In creating Mushrooms of Cascadia: An Illustrated Key, I wanted a book small enough to carry and use in the woods yet with a broad coverage of species, something far more reliable than existing apps, and something not dependent on cell phone coverage. My inspiration was a simple one-page picture key to the major genera of gilled mushrooms developed in the 1970s by my mentor, Kit Scates Barnhart. Helping her develop that key gave me the tools to recognize the major genera of gilled mushrooms. I wanted a book that would also cover the non-gilled mushrooms, explore the major subgenera of fungi while illustrating far more fungal species than are covered in typical field guides. I wanted a book that would guide the reader to the species through a carefully designed series of choices, rather than thumbing through the book looking for a picture match. By emphasizing features that separate genera and subgenera, the book should help users identify mushrooms throughout North America, even when the specific species may differ. The key was also designed to emphasize the features to look for in distinguishing one species from another since many times I have read two adjacent descriptions and been unable to decide in what ways the two described species differ. At other times, notably with a mushroom that might be edible, how distinctive is it? Is a mistake easy to make or are the differences obvious? When and where do you look for a specific mushroom? How restrictive is the habitat? How distinctive is the odor and taste? What does the mushroom feel like? I address all of these questions.
This talk will feature the mushrooms that are found within 40 miles of my home, half-way between Mount Adams and Mount Hood but that are also found in most of Cascadia, a region from southern Alaska to north-central California. Roughly 20 miles west of my home is low-elevation marine-influenced rainforest, 20 miles east is arid shrub-steppe habitat, 30 miles north or south takes me above the tree-line into the high alpine. Several rare species are only known from here and from southern California. Indeed most mushrooms in the book can be found throughout California and Alaska, many are found in much of North America.