The History of the Illinois Mycological Association

By Eileen Schutte (2010)

Eileen Schutte recording mushrooms at a foray, 2006.

The Illinois Mycological Association was founded in 1973.  Nina Johnson, the first historian, recounted that Marcia Mau contacted local NAMA (North American Mycological Association) members to see if there was interest in meeting.

In the early years Marcia did all the planning and the group met in various homes.  She recounted the embarrassing experience of having arranged for a noted mycologist, Dr. Rolf Singer, to speak, only to have no one come to the meeting.  Undismayed, she said that he gave the lecture to her and then repeated it at a later date for the group.  When Marcia was transferred to Washington, D.C., Dr. Laura Bradford was elected president and served for two years.

Since its inception, IMA has had some connection with the Field Museum and began meeting there in the late ‘70’s.  The club met there until 2001 when a new campus design made parking difficult.  After trying several venues, IMA was fortunate to fine a new home at North Park Village Nature Center, where it currently meets [2010].  This new home was facilitated by the late Rael Bassan, who was a tireless and enthusiastic supporter of both the IMA and the Nature Center.

The date of the first newsletter is unrecorded, and it was nameless until 1993, when members voted to call it “Fungus Friends”.  Liz Farwell was an early editor.

Mycologists and members examine mushrooms at picnic tables.

Education has always been the major focus of Club activities.  In that endeavor, Field Museum mycologists, Dr. Greg Mueller and Dr. Patrick Leacock (who took Dr. Jack Murphy’s place when he left for California) have played a vital role through their long term, ongoing mentoring in mushroom identification and study.  Members have also benefited by presentations from well-known mycologists and other experts.  Noted names include Roger Phillips, Taylor Lockwood, Tom Volk, Don Huffman, Gary Lincoff, Andrew Methven, Walt Sundberg and Michael Kuo, to name a few.

IMA also works to promote mycology among the general public through exhibits at various venues, and the sale of mushroom oriented items.  The club had a booth at Berwyn’s Houby Fest for a number of years, began exhibiting at the Chicago Botanic Garden in 1993, and had a booth at the first Illinois Morel Hunting Championship event at Magnolia (now at Henry) since 1996.  The club has exhibited at other Chicagoland locales, including The Little Red School House, at Lake Catherine Nature Preserve, at Oak Forest Hospital, and at the Green and Growing events at the Field Museum.

Due in part to urging by the Botanic Garden, the IMA has included the sale of products as part of the IMA Annual Exhibit.  The club started selling tee shirts to enhance its treasury in 1995.  Members voted on an original design from a collection of possibilities drafted by a club member.  Sale items have since expanded to include books and other items.   Local forays and other outings are an ongoing, important club activity.  Long time members will remember trips to Warren Woods (Michigan) followed by picnics at Dr. John Rippon’s cottage and a chartered bus to go to the Boyne City, Michigan, morel festival (where morel ice cream sundaes were said to be unforgettable).  Other outings include a tour of Campbell’s mushroom growing facility, a trip to the mushroom fair in Milwaukee, occasional joint forays with the Wisconsin Mycological Society, and week-ender morel forays with Alan Lawrence at Lake Redstone, Wisconsin.

Activities of a social nature are also part of IMA history.  An end-of-year dinner and raffle at a Bohemian restaurant has been a long-standing annual event.  Who can forget the stuffed morel cooking demonstration at one meeting, or the mushroom dinner demonstration by an area restaurant at another, or the trips to cooking demonstrations by local professional chefs.  On other occasions the club has had wild mushroom potluck dinners and mushroom tasting of current edibles before meetings.  Our annual picnic in the fall is not to be missed.