The State Mushroom Initiative: Every State Has its Own State Mushroom!

The State Mushroom Initiative: Every State Has its Own State Mushroom!

By: Else C. Vellinga – MSA liaison with amateur mycologists

The state of California where I live, has a state tree (redwood: Sequoia sempervirens and Sequoiodendron giganteum), a state flower (Eschscholzia californica), even a state grass (Nassella pulchra), and also a state lichen (Ramalina menziesii). But there is no official California mushroom. In fact, only three states have a state mushroom: Minnesota, the first state to have one, chose the morel, Morchella esculenta; Oregon was second and has Cantharellus formosus as its state fungus; and in 2021 Texas announced that Chorioactis geaster achieved state symbol-dom.

These state symbols have to be proposed as a bill to the state legislature, sponsored by one of the legislators (in senate or assembly of the state in question), and then coached through the progress by dedicated people who keep their eye on the ball and cheer the legislator on, but don’t burden her or him by overly scientific explanations of why this particular species was proposed.

This whole process played out quite recently in Texas, where a state senator and an assembly person sponsored the bill. Chorioactis geaster seems almost been made for the Lone star state, with its star-shaped ascomata, and its occurrence in a north-south strip in Texas (expanding just into Oklahoma). The whole process is well described here and serves as an example for other states.

The California Lichen Society proposed the very charismatic Ramalina menziesii as the state lichen, and it took five years from one person suggesting the idea to the governor signing it into law on January 1, 2016.

Mushroom clubs and individuals of all ages in several other states have put their heads together and are proposing mushroom species that do their state proud, such as Tricholoma murrillianum in Washington, Lactarius peckii in New York, Cantharellus lateritius in Missouri, and Calvatia gigantea in Massachusetts. In the latter case, the bill is reported favorably by the committee and was referred to the committee on Senate Rules after the successful hearing at the State House by a then-Arlington High School sophomore and the supporting state senator in 2019.

Just this month, voters in California decided to nominate Cantharellus californicus as state mushroom. They had a short list of six candidates to choose from. Now this species will go through the state’s legislative procedures.

Getting a state mushroom is one way to putting the spotlight on fungi and their extremely important functions. That is exactly the reason that the North American Mycological Association, the mother chick of all mushroom clubs, is spearheading “The State Mushroom Initiative.” You can learn all about it in a presentation that took place on May 17.

Which charismatic mega-fungus would you choose as flagship for your state?

Initiate and participate in the discussions on what would be the best candidate and get involved in the process! Connect with your local mushroom club(s) and get the ball running. Find out which legislators are enthusiastic about this and make the best sponsors for such a proposal.

The ultimate goal is to raise awareness of the existence of fungi. The more people who know how important they are in all ecosystems, the better it is for all of us!