In to the Burn Zone

Happy spring to all you wild foragers out there! The weather is starting to improve, the trees are starting to bud, there are some early blossoms on those hardier shrubs, the hummingbirds have returned as well as the spring-time bird song. That means that spring time mushrooms should follow.

I have been out all winter, searching  for what is out there and I have always found something.

This spring, many mycophyles  here on the coast are very excited over the possibility of having a bumper crop of morels. The reason being that there was a very large forest fire in West Sechelt last summer, so the anticipation is that there is a good likelihood of fire morels popping up  this spring.

The burn site was closed after the fire was extinguished because of the danger of trees damaged by the fire coming down.  There were and still are signs in the area warning people to stay out due to falling debris.

This winter we had some tremendous wind storms which took out a number of trees weakened by last years drought so I figure any trees still standing after the fire and the winds should be safe.

Sunday I  decided to  do an exploratory foray into the fire zone to see what I could see.

This is what I saw…

There was very little under-story to the forest and most trees were burned about 1/2 to 2/3rds the way up their trunks, but most had greenery at the canopy level.

There were some areas that had more ash, but I was looking for the red leaf area of the burn.  This is the area at the edges of the fire and where the fire rushed through, burning the fuel on the forest floor but not really burning the standing trees.  It was hot enough to stress the trees so they lost their needles.  This area is what I understand is the prime area to find fire morels. I got that information from our guest at last years Mushroom Festival, Langdon Cook.

I found an area that looked promising and did a bit of scouting.  There were mushrooms there, not morels, but other ascomycetes growing in the duff.


In the top two pictures you can see some very small cup or sac fungi, as well as some jelly fungi. The bottom picture has a nice example of gyromitra ancillis, as well a couple of little brown-gilled mushrooms.  I haven’t IDed them yet, and from a distance they look bit  like winter chanterelles, but they are not, as they are gilled.

I would say that this is a good sign, as morels are also ascomycetes, so hopefully they will be arriving soon.

  • There are over 30,000+ species of  ascomycetes, ranging from one-celled yeasts to fairly large morels and truffels as well as some of the common black molds, green molds, the powdery mildews, the cup fungi.
  • Although most are considered in a positive light for their ability to ferment some of our favorite beverages, to leaven our bread and to add a distinctive ping to some cheeses, other are more notorioius as disease promoting organisms ( chestnut blight, Dutch Elm disease, forming rots of a number of fruit trees, powdery mildews).

I plan to check this site fairly regularly over the next several weeks in the hope of finding one of the culinary world’s favorite mushrooms. I will let you all know how I fair out there.

Hope to see you on the trails sometimes.