Rangers, troopers, officers, and sheriff’s deputies disrupted an illegal mushroom harvesting operation at Crater Lake earlier this month in which 234 pounds of morel mushrooms were confiscated. Fourteen individuals suspected of harvesting the mushrooms were cited. Although most had permits to harvest from national forests, harvesting in national parks is forbidden.
The fungus filchers’ ill-fated foraging took place within the National Creek Complex, ground zero of the park’s most extreme forest fire in recorded history. Forest fire sites are often where morel hunters head as the loss of tree life spurs fruiting, or the production of mushrooms.
Mushrooms are the reproductive organs of a fungus and are but a tiny piece of what can be an enormous organism. In fact, the largest organism on Earth is a fungus and it lives here in Oregon.
Located somewhere in the Blue Mountains, existing mostly underground, is a fungus 2.4 miles across estimated to be up to 8,650 years old. It was discovered via aerial photography and collection of root samples from 112 fir trees. Armillaria solidipes, aka honey fungus, has been responsible for large-scale timber die-offs in the national forests.
The good news is honey fungus, like morels, is a tasty treat that can be harvested right from the woods. Fungus hunting is a great way to get outside, but take a lesson from the Crater Lake morel marauders and know where you are allowed to harvest, while obtaining any necessary permits.
By Anthony Vitale