Most of us know mushrooms as culinary delicacies, but fungi have been used for everything from making paper and dyes to producing drugs—not to mention their life-giving mycorrhizal association with lichen and plants and their role as decomposers that break down nitrogen and add it to the soil. If you want to learn more—such as what kind of tree to look under for your favorite mushroom and how to identify the Bay Area’s three poisonous species—don’t miss the San Francisco Mycological Society’s 32nd Annual Fungus Fair on December 8 (10 a.m.-5 p.m.) and December 9 (12 noon-5 p.m.) at the Oakland Museum of California. Everything from cooking demonstrations to slide shows and informational booths covering mushroom hunting, poisoning, biology, art, psychedelics, medicines, and identification will be presented, along with samples of some two hundred Bay Area mushroom species, and a display of lichen by the California Lichen Society. The Oakland Museum is located at 1000 Oak Street in Oakland. (Sunday, December 9, the public is admitted to the museum without charge.) For more information, log on to www.mssf.org or www.museumca.org.
Two other local mushroom fairs will take place in January. The Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz and the City of Santa Cruz Natural History Museum host their fair on January 12 and 13 in the Louden Nelson Community Center in downtown Santa Cruz. For more information, contact (831)684-2275. The Sonoma County Mushroom Association will hold its fair on January 27 (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) at the Coddington Mall in northern Santa Rosa. For more information, log on to http://www.somamushrooms.org/.