The Saturday after Tropical Storm Elsa poured onto Gainesville, the city’s mycology club was back out looking for mushrooms on its weekend forays through the forest.
The flooding from the storm diverted members of the Florida Academic Lichen and Fungi Enthusiasts League (F.A.L.A.F.E.L.) from their planned route. The mushroom haul was not as plentiful as previous walks; however, that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the group.
Sarah Prentice, the founder of F.A.L.A.F.E.L., explained the impact that hurricane Elsa had on the mushroom walks.
“The boardwalk is still flooded, and right after the hurricane, we had an explosion of fungi from all of the rain,” she said.
Prentice founded the club in 2016 after taking a fungal biology course at the University of Florida. The club offers those interested in studying fungi the ability to learn more about them.
“We would do field trips out to the woods, and we would collect fungi together,” she said. “The class ended, and I was sad I missed the camaraderie there. I was surprised to find out that there wasn’t really any activity, historically, in Florida at all. I pitched it [F.A.LA.F.E.L.] as a joke, and everyone thought it was funny, and they voted for it.”
The group takes its weekly walks through the Natural Area Teaching Laboratory, located just south of the UF Cultural Plaza that houses the Florida Museum of Natural History, the Curtis M. Phillips Center and the Harn Museum of Art. The 60 acres are separated into various sections defined by different plants and wildlife. The laboratory is an active teaching site, meaning that several experiments can be found alongside the various paths throughout the walk.
Throughout Saturday’s walk, enthusiastic members on the walk would consistently divert from the group, hunting for fungi in the grass or fallen tree limbs and logs along the path. Those who have visited before pointed out different fungi and flowers found alongside the paths. With the flooding from Elsa, this walk was halted by ankle-deep standing water above the boardwalk trail.
Mateo Valdiviezo, a previous participant in the mushroom walks, encouraged those who have not participated in the mushroom walk before to do so in the future.
“Each time I come out here we learn about new mushrooms. I would encourage anyone else to come out if they are interested,” he said.
For more information about the mushroom stroll or the F.A.L.A.F.E.L. club, visit their Facebook page.