Chanterelles.

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Chanterelles,  (cantharellus formosus);  October 28th 2011;

It is no dream!

matsutake are growing

on the belly of the mountain.

                              -Shigetaka

Theres something so special about going mushroom hunting. Walking out into the chill of early autumn, the leaves of the Alders just starting to fall and the forest there, its cool shade pushing out from beneath the trees. It is a form of  hunting and to know and have a connection with the forest is to be able to find the mushrooms. In the autumn this relationship for me is so special as im starting to miss the summer as nature becomes cool and gloomy, it can feel distant spending so much more time inside.

First of all you have to know the terrain, the local knowledge of where to go and the types of trees, their age and what the understory should be like. Its also recognising the way mushrooms grow, hugging the ridges, dips and hollows in lines and circles as if they follow invisible water drainage.

Once here in the soft light its the  sharp gaze looking through the patina of undergrowth that spots the prize. The sometimes colourful spouts of orange or the camouflage of the whites, like dead Salal leaves hidden so well that you have to kneel and peer across the forest floor to see them. You have to enter the forests umwelt and recognise the patterns that are hidden from those of a merely curious glance.

The chanterelles are the fruiting bodies of a vast mycorrhizal mat that lies just below the duff, (myco means mushroom and rhizal is ‘related to roots’). The mushroom obtain food from the tree in the form of certain sugars and the mycorrhiza in turn help increase water absorbtion for the host and fix nitrogen and other essential elements in a symbiotic relationship that benefits both. The health of the forest is tied directly into this relationship. In Paul Stamets book Mycellium Running he quotes research that identifies nearly 2,000 different fungi that interelate with Douglas Firs.

The logging of Vancouver Island has in a contradictory way, increased the numbers of Chanterelle mushrooms, as they seem to prefer maturing stands of mixed Douglas Fir forests. But this also has drawbacks because clearcut logging isnt going to stop soon.

As the Old Growth has become all logged out the forest industry is increasingly switching its attentions onto the second growth, with short  ‘crop rotations’ of  50-60 years, or much less. Then just as the mushrooms start to become established the clearcut logging destroys its mycorrhizal relationship with the tree which then take many years to become reestablished, as only 40 year old forest is seen as starting to become optimal for Chanterelles.

To have a prized ‘patch’ clear-cut hurts, its not just losing the mushrooms but also losing the forest, a maturing forest that had started to get a sense of its individuation. With age it had begun to take on those attributes of Old Growth forests that are so enjoyable recognisable, the variability of trees and understory and how they relate to the the terrain, it had character. The logging destroys that and interferes with a type of connection with the land, a subtle relationship of presence and listening that draws us into gaining  our sustenance from it.