Telluride Mushroom Fest: Caue Oliveira on Polypores+

Telluride Mushroom Fest: Caue Oliveira on Polypores+

Since 1981, the Telluride Mushroom Festival has celebrated all things mycological, from the newest advancements in mushroom science to its famous mushroom cook-off. The 39th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival takes place Wednesday, August 14 – Sunday, August 18, in Telluride, the Festival Capital of the Rockies.

According to Festival Director Dr. Britt Bunyard of Fungi Magazine, the theme this year is “Healing the Mind, Healing the Planet.” The program features a raft of myco luminaries including Prof. Emeritus of Pharmacology at Purdue Dr. David Nichols; founder/director of Chile’s Fundación Fungi; Giuliana Furci, founder/director of Chile’s Fundación Fungi; Mushroom Mountain’s Tradd and Olga Cotter; and the “Wise Woman of the San Juans,” Katrina Blair. 

The Telluride Mushroom Festival features three different kinds of event types listed in this year’s program and here: online schedule. Full festival passes for the four-day event runs $300. Tickets/passes here

Mushroom Festival welcomes back Caue Oliveira to discuss his research on Laetiporus. Please scroll down to read Caue’s answers to the questions we posed in our email interview.

The genus Laetiporus holds a relatively small group of soft-fleshed polypores that lack stems and, in all but one species and one variety, demonstrate bright orange to yellow colors. Collectively the genuscommonly referred to as “Chicken of the Woods” causes a brown rot of the wood of both conifers and hardwoods.

In general Laetiporus features an orange, shelf mushroom that grows individually or in large brackets from the vertical face of a log or living tree, or in circular florets arising from the top surface of a log, base of a tree, or piece of buried wood/root. They are commonly found on wounds of trees and occur frequently on oak, although they can also be found on maple, chestnut, willow, and other hardwoods. Mature, ripe and choice fruiting bodies are characterized by a moist, firm, spongy texture, yellow to orange color, with bright orange or yellow tips. Older, dry, over-ripe brackets become pale and brittle and have a chalk-like consistency.

Some Laetipori are edible, but it is best to harvest them young to limit the exposure to bugs. Examine the pore surface to determine whether to harvest or not to harvest. And as with all edible wild mushrooms, it is best to fully cook them and wise to try them first in small quantities.

For more on these polypores, listen to the expert on the species, Caue Oliveira, who is also winner of the first student (Gary Lincoff) scholarship. He returns to town as a presenter at the 39th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival.

Caue and Telluride Mushroom Festival director Britt Bunyard were Facebook friends before they met face to face last year on one of Britt’s epic myco tours, this one in Chile:

“Gary Lincoff, Giuliana Furci, and I had been planning that trip for three years. A couple of months before we were to set off, Gary unexpectedly passed away. That left a gap in our organizers, so Giuliana asked Caue to step in. He was amazing and crucial to the success of the adventure. Caue assisted Giuliana when crises arose and he took care of logistics behind the scenes, in the middle of the night, and at the crack of dawn. Soon our little group realized that Caue was very eager to visit Telluride and attend the Telluride Mushroom Festival. So, at the end of the triple everyone pooled their leftover cash, which amounted to $500. I told them that if they wanted to get Caue to Colorado the plane ticket alone would be about $1,000…and that I or Fungi magazine would match their balance and get him that ticket. But then we we had a better idea. We came up with the Gary Lincoff Student Scholarship and ‘awarded’ it to Caue before we had actually launched the auction at the Festival. Now going forward, scholarship winners will get funding from the account we set up. It all started with honoring Gary Lincoff, a Festival founder and world renowned expert in the field.”

At the Telluride Mushroom Festival, Caue will begin his principal talk on Saturday, August 17, 10:15 am, with an introduction to polypores. He will discuss his research on some of the genus’ interesting species he has found including Laetiporus spp. The lecture will also address the evolutionary history of Laetiporus, how it has spread around the world and found new plant hosts, speciation, and adapted to new environmental conditions.

Caue is also participating in Mushroom Fest’s “Last Call!! With Festival Faculty,” 10 p.m., Thursday, August 15, and Saturday, August 17, also featuring Britt, Art Goodtimes, Larry Evans, Guiliana Furci, Andrew Wilson, Michael Wood and Alissa Allen.

“After a long day of forays and lectures, stop by the SHOW Bar at the Sheridan for a beer and chat with the experts from this year’s Festival. You never know who you’ll meet…but the conversation is guaranteed to be lively and enlightening!”

Caue Oliveira, more (in his own words):

I am a journalist and biologist doing my masters degree in mycology now. I was born in São Paulo, the biggest city in South America, but moved to south Brazil to study, where I live in a beautiful city on an island called Florianopoli or Floripa to locals. I worked for a couple years in a local TV station, but dropped out and changed the course of my professional life, studying biology as an undergrad. That choice was all about John Cage, the music composer. I am a big fan and learned that he was a great mushroom hunter. In the meantime, I worked in social media for an online biology course called “Biologia com Prof. Jubilut.”

Through that work it was possible to relate journalism, my former career, with my new passion. I love arts and science and when I can, I do both… In my undergrad biology course there was little time to study mushrooms, but at the University where I study now, we have a pretty nice mycology lab. I started to work there as an undergrad and now as I am doing my masters degree, I am studying the systematics and taxonomy of the genus Laetiporus, from the known edible species “Chicken of the Woods!”

