Mushrooms Everywhere!

A classic Amanita mushroom growing in my neighbor’s field

The fall of 2023 is a stunning year for mushrooms in the forests along the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. They come in most every color: Yellow, red, brown, purple, pink, white, and even black. Some grow on the forest floor, some on logs, some only on individual Douglas fir cones. They occupy nearly every inch of the forest and are completely essential to its health.


This tiny mushroom grows only on Douglas fir cones.

An example of a gilled mushroom holding a tiny lake of raindrops.


In a recent class I taught for fifth graders at one of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust sites, I had the students stomp their feet on the forest floor. “Underneath one of your feet are 300 miles (480 kilometers) of mycelium,” I said. “They mostly can only be seen through microscopes, but if you laid these little thread-like roots under your foot end to end they would  stretch from one end of our island to the other six times!”

And what do mycelium become? They become mushrooms when conditions of temperature and moisture are just right. The fifth graders received deep caution about trying to eat any mushrooms. The focus of our class was wonder, amazement, and respect for the role of these “creatures”.

Twenty years ago, mushrooms were still thought to be in the plant kingdom. Now, however, they have been catalogued by scientists to be in their own kingdom—a kingdom mostly invisible to us except during spectacular “blooms” like this fall. The more I learn about mushrooms, the more I am convinced they are the magicians of the natural world.

A lignin decomposing shelf fungus

Notice the brown spore print below the shelf fungus. Spores disseminate the mushrooms into new places, much like primitive seeds.

Need a two-ton tree on the forest floor removed? Mushrooms will do the job. Need to find a way to decompose plastics? Mushrooms are proving capable of that “impossible” job. Is there a disease in need of cure? Likely a mushroom exists that can be of help. And mental health challenges? Mushrooms are on the frontier of that field, too.

Mushrooms also provide us with spectacular metaphors for life. On a recent zoom call between Wilderness Guides in Ukraine, North America, and Europe I listened to the dire reports from my Ukrainian colleagues: those in their 20s and 30s struggling to have hope for the future, one in his 60s whose son had just been sent to the front line. Please, they asked us, tell us something of your lives so we can see beyond our own borders.

My check-in was about our forest mushrooms. “I know mushroom foraging is important in your country. Lately, I have been walking our forest trails and been absolutely amazed by the variety, color, and abundance of our mushrooms this fall. One month ago, there were scarcely any mushrooms out. Now they are everywhere. It is a poignant reminder that unseen, powerful forces for beauty and good are always at work around each of us.”

Fairy finger mushrooms.



A log being decayed by moss, witches butter mushrooms(yellow) and a species of gilled mushrooms


Shaggy mane mushroom


Admiring or collecting mushrooms is more fun with friends—Marcia and Christina holding onto Libbie and Vivi who are NOT truffle sniffing dogs!

If you are hunting mushrooms for eating, go with someone local who knows what they are doing! I had the privilege of acting as sweep for a recent Whidbey Camano Land Trust walk with Kyle Ostermick-Durfee, WCLT steward specialist and amateur mushroom hunter Sego Jackson.











Mycology, the study of fungi, is a complex and fascinating field. One of the best, most accessible sources of information is the film by Louie Schwartzberg entitled “Fantastic Fungi”. The film with animation focuses on connection between all mushrooms and the earth’s systems. It can be accessed on line.

One of the best books I’ve read recently about fungi is Entangled Life, How Fungi Make our Worlds, Change our Minds and Shape our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake.

And I pay tribute here to Dr. Lois H. Tiffany, mycologist, my professor at Iowa State University, who first opened my mind to the wonder of fungi. She was known as “Iowa’s mushroom lady”, taught at ISU for over 50 years, and received numerous national awards for her work. She passed away in 2009 and would be totally amazed by the knowledge gained in the mycological world since her death.

One of my all time mentors, Dr. Lois H. Tiffany




26 replies
  1. Gretchen Staebler
    Gretchen Staebler says:

    I love this! Mushrooms are amazing! I saw one of those shaggy manes recently for the first time. I’m happy to know its name.

