Prairie States Mushroom Club
Imagine this: it’s a misty Iowa morning, and a small group of stick-and-basket-wielding mushroom enthusiasts has gathered near a stand of trees. The club members—some carrying small hand shovels, some carrying camera equipment, and all wearing hiking boots—spread out in the forest, only reconvening when someone whistles or calls to the others to observe a particularly interesting find. At the end of the morning, the members gather around a picnic table to identify and catalog their finds, as well as to share anecdotes regarding how a particular taxon might be found, identified, or prepared for consumption. The foray ends with lunch, and members return home with the spoils of their outing.
Formed in 1983, the Prairie States Mushroom Club (PSMC) is Iowa’s foremost amateur mycological society. The organization “promotes scientific and educational activities related to fungi and fosters the appreciation of wild and cultivated mushrooms”, as well as the “practical and scientific study of fungi and the gathering, dissemination and perpetuation of facts and knowledge on that subject.” The group shares their findings with other organizations—namely the North American Mycological Association (NAMA)—and professional mycologists.
While the group boasts a membership from diverse backgrounds (scientists, students, naturalists, and photographers to name a few), it was originally founded by former NAMA president Dr. Don Huffman and Dr. Lois Tiffany to help gather data on populations of morels (Morchella spp.) in the region. Since the conclusion of this study, however, the group’s interests have expanded beyond far beyond morels. Now, PSMC conducts forays around Iowa, encouraging seasoned and inexperienced mycophiles alike to explore the diversity of fungi for food and pleasure.
Of course, PSMC does more than just conduct forays. The group also recruits speakers to lecture on interesting topics related to fungal biology, circulates an annual calendar of photos taken by members, and even produces its own newsletter. This newsletter often contains editorial pieces written by members, which often relate more intimate experiences with fungi, such as club president Glen Schwartz’s article “The Magic Stump” in which he relates his first experiences with mushrooms, his introduction to the PSMC, and a tree stump that supported remarkable diversity of fungi.