Friday, February 15, 2013

Mushrooms of Hawaii, More Mushrooms!

Don Hemmes, Robert, Karen, and Gillian with her coconut

Since we have been studying mushrooms and exploring amateur mycology for a few years, it follows a natural path that we would like to hunt mushrooms while on vacation. We usually head out to a warm and tropical location during the middle of a New England winter, so we did a little research into the fungi of our destination, the Big Island of Hawaii. A good deal of the fungi on Hawaii are alien, introduced with vegetation and soil from other places, therefore, many of the mushrooms are familiar to us. Only an estimated 17% of fungi are considered native Hawaiian species. Fungi can be found almost all year in the subtropical environments, but the more abundant season is from July through January. Fallen palm leaves and casuarina needles, along with dead wood, coconut husks, lawns, and compost piles of mulch are all good places to look for fruiting mushrooms. We purchased Mushrooms of Hawaii by Don Hemmes and Dennis Desjardin to help us identify  the mushrooms we hoped to find.

Geastrum litchiforme, one releasing spores, the other not opened yet
Upon our arrival to the Big Island in December, we were a bit worried to hear they were experiencing a significant drought. I contacted Don Hemmes, the author of the mushroom guide to ask him for some advice about where to possibly find some fungi. He graciously offered to take us to MacKenzie Park in the Puna district, along the southeastern coast, to do a quick foray. Although he does not teach biology full time at the University of Hawaii Hilo any longer, he still visits many sites and records the fungi present on a monthly basis. Don still participates in and contributes to the study of fungi on Hawaii on the Fungi of the Hawaiian Islands website. We braved winding one-lane roads, rain squalls, and lava tubes to take a walk and find some mushrooms, including the Geastrum litchiforme, the lychee earthstar, and a poisonous Amanita, Amanita marmorata.
Amanita marmarota

Gymnopus luxurians
Laccaria fraterna

Thelophora terrestris

Tremella fuciformis

Coprinus disseminatus
We also looked for fungi on our own on every hike we took into a forest. We visited the Kipuka Puaulu Bird Park near the Volcano National Park, and found some very large Scizophyllum communes, along with many slow growing conks. In the Waipio Valley, we found a log covered in Corprinus disseminatus and Earliella scabrosa shelves. Further up the coast in the Polulu Valley I came across rather large oysters, Pleurotus species growing from a fallen log on the trailside. At the bases of many of the casuarina trees we found the casuarina conk, Phellinus kawakamii, growing slowly and rotting the ironwood trees.

Earliella scabrosa
While we may have wished our vacation would never end, we did manage to meet a fellow mycologist and hike in many of the Big Island of Hawaii's forests looking for mushrooms. It would seem that myco-tourism is part of our future, since we are enjoying the fungi that we encounter on our travels.

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