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Dye Mushrooms on the Sunshine Coast

Sarcodon fuscoindicus
Sarcodon fuscoindicus

With plans well under way for the 2016 Fungi and Fibre Symposium to be held in Madeira Park next October, I’m enlisting members of my mushroom club (and anyone else who wants another excuse to go out foraging in the forest) to start collecting the dyers now. So I’ve made a list of the dye mushrooms I expect to find in the next few months, once our usual autumn rains materialize (predicted for the end of next week!). Just go to The Mushrooms page on the right.

And keep an eye out for Symposium updates—on this site, on the Fungi & Fibre website, or like our page on Facebook. Mark your calendars now: October 17-22, 2016.

Ann and Rica’s Excellent Adventure

We’re expecting a bit of snow tonight (a dusting, really), and temperatures are set to drop, so I decided to go out for my annual foray on a nearby moss bluff—several tiers of bluff, actually—where I usually find a few of my Cortinarius dyers. This is part of the “arbutus belt,” a narrow area at a consistent elevation where the conditions are right for the arbutus tree (Arbutus menziesii, also known as madrone). Arbutus wood is iron-hard, and it sheds its paper-like bark each year. These trees resist domestication and are quite picky about where they’ll take root, so I consider myself fortunate to be living among them.

Arbutus bluff

Knowing this hike would involve a bit of a climb, I left Silas, our 12-year-old Golden, behind, as it would have been too much for him. Instead, I invited Rica, our Border Collie mutt, to join me—nothing is too much for her!

I could hear the dermocybes calling, and sure enough, it wasn’t long before I found these little guys camouflaged among the dried leaves.

Cortinarius smithii

We clambered over moss-covered rocks, sweeping back and forth across the bluffs, and soon my little brown paper bag was full, of both the yellow-gilled and red-gilled beauties, and I had to start on another bag.

Yellow-gilled DermocybeCortinarius smithii

Along the way I found a few clumps of orange coral, Ramaria gelatinosum, which only added to the excitement.

Ramaria largentii

It’s probably just as well Silas wasn’t along with us, as he would have been unable to tear himself away from these two discoveries: bones cleaned down to the bone (probably by coyotes) and a nice pile of elk poo (recognized by its large size and the distinctive “thumbprint” in each nugget).


 After two hours of foraging, it was time to return home. But wait—Rica found some excitement of her own! The squirrel teased and chattered and eventually made its way down the other side of the tree. Rica’s doggy brain forgot about it immediately, happy to move on to other discoveries.

Rica trees a squirrel

A perfect afternoon, evidenced by this view of Mixal Lake on our way down to the road and back home.

On the way home

And look what’s in the dehydrator at this very moment:

Ready for drying

Announcing . . . 2016!


Mark your calendars: In October of 2016. the 17th International Fungi & Fibre Symposium will be coming to Pender Harbour! When the announcement was made at the most recent Symposium in Estonia, the room erupted in cheers—the event has never been held in Canada before, and everyone was thrilled to bits at the prospect of checking out our dye mushrooms in British Columbia’s coastal rainforest.

The wonderful members of the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild are enthusiastic about putting on an event to remember, and members of the Sunshine Coast Society for the Hunting, Recognition and Observation of Mushrooms (hereafter known as SCHROOM) are already busy collecting the mushrooms we’ll need to keep the dyepots going.

Estonia colours

It’ll be a while yet before we get the details hammered out, but let me know if you’d like to be on our mailing list. Or just keep an eye on this blog.

Fibre of another kind

Bear fibre

This isn’t related to mushroom dyeing, but it does have to do with fibre and spinning and finding things in the forest. Plus, I’m excited beyond belief!

I’ve been wondering lately if I’d ever come across any bear hair while on my forest forays. While we know bears are around, we don’t see them that often. We did see one on the road a few weeks ago, and I marvelled at its thick, shiny coat—the beautiful animal looked as if he’d just been to a groomer. That’s when my thoughts turned to the likelihood that I’d ever get my hands on any of its fibre.

Well . . . on a little detour through the bush today, I came across a pile of scat that could only have been produced by a bear. It was covered in a white, fuzzy mold, and standing straight up out of that were masses of fine, black hair! Being unable to resist any kind of fibre, I just had to touch it. One touch led to another, which led to the plucking of as much of it as I could. It was indeed fine, with a slight crimp, and coated with oil, to the point that it was tacky.

I collected a small handful, which is now soaking in a solution of Orvus paste, after which I’ll steam it for an hour or two, just to make sure it’s clean. (And yes, I did wash my hands as soon as I got home!)

I can’t wait to see how it spins up!

Hydnellum caeruleun

Blue-gray Hydnellum

This image is a bit fuzzy, but it does show the Hydnellum “teeth” clearly. This is the first H. caeruleum I’ve ever found—the distinctive blue-gray border gave it away. It was a real surprise, given how dry it’s been lately, but these were growing in a shady spot near a stream.

These were in the same area as a good number of H. aurantiacum, so I’ll be able to do some comparison dyepots later in the season. For now, I’m mordanting as much fibre as I can, to get ready for the great mushroom pop-out that’s sure to happen soon. (Rain is predicted for later this week, so I have high hopes.)

Flash!! David Arora coming to Pender Harbour!

I’ve been working with a small group of people who are organizing the first Sunshine Coast Mushroom Fest, to be held here in Madeira Park on October 16-18. As we blue-skied about what we wanted this festival to look like and wondered who we should invite to speak at our first event,  David Arora’s name came up, as in, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow get David Arora up this way to talk to us?”

Well, guess what? David’s driving up from California in October to attend a couple of other mushroom events in these parts, and said he’d be more than happy to take part in our little mushroom celebration. He’ll be speaking the evening of October 17, then taking a limited number of people (thirty) on a foray/ID workshop on Sunday the 18th. Registration will take place through the Iris Griffith Interpretive Centre – I’m not sure when details will be up on their website (, but if you can possibly make it here on that weekend, it will be well worth it.