Mushroom Madness in Telluride, 2022 Edition

September 19, 2022 Andrew Wilson , Associate Curator of Mycology

For the second year in a row, summer monsoons have blessed the Southern Rockies. With the rain came the mushrooms, making an incredible appearance at the 2022 Telluride Mushroom Festival. This year was one of the best when it came to the mushroom diversity. After several days of collecting, drying and processing mushrooms, we returned to Denver with nearly 200 collections that will soon be deposited in the Sam Mitchel Herbarium of Fungi.

So much of this had to do with the awesome team we had. Collections Assistant Margo Yousse found some Hydnellum suaveolens and made a great observation on iNaturalist. This species, as its name suggests, was rather suave. It appears to be nothing special until you look closely. The electric blue and velvety stem and perfume-like smell of sweetgrass belies a charm that is not apparent in early observation, but it wins you over.

Last year, I shared an image of Chlorociboria that I found magical. This year, graduate student Justin Loucks found an even better collection showing the largest and most abundant blue-green cups I have ever witnessed in this species.

Long-time colleague and acquaintance Nathan Wilson (no relation) was in attendance at the Telluride Mushroom festival. He’s the creator of Mushroom Observer, which has been an online resource for documenting mushrooms long before iNaturalist. This year, he had a “Telluride’s Most Wanted [mushroom]” request for Russula avellaneiceps. This species had been described from Colorado back in 1999 but had been collected less than a handful of times since the original collection from Copper Mountain. On the citizen science foray I led, I think we found it. Although Nathan and I kept “oohing and ahhing” over this mushroom, we’ll need to look more closely at this species using DNA sequence data to determine its identity. 

In the end, this is part of why we do what we do. Looking for a mushroom species not observed for decades, and then finding it is what makes this work so exciting. You just never know what you’ll find!


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