with Helen Lau, botanist with the US Forest Service
Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) is thrilled to announce the start of season 2 of the Highland Wonders Podcast: an opportunity to learn about the natural history of the Okanogan from the comfort of your home, car or skis! Over the course of this winter, monthly episodes will focus on the life that makes the Okanogan such a unique and beautiful place, starting with the Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan! You can find episodes here, or wherever you normally get your podcasts.
Each episode will be accompanied by a nature detective story, where a younger audience can follow along as Anna, Nature Detective, uses her imagination and explores the podcast’s subject.
The stories and podcasts will be posted to the OHA website (okanoganhighlands.org) and on the following podcast apps: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts and RadioPublic. Please read, listen (rate the podcast on your favorite app) and enjoy!
Anna, Nature Detective
Season 2, Episode 1: Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan
Last year, Jack the Nature Detective took us along on his adventures in the Okanogan Highlands, as he explored with his family and learned all about local wildlife, from grouse to bats to owls to bighorn sheep to common loons. This year, Jack is off to kindergarten, and in a solemn ceremony that took place at the end of August, Jack presented his cousin, Anna, with her very own Nature Detective tools and an official badge. Let’s get to know Anna!
Anna is a different kind of Nature Detective than Jack. Where Jack is cautious and careful, Anna is daring and precocious, where Jack is quiet and observant, Anna spends half her time singing and the other half chatting. Where Jack is particular about calling things by their proper name, Anna makes up her own names for her discoveries. She LOVES animals, and she is the kid who can catch the cat that no one else can. She loves exploring things close up, touching them, peering at them through her Nature Detective hand lens. Sometimes, things that can’t run away suit Anna’s detective style best, and so, this month, Anna finds herself exploring the mushroom world!
“Hey mom, what are these slimy things?” Anna hollers from the back yard.
“Ohhhh noooo, not again!” her mom remembers back to the week before when Anna brought two heaping handfuls of deer droppings into the kitchen. She runs outside to find Anna poking at a perfect circle of mushrooms growing in the backyard. “Oh, how pretty!” Anna’s mom says “I think that’s called a fairy ring.”
Anna gasps, “a fairy ring? Made by fairies? Let’s check it out!” She pulls out her hand lens and looks at the top of one mushroom. It’s smooth, brown and slippery. She looks at the stem, tan and shaggy. Then she looks at the underside of the mushroom top. “Wow! What are those stripey things?” Anna and her mom look carefully at the mushroom, and then Anna draws what she sees in her notebook. Later on, they look in a book and find that the top of the mushroom is called the cap, the stem is called the stem, and the stripes underneath the cap are called gills.
“So… mushrooms have gills… like fish. And a cap, like an umbrella. And I don’t know why, but they grow in a circle like a fairy would make. I’ll call this a Fairy Gillyhat!” Anna says. Anna and her mom go and wash their hands, because, as their book told them, some mushrooms can be poisonous. From that day on, Anna finds mushrooms all over the place – growing on tree trunks, in the grass, on logs in the forest, everywhere! But why are they everywhere? And why are some poisonous, but some you can eat? What do mushrooms eat? Anna has lots of questions, and luckily for her, Helen Lau, of the US Forest Service has lots of answers in the latest episode of the Highland Wonders Podcast!
Learn all about Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan (and catch any Season 1 episodes that you may have missed) at: okanoganhighlands.org/education/highland-wonders/ or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts.