Winter rains always stimulate mushroom growth in Bay Area woods, and if abundant rain is a factor this year should bring a bumper crop.
Beyond that, collecting mushrooms in the wild can be dangerous. Edible and poisonous mushrooms grow in the parks. Among the poisonous kind are the death cap (Amanita phalloides) and the Western destroying angel (Amanita ocreata), two of the world’s most toxic varieties.
Both contain amatoxins, molecules that are deadly to humans and many animals, including common pets. The two varieties grow mainly under oak trees or anywhere that oak roots are present. Other mushrooms in this area that contain deadly toxins include the Galerina and Lepiota varieties. Symptoms may not appear until up to 12 hours after consumption, beginning as severe gastrointestinal distress that can be life-threatening if treatment is not sought immediately.
Dog owners, keep a close watch on your pets during winter months. If you believe your dog may have eaten a poisonous mushroom, contact a veterinarian immediately.
In sum, if you collect mushrooms in areas where it is permitted (which is nowhere in the park district), expertise is a must. For the rest of us, the best place to collect them is our local supermarkets.
With that said, a great opportunity to learn more about mushrooms is the 2023 Tilden Fungus Fair. It’s a free event from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 28-29 at the Environmental Education Center in Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley.
The program will include guest speakers from the mycology community, arts and crafts for children, mushroom cooking, mushroom ice cream and hundreds of locally collected mushrooms on display. The center is at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.
Fremont: If you can’t make the fungus fair, check out a mushroom program scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont.
It’s free, and registration is not required. The park’s naturalist staff will explain why mushrooms grow in circles and describe their fairy tale associations. The group will search for mushroom rings and make a fairy craft to take home. Ardenwood is at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84. Park admission fees apply; parking is free. For information, call 510-544-2797.
Also in Fremont: You can often tell animals’ presence and diet by the scat they leave behind. Find out more during a program from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont.
Naturalist Martha Cerda will lead a walk in search of animal signs. Meet at the visitor center. This is a drop-in program; registration is not necessary. All ages are welcome; parent participation is required.
Access to the Coyote Hills Visitor Center via the Patterson Ranch Road park entrance may be impacted due to flooding from recent storms. Check program and park status at ebparks.org before you go. The program may transition to a virtual one, depending on park access. Coyote Hills is at the end of Patterson Ranch Road off Paseo Padre Parkway. For information, call 510-544-3220.
Alameda: Spotting and identifying migratory shorebirds is the goal of a program from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Doug Siden Visitor Center with naturalist Susan Ramos at Alameda’s Crab Cove.
The program is free, and registration is not required. Beginning birders are welcome, and some binoculars will be available to borrow. Crab Cove is at 1252 McKay Ave., off Alameda’s Central Avenue. For information, call 510-544-3187.
Orinda: The East Bay’s backyard volcano is the destination for a Wednesday Walk from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 1 with naturalist Michael Charnofsky. Meet Michael at the Tunnel Road Staging Area for Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. It’s just off Highway 24 at the east end of the Caldecott Tunnel in Orinda.
This is a moderate 5½-mile hike with ups and downs. The group will explore two ponds in search of amphibians, take in some great scenic vistas and view some volcanic geology.
Wednesday Walks are a series of free, naturalist-led hikes exploring various regional parks. No registration is necessary; everyone is welcome. For directions and information about the Sibley hike, call 510-544-3187.
Online: There are many programs planned in the coming days in East Bay regional parks. For a complete list, visit the district website at ebparks.org. Be sure also to check the website before visiting a regional park to be certain that weather conditions or storm damage have not resulted in program cancellations, the park’s closure or restricted access.
Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at [email protected]
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