5 years in the past, Jon Hees thought each wild mushroom meant on the spot loss of life.
Then he and girlfriend Erika Catranides did some morel mushroom searching whereas on a fishing journey.
“It snowballed right into a illness,” Hees mentioned. “Once I see a bit mushroom, it’s like a thriller I’ve received to study.”
The Lincoln man now spends hours on his days off from double shifts at his forklift job strolling within the woods together with his head down, in search of fungi.
Alongside the best way, he has made some main finds. His most up-to-date was the “flame protect” mushroom, identified amongst consultants by its Latin title, Pluteus aurantiorugosus. It’s solely the fourth from Nebraska listed on the iNaturalist app, the place most individuals report their discoveries.
Josh Herr, an assistant professor within the division of plant pathology on the College of Nebraska-Lincoln, mentioned it’s a uncommon discover.
“‘I’ve been learning mushrooms for 25 years, and I’ve by no means come throughout this factor,” he mentioned.
Hees additionally has recorded the primary bladder stalks and Loweomyces fractipes mushrooms in Nebraska.
Hees noticed the brilliant orange “flame protect’’ mushroom on a log simply exterior Lancaster County at a wildlife administration lake.
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It’s exhausting to know simply what number of there could also be within the state as a result of they’re hidden away for many of their lives, Herr mentioned. That’s why neither he nor Hees was massively stunned when one other individual on the Nebraska Mushrooms Fb web page, Laura Rodgers, posted a photograph of the one her boyfriend, Sam Barnes, discovered final week.
Hees is moderator of the web page, which has virtually 3,000 members.
He discovered three at his website and dealt with every rigorously.
“I didn’t wish to put the little man in my bag and let him get beat up, so I carried him out in my hand,” Hees mentioned.
Proper into the arms of Herr, who’s now making an attempt to develop the fungi in his lab. Its DNA will yield all types of details about its household, simply as human DNA does.
Herr mentioned that as a result of he spends a lot time instructing or within the lab as an alternative of out of doors, citizen scientists corresponding to Hees are invaluable. However Hees, he mentioned, is a step above. A real skilled.
“He actually has a expertise for this,” Herr mentioned. “He’s actually taught himself all the pieces. He’s actually latched on to the science of it.”
Hees, 40, mentioned he likes mushrooms a lot that the details about each simply sticks in his mind. He has thought of going to high school to additional develop his data however mentioned he doesn’t do properly in such a structured setting — he learns higher on his personal.
However as somebody who has by no means traveled exterior of the U.S., he generally envies consultants corresponding to Alan Rockefeller, who travels the world to hunt fungi.
Whereas the uncommon ones he finds are cool, Hees’ favorites are the massive ones. Most individuals don’t understand that varieties corresponding to the enormous puffballs develop so giant.
“It blows their minds once they see a mushroom that’s 20 kilos,” he mentioned. “It did mine, anyhow.”
The massive ones make their look within the fall, when they’re prepared to breed, and the tasty morels come out within the spring. Hees is so keen about mycology that he schedules his holidays round their appearances.
His holy grail is a lion’s mane and its dangling spines, which he has but to search out.
An angler and outdoorsman his entire life, he enjoys instructing different folks about mushrooms, and delivering particular ones to Herr to advance the science of the misunderstood fungus. It’s an essential a part of the ecosystem.
“I simply suppose it’s cool my title would possibly find yourself in a science e-book someplace, they usually can use this to review,” he mentioned. “They don’t have any of those flame shields. I believed that was fairly thrilling.”
Pictures: Nebraska wildflowers for the backyard