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Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve Foray
March 27-28, 2010

The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER) has tremendous ecological diversity, with meadows, chapparal, watercourses, canyons and rock cliffs — all layered with unusual plants and abundant wildlife. The Reserve ranges in elevation from 700–2,044 feet. The property is home to seven plus species of oaks, native pines and manzanita. We are grateful to have been invited to this beautiful place to do a mushroom census.

bccer group

Front Row: Durl VanAlstyne, Hugh Smith, Stuart King
Middle Row: Sandy Fisher, Henry Young, Phil Carpenter, David Rust, Debbie Viess, Wendy Ardell, Greg Fritsch
Back Row: Anasuya Basil, Steve Wattenberg, Beth Wattenberg, Laurie Burns, Alicia Springer, Joan Simmons and Sherri Scott
© photo by Hugh Smith

It was a glorious weekend to be out hunting mushrooms. Despite the rapidly drying ground after a week of hot weather, fungi were found in various nooks and crannies and damp micro-climates, or buried beneath the thick and sheltering oak duff. With a good sized group of local participants and several seasoned taxonomists, we covered a lot of ground and found quite a few interesting fungi. In between scouring the hills for mushrooms, we "made do" with gawking at the profusion of wildflowers.

We were joined in our endeavors by Dr. Michael Marchetti, Assistant Professor of Aquatic Biology at Chico State, who has a new passion for fungi and has been attempting on his own to document the fungal diversity on the Reserve. Beth and Steve Wattenberg set up and arranged the foray and arranged with onsite caretaker Stuart King for us to use the Conference Center as our home base. Mark Lynch, education coordinator, ferried folks way down the road to foray at the creekside riparian zone.

Beth Sherri and Alicia New mushroomer Marchetti
Beth, Sherri and Alicia
Laurie Burns and Anasuya Basil
Dr. Michael Marchetti

What we found

In keeping with the timing of this spring foray, we encountered lots of ascos: in addition to Morchella semilibera and Helvella lacunosa, we found Helvella leucopus, Gyromitra esculenta, and Verpa conica. We also found two cup fungi — Peziza repandum, P. sylvestris — and Pachyella clypeata, a curious brown cushion-shaped ascomycete.

Amanitas were still around and in good shape. Our collection included Amanita calyptroderma (spring coccora), A. constricta, A. novinupta, A. ocreata (both white and the rare, salmon-capped forms) and A. velosa.

A late bolete in the form of Suillus fuscotomentosus gave us a token fleshy pored fungus. The most colorful mushroom found was the handsome pink and purple Panus conchatus. A few unusual Russulas still lingered in the field, and the only lactarius left standing was Lactarius argillaceifolius. Debbie Viess spotted a fat Hericium erinaceus hanging off a tree just behind the lodge, a bit past its expiration date but still quite dramatic!

Verpa conica

Verpa conica


Scutellinia scutellata


Pluteus sp.

© photos by Hugh Smith    

Special thanks to Beth and Steve Wattenberg for coordinating this initial cooperative venture between BAMS and the BCCER. Our tireless taxonomists Phil Carpenter, Henry Young and Debbie Viess were essential to the success of this weekend. And as always, thanks to Hugh Smith for sharing his energy, enthusiasm and photos!

Everyone involved had a great time and learned something new. The success of this initial foray has paved the way for future exploration in the Reserve under wetter conditions come fall. This place is an ecological treasure, and we can't wait to get back there once the fall rains return!

Species Collected, March 27-28, 2010

Amanita calyptroderma (spring coccora)
Amanita constricta
Amanita novinupta
Amanita ocreata
Amanita velosa
Astraeus hygrometricus
Bovista sp.
Chroogomphus vinicolor
Clitocybe sp. (2)
Conocybe sp.
Coprinellus micaceus
Gymnopilus sapineus
Gymnopilus sp.
Gyromitra esculenta
Hebeloma sp.
Helvella lacunosa
Helvella leucopus
Hericium erinaceum
Hymenochaete tabacina
Inocybe sp.
Laetiporus gilbertsonii
Lactarius argillaceifolius
Lenzites betulina
Lepista nuda
Morchella semilibera
Morchella sp.
Omphalina pyxidata
Omphalotus olivascens
Pachyella clypeata
Panus conchatus
Peziza repandum
Peziza sylvestris
Phellinus gilvus
Pluteus sp.
Psathyrella sp. (2)
Russula sp. (2)
Schizophyllum commune
Scutellinia scutellata
Stereum hirsutum
Suillus fuscotomentosus
Thelophora sp.
Trametes hirsutum
Trametes versicolor
Tremella aurantia
Tremella foliacea
Verpa conica

foray group rests at end of walk

Foray group rests at end of Sunday morning walk. © photo by David Rust

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