Blog

September 24, 2021
A group of us gathered by Still Creek in the Renfrew Ravine on a glorious sunny morning. We discussed the similarities between fascia and mycelium, and moved sensing our bones, muscles, fascia, and everything in between. We ended our session by creating and guiding each others through a series of movement scores inspired by Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus gilbertsonii), Angel Wings (Pleurocybella porrigens), Sharp Scaly Pholiota (Pholiota squarrossoides), and Black Pine mushroom (Catathelasma ventricosa).

September 11, 2021
How we like-o the Myco-Bike-o! Biking around the city looking for mushrooms is one of our favourite activities, and doing it with a group is even more fun. Gaston Park, with its low biodiversity, gave us a chance to consider the unseen (microscopic) arbuscular mycorrhizae, and the lichens living on tree bark. Cariboo Park, with its interesting community of native and introduced trees such as pines (Pinus sp.), oaks (Quercus sp.) and birches (Betula sp.), brought to the conversation mushroom-forming ectomycorrhizae, and mycorrhizal bridge trees such as Red Alder (Alnus rubra), mountain ash (Sorbus sp.) and willows (Salix sp.), who connect the communities of arbuscular mycorrhizae and ecto-mycorrhizae. A False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca), which deserves a better common name, was fruiting at the edge of the wetland area, and a group of blobby-shaped Artist Conks (Ganoderma applanatum group, possibly G. brownii) were popping up from hidden roots where a stump must have been in the past. But the Artist Conks in Renfrew Ravine were glorious, shelving from the bottom of a towering Black Cottonwood (Populous trichocarpa), eating and erupting from its roots and engulfing ivy leaves. Turkey Tails (Trametes versicolor), a fiber head (Inocybe sp.), Carbon Antlers (Xylaria hypoxylon), a cluster of baby inky caps (Coprinellus sp.), Armillaria rhizomorphs, a fairy bonnet (Mycena sp.) and some Collared Parachutes (Marasmius rotula) also greeted us in the Ravine.

August 29, 2021
Métis herbalist and wise woman Lori Snyder offered us all many teachings amongst the cultivated and spontaneous plants that make up the Colour Me Local Dye Garden on the west edge of Renfrew Ravine. The conversation followed branching and fusing threads like photosynthate streaming through mycorrhizae from a mother tree to her young. Between distractions of hummingbird acrobatics, Pileated Woodpecker’s chortling laughter and the fearsome swoop of a Cooper’s Hawk into a squirrel-riddled hazelnut tree, I wrote down a few choice quotes:

“We need to move out of our heads; move into our hearts.”
“It’s not about having the right answers; it’s about asking the right questions.”
“The plants see me only as spirit. There’s no identity construct.”
“How do you live a long life? Feel your hunger. Feel the cold.”
“Diversify how you get your dopamine.”
“I may have triggered you, but it’s yours.”
“Don’t believe a word I told you. Learn for yourself.”

Photography by Yvonne Chew

July 30, 2021
What a fun session of blockprinting! Familiar faces and new friends alike carved fungal forms into rubber, rolled on ink and printed up a storm. Mushrooms represented included Chanterelles (Cantharellus sp.), Bleeding Fairy Helmet (Mycena haematopus) , Xylaria sp., Parrot Waxcap (Hygrocybe psittacinus), Alaskan Gold (Phaeolepiota aurea), Golden Milk Cap (Lactarius alnicola), among others, as well as bees, flowers, hands, fir needles, and more.

July 16, 2021
A group of many ages and cultures came together to draw and write with ink gifted to us by Shaggy Mane mushrooms (Coprinus comatus) and a diversity of calligraphy pens and brushes. Drawing insporation from letter writing, signatures, languages, the nature of the materials and the personality of these fungi, we approached the practice with meaning and playfulness.

June 6 & May 30, 2021
We met at Cariboo Park and discussed the relationship between fascia and mycelium, as well as the interconnectedness of species and our ecosystem. We moved with eyes closed and eyes open, focusing on listening, sensing, and responding to the space and living beings in and around us. We concluded our session with some writing and map making inspired by our movement explorations.

