What to expect on a mushroom walk ?

Hello and welcome! We’re looking forward to seeing you on one of our upcoming walks. Walks are open to all members. No prior knowledge of mushrooms is required, just curiosity and a sharp eye. Kids of all ages are always welcome, as are leashed, well-behaved dogs (except for cemeteries which prohibit them). Walks are currently restricted to members only to ensure a manageable group size.

What should I expect on a walk?

  • A group photograph is taken to signify the start of a walk. We walk at a very slow pace, looking for fungi of every kind. First-timers often walk too fast and end up well ahead of the core group of identifiers, or get lost. If you arere interested in looking at and learning about all the fungi that people are finding, you will want to stick closer to some of the expert identifiers (Tom, Ethan, Juniper, Paul, Dennis, Sigrid, Aaron, depending on the walk). You are of course free to roam a little further, but make sure you do not get lost.
  • Every kind of fungus is interesting to us, from large gilled fungi to small ascomycetes or inconspicuous crusts. We keep a list of all the fungi that we find. So if you found something interesting make sure to show it to one of the expert identifiers and mention it to Vicky Tartter or whoever else is keeping the list, often Tom Bigelow.
  • We are not foraging for edibles (it is prohibited in New York City parks and many other parks), but we are more than happy to educate you on how to recognize popular edibles as well as their poisonous lookalikes. For this reason, we discourage people from bringing baskets on our New York City walks – it can risk a fine.
  • Walks are for members only. We’ve experienced an unprecedented increase in membership over the last year and groups have gotten very large. To ensure that everyone has a good experience, and to protect the parks we are trying to keep the numbers at a manageable level. Our ‘no guests’ policy is part of this.

What time do walks actually start?

  • We wait 15 minutes for people who are late (unless the walk starts with the arrival of a particular train or bus). If you are ever very late or lost, text the walk leader, whose phone number is provided in the email.  They will guide you to the group’s location.
  • We usually stop for lunch somewhere between 1 and 2pm though feel free to eat whenever you’re hungry.

How long do walks last?

  • Walk’s often last for quite a long time. Walks can end up being as long as five hours or more on a good mushroom day. But that does not mean you have to stick around.
    • New York City walks feel free to leave whenever you have seen enough, are hungry or tired.
    • Walks outside the city. You will sign your name on a sign-up sheet. Please notify us if you are leaving the walk early. We do not want to leave anyone behind in the forest so we try and keep track of people. Note that cell reception is often spotty or non-existent on our upstate walks.

Are there bathrooms?

    • Most of our walks start and end somewhere with a restroom.

How to prepare

  • Bring a lunch and make sure to stay hydrated, especially in the summer
  • Protect yourself against ticks and mosquitoes (insect repellent and long pants). Ticks in particular are a year-round hazard these days.
  • We highly recommend documenting your finds on iNaturalist, a great website and app that records your observations for posterity. Instructions on how to use it can be found here.
  • A loupe/hand lens is a great tool for looking at important details and we use them a lot. We will lend you one for the walk but you might decide to buy one yourself. A cheap triplex loupe (x10) can be had for under $10. The club’s favorite hand lens is a 10x hand lens made by Belomo.
  • Many walks in the summar and fall end up at a table where we spread out our finds and discuss them. Do consider bringing a brown paper bag for collecting interesting finds for that discussion. Fungi are best stored in paper bags, never in plastic bags – plastic speeds decomposition which makes identification difficult or impossible.

Picking edibles – general etiquette

  • Always make sure it’s legal to pick in the area where you are picking edibles. All New York City Parks and cemeteries as well as some state parks and reserves have rules that prohibit collecting fungi.
  • As a courtesy, please do not pick in the areas of scheduled club walks in the couple of weeks beforehand.
  • In areas where it’s legal to pick, if you find fungi in abundance consider sharing them with others.
  • Do not over-pick edibles. Leave some for others, for the animals who depend on them and for reproduction.
  • Make sure the edible fungi you are collecting are in good condition and not buggy or tough before harvesting.
  • If you are not sure if a mushroom is edible, do not collect a whole bunch – just take one or two for identification purposes.
  • Do not ask people for their edibles spots, unless you know them well 🙂
  • When you first try a new species, be 100% sure it is what you think it is.
  • Eat only small amounts of a new species to make sure it agrees with you, since people can be allergic even to common edibles.

Be a responsible park user

  • Be mindful of the natural world – don’t step on or trample wildflowers, or other plant and animal life. When an area is fenced off it’s usually because it is newly planted or contains sensitive flora and fauna, eg nesting birds.
  • If you are turning over logs and branches, put them back where they were. They provide shelter to a whole microcosm of creatures
  • Pick no more than one or two of a specimen – leave some for others to enjoy and admire. Spare beautiful specimens next to trails; they might just spark curiosity about fungi in the next person.
  • Consider donating to or volunteering for the many organizations that maintain our parks.