninformed, since some wild mushrooms are poisonous and a few are deadly.
“There are deadly mushrooms out there, no doubt about it,” Scott said.
However, he said mushroom picking is not the death-defying feat that some people imagine it to be, and he would like to address this hypersensitivity among the general public.
“There seems to be a bit of a fungal phobia going on. We want to educate people to recognize local species, especially edible ones. We want people to be able to identify species, to know the steps involved, what the characteristics are and what to look for,” he said.
Scott said this goal will be achieved through a variety of resources available to society members.
“We want to have monthly meetings with some type of instruction at each meeting,” he said.
He cited as an example, Saturday’s speaker, Dominique Colet, an expert with more than 15 years experience with mushrooms, lichens and other fungi, who will present a slide show and lecture on local mushrooms.
Scott said society members will receive a monthly newsletter called Spore Print. They will be able to obtain a mushroom identification CD with more than 5,500 photos for the cost of duplication.
They also, through their affiliation with the North American Mycological Association, will have access to their resources, which includes books, magazines, films and slides.
Scott also has reached an agreement with the publishers of the mycological identification bibles by David Arora: “Mushrooms Demystified” and “All that the Rain Promises and More” to make the books available to society members for purchase at retail price.
“I think it’s going to be a great club, that’s a lot of fun and has a lot to offer,” Scott said.
Janice Chumley, secretary-treasurers for society, said the snow season is the perfect time for people to get involved with the society.
“In winter, we’ll start with the basic identification because there is quite a bit to learn before ever stepping into the field. Then in spring, everyone will have more confidence when it’s time to hit the woods,” she said.
Chumley added that from beginners to seasoned collectors all are welcome to join the society.
“It’s a great way to meet people with the same interest and find someone to go picking with,” she said.
The Kenai Peninsula Mycological Society will meet Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Building on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
For more information, call 262-3541 or 776-5277.
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