  2. Jeanne Guy
    Jeanne Guy says:

    Ann, this was so fun to read! Absolutely fascinating. I remember when my sister and I were staying at her rustic cabin up in Prescott National Forest and would go mushroom picking (she had learned which ones were edible and knew those that were not) and used them in fresh salads or sautéed them for dinner. I also have a book written by Samuel Rosen, a well-respected infamous Indiana judge who was quite the mushroom aficionado. He authored a book in 1982 entitled, “A Judge Judges Mushrooms.” Love knowing mushrooms could have an impact on the plastics of the world…

  3. Sara J Harris
    Sara J Harris says:

    How you honor Dr Tiffany now! She would be amazed and also proud of you! It is so exciting to remember these beings in your newsletter, and to get re-excited abut their magic and intelligence!
    Thanks, Ann!

    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Yes, I am so happy to honor Dr. Tiffany. She was an incredible mentor to me both in the field and in the classroom. She and another professor, Dr. Knaphus, used to drive a yellow school bus from Iowa to Utah every spring break filled with botany students and camping gear. Such remarkable times we had! Ann

  4. Larry Houff
    Larry Houff says:

    I find this article completely fascinating. I do enjoy reading everything Ann writes about nature despite the fact that I live in a city of 4.5 million.

  5. Sue Reynolds
    Sue Reynolds says:

    Ann, thanks for the reminder that there is something working underground to bring life to the world…. Good to remember!
    With love,

  6. Prescott
    Prescott says:

    Truly a wonder you’ve shared beautifully. A former WWOOFER and friend of our Tera Kelly just published a very good children’s book. “Listen to the Language of Trees.”

  7. Laura Collins
    Laura Collins says:

    Beautiful post. Thanks for taking us into the rich PNW forests. I’ve heard from Andrew, as well, about the incredible mushrooms this fall. He’s been foraging nearly every weekend.

  8. Marjeta Novak
    Marjeta Novak says:

    Dear Ann – I share your fascination with these magical beings. Here in Slovenia, Peter and I have been having parasol mushrooms for dinner (Macrolepiota procera) for three days in a row. Some more in the freezer!
    I remember walking the trails around Washington DC, and finding chanterelles this past summer – what a treat! (Apparently, not many locals know, or hunt them.)
    I was raised in a family of mushroom aficionados. While I love hunting them (what a strange verb to use – we usually say ‘picking’ in my language), I like even more just basking in their beauty and magic. They often visit me in dreams, connecting this world with other worlds. They are such a portal …
    And when despair about the world visits, I say to myself: Fungi will not only survive but thrive. Way after the last human is gone. And this, strangely, brings me peace.
    Sending hugs!

    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Dear Marjeta, What a beautiful response—a mini blog all by itself! I could not have said it more clearly. Thank you so much for writing and hugs back to you, Ann

  9. Sharon Faulds
    Sharon Faulds says:

    Well Ann, thank you for sharing your wisdom and reminding me of the magic of mushrooms. On my morning walks in the woods with the Vizslas I see mushrooms all the time and I so appreciate their place in the web of life. Thank you again for this reminder.

    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Hello Sharon! “Appreciating their place in the web of life” is exactly the essence of my blog. Thank you for writing! Ann

  10. Bonnie Rae
    Bonnie Rae says:

    Fantastic Fungi was absolutely mesmerizing. This post will inspire me to watch again and really absorb it. It was just such a stunning visual it was hard to focus. My daily walks have led me to the discovery of many new mushrooms this year. A few years ago I started following Dan Nelson’s blog. You may know him, but if anyone is looking to explore the PNW in a new way, he is a wonderful resource. Thanks for all you do!
    Here is Dan’s blog:

  11. Jana Jopson
    Jana Jopson says:

    Mushrooms as food, portals, transformers, hope … I’ll be watching the Fantastic Fungi movie again, too. The international zoom call that takes place is very moving.
    Thank you so much. Beautiful photos, too. Peace and ease.


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