President Michael Burzynski said the past 15 years of Mushroom and Lichen Forays has yielded a history rich with discovery.
Dr. Andrus Voitk began the Foray over 15 years ago, as an attempt to discover, chronicle, and classify all the mushroom and fungi species native to Newfoundland. Since then, over 1,500 species have been discovered and some of the information garnered has called for complete reassessments of mushroom genera and families.
“We try and move around year to year to sample different parts of the province, and I think we’d probably even have that number if we had stayed in the same place and just kept sampling” said Burzynski.
An early estimate of the number of species of fungi potentially living in Newfoundland was placed at around five or six thousand, by the Foray’s founder and first president Dr Andurs Vortik. Burzynski says the province is still terra incognita, as far as fungi are concerned.
It’s a big reason why so many experts in fungal research are drawn to the annual foray. “There’s still a really good chance of finding new species, of finding new stuff” said Berzynski. “We keep a cumulative graph of (new) species we find each year, and that line just keeps going straight up, the graph is straight.
“We haven’t come close to identifying all the species that are here.”
Past fungal pores have made their way to the herbarium at Grenfell, from which they have been requested from all over the world for purposes like comparing DNA and species.
The foray has also uncovered some interesting ground on the province’s relationship to the fungi that inhabit the place.
“In parts of Labrador people eat a fair number of this pink mushroom with white gills that grow in the forest – they’re called Russula, and the particular one that they eat is called Russula paludosa – meaning it grows in marshy areas. What’s fascinating is that almost nowhere else in North America do people eat that particular mushroom. Most people elsewhere that eat mushrooms avoid that entire group of mushroom because it’s difficult to identify.”
What’s fascinating about it, says Burynzski, is that it’s believed the Labradorean eating of this kind of mushroom might be connected to the Moravians. “People in Scandinavia eat this particular kind of mushroom, and in Labrador but in the rest of North America, nobody does.”
The history of Labrador has also found its way into the nomenclature of mushrooms. When Voitk first discovered a new species of mushrooms from a southern Labrador sand dune, he named the new species “Hygrosipie Jackmania” – after Captain Jackman.
“When you discover a new species you can use whatever name they wish and Andurs decided he would name it after Captain Jackman.”
A display table featuring hundreds of discovered mushroom species will be open to the general public in the science building at Grenfell Campus after 1:00 pm on Sunday 27th. Much of the rest of the Foray will be restricted to Foray members – however memberships are open and available to anyone, and there are still spaces available for this year’s Foray. Anyone interested can visit the Foray’s website for a registration package, or call 458-2021.