The Connecticut Mycological Association (COMA) was founded 6 March 1975 by a group of amateur naturalists and mushroom enthusiasts, many of whom were associated with the New York Botanical Garden, New York Mycological Society, Greenwich (CT) Audubon Center, and the Nature Center for Environmental Activities of Westport, CT. The Westport Nature Center was COMA’s original sponsor. The association’s name was revised to include “Westchester [County, NY]” in 1978. COMA is affiliated with the North American Mycological Association (NAMA) and the Northeast Mycological Federation (NEMF), and is incorporated as a tax-exempt entity in New York State.

The organization was founded as an educational and recreational group devoted to the study of mycology. Collecting, identifying, and eating mushrooms have always been popular elements of the club’s activities. However, COMA’s primary goal has been the advancement of the science of mycology through public education, organized forays and field trips, publication, lectures, and nature study. These have encompassed the fields of natural history, botany, taxonomy, culinary arts, photography, toxicology, microscopy, and more. The club actively promotes public education about mushrooms to prevent poisoning by toxic species.

Professional mycologists and advanced amateurs have been associated with COMA from its inception. A partial list includes Roy Halling, Peter Katsaros, Carol Levine, Gary Lincoff, Roz Lowen, Vincent Marteka, John Minot, Marge Morris, Sam Ristich, Clark Rogerson, Ann and Bud Schwartz, Sandy and Jerry Sheine, Sylvia and Philip Stein, and Barry Wulff. Ann and Bud Schwartz of Westport, CT were the club’s founders and first directors. Sandy Sheine of Pound Ridge, NY became president in 1978, serving until 1999. The club’s regular activities feature field trips to parks and woodland areas in southern Connecticut and Westchester County, meetings, lectures, and an annual three-day foray. The club publishes a quarterly newsletter, Spores Illustrated.

Clark T. Rogerson, mycologist and former curator of the mycological herbarium of the New York Botanical Garden, served as advisor to COMA from its inception to his retirement in 1996. In 1981 COMA named its annual foray in Dr. Rogerson’s honor in appreciation of his tireless commitment to education and the development of amateur mycology. At the forefront of COMA’s scientific activities is the recording of comprehensive collection lists of fungi collected on mushroom walks and the annual forays. In addition, the club conducts an annual survey of fungi at the Ward Poundridge Reservation in Pound Ridge, NY for the Westchester County Department of Parks.

Dr. Samuel Ristich, an entomologist, mycologist, and founding member of COMA who had been a constant source of inspiration, challenging ideas, and good humor has remarked, “Philosophically and pragmatically I believe in deep stewardship of the planet.” Ultimately, COMA has sought to promote and develop this sense of stewardship of the natural world through the study and appreciation of the world of fungi.

January 2001 (updated April 30, 2008)

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