An Introduction to The Connecticut-Westchester Mycological Association (COMA)

COMA was founded in 1976 by a group of people who wanted to explore the world of mushrooms and to learn and share knowledge about the science of mycology. While walking with us through the woods you will have an opportunity to learn about mushrooms, trees, flowers, birds, and many other aspects of the natural world. You may also want to learn more about cooking, the environment, photography, traveling, and related interests. Our range of interests is broad, but our focus, of course, is on mushrooms. Every walk is a learning experience. Gradually you will learn to identify many mushrooms, some of which are edible, and even delicious, nutritious, and a benefit to health.

Activities: COMA schedules about 20 mushroom walks and 5 lectures each year from spring through fall. All walks and lectures are free of charge and open to the public. We encourage you to bring family and friends. Guests are always welcome. Our walks take place in wooded areas and parks in the New York metropolitan area and in southern Connecticut. Lectures are held at the Friendís Meeting House in Purchase, NY. Our final meeting includes a year-end dinner celebration.

The annual Rogerson Foray: COMA sponsors a four-day weekend foray that includes overnight lodging at a location in central Connecticut. This foray features mushroom walks and identification, lectures, and a lot of fun!

Newsletter: Our newsletter, Spores Illustrated, is mailed to members at reliably irregular intervals, usually four times per year. The newsletter lists the times and locations of all club events. COMA is affiliated with the North American Mycological Association (NAMA), a national organization of mycological clubs. Upon joining NAMA you will also receive publications of that organization: The Mycophile (national mushrooming news) and McIlvainea (a journal for serious amateur articles on all aspects of fungi).

Mushroom Walks: Each walk typically begins at 9:30 am and ends at noon, usually on weekends. We then have a picnic lunch (bring your own lunch) and spread out our mushrooms harvest for identification and discussion. We keep detailed records of all the fungi we find and provide lists of mushrooms at each walk to help you keep track of your finds.

Preparing for Walks: Since we search for mushrooms, our walks are not unusually long or strenuous. However, as with any nature hike, common sense preparation will make the walk more enjoyable. Always consider:

In some cases we leave the trail to hunt mushrooms, increasing exposure to underbrush. In order to minimize the risk of deer tick bites on and off the trail, it is helpful to wear light-colored clothing, long-sleeved shirts, and pants tucked into socks. Mushroom collecting equipment includes:

Poisonous Mushrooms: COMA is an educational club. We emphasize learning positive identification of fungi to avoid mushroom poisoning that can cause sickness, hospitalization, and in the worst cases, death.

There is NO general rule that allows you to distinguish between an edible and a poisonous mushroom. If you are interested in learning about mushrooms to eat (mycophagy), you must be able to identify the exact species of mushroom to be safe. Some species are delicious; others are deadly poisonous.

Always remember: if you cannot positively and absolutely identify a mushroom to species, do NOT eat it. It is dangerous to eat any mushroom without knowing exactly what you are eating. Also note that you should never eat any mushroom raw, and that some people have sensitivities and allergies to certain species that are normally edible.

Field Guides: There are many mushroom identification guides. It is helpful to familiarize yourself with a few of them. Highly recommended for our area: Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms - Gary Lincoff

Again, we look forward to your company and active participation.

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[August, 2008]

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