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Summer Mushrooms & Lichens

Summer Mushrooms and Lichens

Tim Wheeler, B.S.

This course will provide a thorough introduction to fungi and the role they play in the northern Rockies ecosystem. We will study approximately 40 genera of fungi, their macroscopic features, spores and ecological niches.  We will look at the ecological role of fungi in forest ecosystems and the effect mushrooms can have on management practices. Since spring and fall species are quite different, be sure to sign up for our Fall Mushroom Foray, October 7-8, 2017 to get a complete mushroom experience. Lodging is included at Field Camp for the duration of the course.

*Note: One night lodging included in the price. 

Meeting place: Glacier Institute Field Camp (see campus map)


Day 1:  We will begin the day with questions, discussions, and slide viewing throughout the early morning, and then depart for prime mushroom habitat near Glacier in the Flathead National Forest.  We will learn to identify and study the complexities of local mushrooms and search for mushrooms growing in such specialized habitats as melting snow banks and recent forest burns.  We will seek out the different ecological niches- riparian, sylvan, and open lands- of northern Rockies fungi and we’ll probably find several species in each site.  Students will get a glimpse of the enormous number of fungi that are the source of nutrition for the entire forest.  We will harvest mushrooms throughout the day and bring them back to Field Camp for closer viewing.

Day 1 Evening:  After dinner, depending on interest, we will regroup for an extensive slide show of different spore groups.  We often have a potluck dinner, with a sampling of the various edible mushrooms collected during the day.  With over thousands of slides from which to choose, we will glimpse a bit into the wide array of fungi that inhabit the Northwest.  We will uncover the amazing life cycles of these varied species of fungi, and discuss the overall importance of mushrooms in a healthy habitat.

Day 2:  After spending the morning roaming through a new habitat type, we will sit down to identify the most curious of our finds.  The final lecture will summarize the groups of fungi, the hallmarks of field identification and a summary of the genera covered in class.  The course will come to an end by about 4 PM. 

Food:  Students are responsible for their own meals. The Field Camp kitchen will be available for breakfast and dinner. Please bring a sack lunch and ample snacks for trail days.

Required Equipment (all seasons): Warm Layers 

Course Equipment: A field journal and pencil to take notes while you learn and any field guides that you like to use are optional.  If you have a basket that you like to use for collecting mushrooms please bring it along. We will provide paper bags for specimens. Please bring fresh samples of any mushrooms you have found in the week prior to class.

Physical Requirements: Moderate hikes- less than one mile and 500 feet elevation gain. We will mostly be hiking off-trail through both open and dense stands of forest, searching for our fungal friends.

Transportation: We will be traveling in a Glacier Institute vehicle.

Recommended Reading: Fungi are often invisible, showing themselves only when they fruit.  A familiarity with the basics of fungal terms and anatomy, or at least appearance, will greatly enhance your appreciation and ability to work with these amazing organisms.  Although any book with photographs will allow you to visualize the fungi, photos are notoriously inadequate in documenting these transitory beings, which sometimes shift from firm to squish in hours.  Good written descriptions can be found in the following:

North American Mushrooms. Hope & Orson K. Miller.

Mushrooms of North America. Roger Phillips.

Mushrooms Demystified. David Arora.

A Field Guide to Western Mushrooms. Alexander Smith.

Mushroom:  The Journal of Wild Mushrooming.  Leon Shernoff, Editor.

Fungal Jungal Newsletter. Western Montana Mycological Association,

P.O. Box 7306, Missoula, MT  59807