Thursday, October 27, 2011

Meet Skip Taliaferro - rock star of the mushroom world!

Morel – GOOD!  Death Cap – BAD!
Did you know there are more variety of wild mushrooms in the Blue Ridge than practically anywhere else?
By Meg Brager

Our local BRFAL Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists recently invited a guest speaker, Skip Taliaferro (pronounced Tolliver), to our monthly meeting in Rocky Mount to talk about mushrooms, or the science of mycology. 

Meet Skip the Mushroom Man

Skip had a lot to say about them, and he had the audience in the palm of his hand. He is obviously passionate and knowledgeable about the subject, and has in fact traveled around the world to learn about and collect mushrooms. He loves mushrooms…especially if they can be fried up in butter. But eating mushrooms can be hazardous (Morel – GOOD!  Death Cap – BAD!)  You could end up with a belly ache, or you could end up dead.
Death Cap
Species identification is crucial if you want to collect mushrooms to eat, and one of the ways Skip does this is by taking a “spore print”. This is done by placing a mushroom on paper for 24 hours and allowing it to spit out seed spores which form a distinctive design. He also identifies them by touch, smell and taste (without swallowing). Skip was quick to call himself an amateur, and he emphasized that extreme care should be taken when eating mushrooms: "When in doubt throw it out!"
Black Morel

But Skip also educated us regarding the crucial role mushrooms play in our natural world. Our forests could not survive without them and their natural by-product “mycelium”, and we can also thank mushrooms for penicillin, bread, cheese, beer, wine, and the list goes on.

It was a fascinating and highly entertaining presentation, and if Skip Taliaferro is not careful he will end up with a bunch of mushroom groupies on his hands!
Learn more about mushrooms here.

Read more in the National Audubon Society Mushroom Field Guide by Gary Lincoff here, Skip highly recommends this book for anyone interested in mushrooms.

Amanita Muscaria
Don't be kept in the dark, the BRFAL Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalist wants you to get outside, explore and learn something new today. 

So eat your Wheaties, grab your walking stick, bottle of water and camera and head on out in these Blue Ridge Mountains! Best month for seeing mushrooms is September, although the morels are up in early Spring, and others are visible throughout the year.

Learn more about the Virginia Master Naturalist program here!

Get involved in something cool, our next basic training will be held at The Franklin Center in Downtown Rocky Mount beginning March 2012, feel free to email us for more details: or visit our website for the draft schedule of classes here.

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