Caps and trade

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Mushroom workshop at Flying J Open Space puts the fun in fungi

By Daniel Laverty

Several a-fungi-anados gathered at Flying J Ranch last Friday morning to learn about mushrooms in the mountain area of Jefferson County.


“We have between 2,000 and 3,000 mushroom species just in this area,” said Mary Beth Carpenter, a volunteer with the Lookout Mountain Nature Center.

About a dozen people showed up for “Beyond Pizza: What Everyone Should Know About Mushrooms.” Carpenter led the talk on families of fungus.

“We live in a such a great area for mushrooms,” Carpenter said. “We exceed Italy and France in mushroom production with our diverse ecosystem.”

Carpenter talked about the role mushrooms play in the forest ecosystem. Mushrooms break down organic material to make soil and help create nutrients for trees to grow healthy.

“Mushrooms are not plants,” Carpenter said. “They do not produce chlorophyll.”

While many mushrooms are safe to eat, many are not. Carpenter showed pictures of mushrooms that appear to be identical — one edible and one poisonous.

“This one is called delicious milky cap,” Carpenter said while pointing at photos. “This one is edible. But look at this one called Lactarius olympianus. They look alike, but this one is very poisonous.”

Carpenter reminded everyone to never eat a wild mushroom without being certain that it’s 100 percent safe.

“(Carpenter) had some impressive specimens,” said Bette Schwartz, a retired science teacher who lives in Conifer. “I’ve never been mushroom hunting in my life, but I’ve always been interested in them.”

Carpenter suggested consulting reputable websites and the book “Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains” by Vera Evenson.     

The next Lookout Mountain Nature Center event is from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. Aug. 15 at Lair o’ the Bear Open Space Park. The program is “What would we do without bats?” 

For more information, visit lmnc.jeffco.us. 

Contact Daniel Laverty at 303-350-1042 or  Daniel@evergreenco.com. Check ColumbineCourier.com for updates and breaking news. Follow Daniel on Twitter @LavertyReports.