by Lea LSF
Fungophilia and mycophilia in America are growing fast. Trust me, I am a a budding enthusiast.
Who are the fungo-mycophiles?
Most generally, they are people who forage for wild mushrooms, identify species and eat them, but it doesn’t stop there!
What’s the difference between fungophilia and mycophilia?
Amongst the true-true enthusiasts the term of choice is not fungophilia, but mycophilia. The myco refers to mycelium, the underground micro-rhizomatic root system of which the mushrooms are the fruit.
I will use the term mycophilia, because it acknowledges the whole network, rather than just a part. Really though fungophilia and mycophilia are a very similar enthusiasm/subculture.
What might mycophiles be out there doing?
Mycophiles learn about mushrooms and share their knowledge as if the information is the key to life!
In Ithaca, NY the spike in wild mushroom interest is very noticeable. Expert and super-dude Carl Whittaker teaches an Ithaca Freeskool class called Mushroom Hunt and Idenitification. Watch mycophile-filmmaker Shira Golding’s video documentation on the event in the woods to learn how some mushroom gatherers may interact in the woods!
Mycophiles form groups and go on forays.
Many mushroom enthusiasts form or join mycological societies and attend forays – weekend trips out into the wilderness. During daylight the group collects specimens, and in the evening they eat delicious dinners, hear mushroom related lectures and engage in lively fungafied discussions. Visit for instance this awesome webpage of the Oregan Mycological Society to learn just how deep the American fascination with mushrooms is getting.
Mycophiles make mushroom art- mushroom shelves, spore print clothing, etc.
Mycophiles attribute great importance to mushrooms and their micro-rhizomatic systems of mycelium that run below the ground and can be super-extensive in their reach.
In his popular book, Mycelium Running, Paul Stamets goes as far as to claim that mushrooms and their micro-rhizomatic root systems are sentient and self-aware.
I asked my mycophile friend and professional wild mushroom hunter Carl Whittaker whether he too thinks mushrooms are sentient.
“Not the way we think of sentient, but there’s something to that idea of communication. Mushrooms, for instance, can mediate between trees, breaking down sugars from one tree and swapping them from minerals with another. In another one of Stamets’ books he describes an eco-system in which some trees are downslope in wetter areas and other trees of the same forest are upslope and needing of water. The network of mycelium can transfer water to where it is needed to help the whole forest. That is a form of communication. There is communication and intelligence, whether they’re sentient and self-aware is another question, but they do certainly communicate.”