When you hear the words “treasure hunt,” it brings to mind dangerous quests to find buried gold and silver by following clues on a faded piece of parchement or cloth. In today’s world, it has become a harmless game at birthday parties or other social events where everyone enjoys the challenge of outsmarting their peers and being the first to solve all of the clues. We even find treasure hunting in the outdoor activity called Geocaching where countless adventurers around the world hide their treasures and seek out new ones using GPS devices. The “treasures” vary from worthless to valuable and the discovery of the unknown drives these explorers to keep searching.
In the spring time every year, a new kind of treasure emerges bringing scientists, photographers, students, teachers, business executives, doctors, parents and grandparents out of their winter dwellings and into the great outdoors. This elusive treasure is called fungi and the treasure map is sketched by the changes in the weather, the presence of specific trees, the soil conditions, the time of the year and many other factors.
Discovery for the purpose of documenting a new species, taking a unique photo, or harvesting a prized edible drives these treasure hunters out into some harsh conditions. The threat of a storm, a violent downpour, pollen-coated lungs and blood sucking insects are all forgotten at the first sight of a yellow honeycomb peeking its head out from under its winter leafy blanket.
Some of the first treasures to appear remind you of a J.R.R Tolkein quest when you see their common names – Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) and Scarlet Elf Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca). Early spring explorers will also find Entoloma vernums, 4 types of Morels, Mica Caps (Coprinellus micaceus), the Devils Urn (Urnula craterium) and dried out varieties from last year’s growth.
Follow me as this treasure hunt is only just beginning. . . .