May 16, 2021
Myco Bike-o! We rolled around the neighbourhood from park to park to park, Witnessing and discussing the seen and unseen fungal inhabitants, as well as appreciating the plant diversity.

Gaston Park offered us an opportunity to pay attention to lichens encrusting the surfaces of trees, rocks and concrete, talk about the microscopic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi that live in the soils and help most plants have their needs met, and consider the endophytic fungi that constitute part of the microbiome of all plants.

Cariboo Park is host to a diversity of lovely native and introduced tree species, many of which associate with mushroom-forming ectomycorrhizal fungi, such as fall-fruiting Russulas, Boletes and Amanitas. We enjoyed seeing the patch of camas growing around the seasonal pond, and discussed its importance in Indigenous foodways. The birch offered us a chance to discuss some of the important medicinal and utilitarian fungi that grow on birches (though not present), such as Birch Polypore, Amadou and Chaga.

Renfrew Ravine offered us a deeply calming, centering walk. As we descended along a small path, we escaped the city noise, which was replaced by birdsong and the song of Still Creek running over the rocks. We met a big group of Artist Conks (Ganoderma brownii) growing at the base of a towering cottonwood and marvelled at their prolific sporulation, ecological adaptability and offerings as medicine. We noticed lots of crusty, black Xylariaceous fungi on fallen branches, and discussed their spalted contributions to the world of woodworking. Then we saw a dead alder with Silver Leaf Fungus (Chondrostereum purpureum), and puzzled at the perhaps foolish use of it by some arborists and foresters to inhibit stumps from sprouting new trees. We concluded by with an encounted with a fallen alder, killed by Honey Mushroom (Armillaria) rhizomorphs and now being eaten by Turkey Tails (Trametes versicolor). A hummingbird was surprised to see a bunch of humans in her salmonberry patch.

The conversations throughout were rich, despite seeing very few fresh fungi. This allowed us to go deeper into the unseen relationships, and not be focused on only learning to recognize and identify fungi. And it was so empowering and fun to bike in a group!

April 17, 2021
The spore print stencil workshop was full of familiar faces. We used the powers of imagination and storytelling to shrink ourselves down to the size of a spore, journey through the air, into a cloud, then down to the forest floor in a raindrop, where we began to grow into hungry mycelium and encountered a diversity of soil life. We survived to find mates, fuse with them, then we formed mushrooms, from which we liberated our own spores. Billions of them. We then came back to our human bodies, and with the from our dip into the mushroom life cycle, we designed and cut stencils through which we’ll let some mushrooms shoot their spores.

April 3, 2021
A group of folks braved today’s light rain to venture into Renfrew Ravine to learn some history and ecology of the place, while learning the roles fungi play in succession, soil building, decomposition, medicine, as partners to plants and friends to woodpeckers. We encountered some small fungi doing big actions, such as Stereum hirsutum (Hairy Curtain Crust) eating an alder branch while being parasitized by a Tremella sp. (jelly fungus), Armillaria (Honey Mushroom) rhizomorphs that had taken down some alders, Turkey tails eating and fruiting from alder logs, and lots of crusty, black members of the family Xylariaceae. We concluded with a sensory encounter with some surprise guest fungi, prompting an artistic exercise. Photos: Veronika Khvorostukhina and Andrea Berneckas.

March 28, 2021
A group of us gathered in Renfrew Ravine Park today, tuning to the sounds in and around us. We listened to the wild wind, the rain drops on our umbrellas, the mating calls of the chickadees, the wing beats of the copper’s hawk, the strident symphony of a pack of coyotes, and the sound of our muddy steps as we walked attentively through the ravine. We came across some lovely fungi, such as Stereum, Armillaria rhizomorphs and brittle cinder crust, and listened to their bioelectric signals translated through a biosonication device called Plant Wave. Photos: Brendon Campbell

March 7, 2021
Today we launched our residency with a wonderful plant walk lead by guest artist and Métis herbalist Lori Snyder. Together, we walked around Renfrew Ravine Park and talked about the connections between plants, humans, fungi, animals, microbes and the elements, acknowledging all our relations.