TIO + Caue Oliveira, the interview:

TIO: Please share something of your early history growing up in Sao Paulo. Do you come from a family of mushroom lovers and hunters?

No… In Brazil people are extremely mycophobic! In my childhood all I wanted as I think like most Brazilian boys was to be a professional soccer player! I was born and lived shortly in downtown, but then we moved to uptown with lot of playing outside and I always was into observing nature, but my only contact with mushrooms was with those growing on lawns… But I think the mysterious nature of them planted a seed in my mind that later bloomed and put me on the mycology thing.

TIO: When you first moved to Brazil to study, what were your objectives in school? Did you want to be a journalist? Had your interest in mushrooms surfaced yet?

Since I wasn’t good enough in soccer to be a professional I tried to make a career as sport’s journalist. I always had interesting in writing, trying some poetry, and in the University I had a teacher who introduced me about John Cage. It was love in first read about his ideas… I made my final project a film documentary using some ideas he wrote in his book “A Year from Monday” and got to know his passion about mushrooms. I started to research about how to identify them on the Internet.

TIO: When you switched from TV journalism to biology, did you know you wanted to develop your career around mushrooms? How did you come to focus on Laetiporus? What interests you about the species?

I gave up TV journalism because I got really depressed at the time. I didn’t have a perspective of the future and on the last day I went to do exams and chose biology. In that same period I had my first psychedelic experience with mushrooms. I could say it was connected, but not really. One thing just drove to another… I think it was again this mysterious nature of mushroom that connected something without an intention. I got really lucky that in my University we have a mycology lab and in the first class a teacher asked each freshman What do you like in biology? I answered her: Mushrooms! All classroom started to laugh, but teacher rapidly said ‘In my undergrad here I studied mushroom too and you are very lucky because it is one if the few Universities in Brazil with a mushroom lab to study. Go there to know more!’ And as the class finished, I ran there to talk and started to work same day, writing about John Cage and mushrooms. I started a project there about edible fungi in the Atlantic Forest and as we found a lot of Laetiporus mushrooms in our mushroom hunting. I specialize in them more specific because we have Laetiporus species that look very similar, but hide different species with its morphology and this is a very interesting question for research about evolution, my favorite topic in biology.

TIO: Please talk about how you and Giuliana Furci, a Telluride Mushroom Festival regular. Have you worked together? If yes, please describe that work.

I met Giuliana in Medellin, Colombia, when we were attending to a scientific congress in 2014. It was like we had an old friendship without knowing each other! We get along just first time we talk and it was in that congress we began to form a strong group of young Latin American mycologists most of them inspired about her work with Fundacion Fungi. Since then, we’ve been together in meetings, visiting each of our countries, creating a very flourishing network. I specially had the opportunity to work with Giuliana at the Gary Lincoff Memorial Foray to Patagonia and it was amazing. She is so hard-working and inspiring that one month experience give me energy to continue on the mushroom pathway!

TIO: What was so special about the myco trip you took last year with Britt and Guiliana? And what was special about becoming the very first scholarship winner of the Gary Lincoff Scholarship Fund?

When I saw Gary announcing the trip to Chile on Facebook I just knew that Giuliana was in charge and made contact to be there. Gary was one of the most important person to me entering the mushroom hunting world when I gave up journalism and started to study on internet about them… Giuliana invited me to help her on the trip and it was very sad when Gary passed away because I thought that meeting him would be a dream coming true… If I couldn’t meet Gary in life, this Chile myco trip was a way to know him through his best friends and a way to know him more. Everything was magical, sunny and full of rainbows and mushrooms almost like Gary’s spirit traveling with us, an incredible moment, one of the best moments I had in my life. I made friends for life on this trip and it gave me an opportunity to go Telluride Fest, another dream that I had since I started with mushrooms. He was so inspiring for me and to be the first winner of a scholarship under his name is so honoring that make me feel so responsible to continuing his legacy delivering knowledge about mushrooms to people.

TIO: Please describe your best moments at last year’s Telluride Mushroom Festival and what are you looking forward to this year?

Telluride is so adorable! The city, the people who attend to the Festival, those Colorado mountains are so good for the soul that we want to return forever every summer to experience again and again the love people share about mushroom! I loved the parade and had such fun moments during last Festival waiting impatiently to go back there again! This time I am bringing my research to show to people that we make mushroom science in Brazil too. That gives me more satisfaction about the work I chose, moving me to continuously improve in the way I teach and gather more people around the knowledge and mysteries of mushroom. Mushrooms are so important for our life on Earth and they are poorly understood. I think knowing your mushrooms is a key to living better and this is what I will be trying to bring to Telluride this year!

Telluride Mushroom Festival, more:

Telluride, Colorado is the epicenter for the largest wild mushroom happening in North America and plans are now set for the 39th Annual Telluride Mushroom Festival. This internationally famous happening features a plethora of events ranging from foray and mushroom ID sessions, to hands-on demonstrations and lectures—all led by regional, national, and internationally-known experts, the quirkiest parade you will ever see, and pretty much “all things fungal.”

There is plenty for everyone each and every day, no matter your age, interest, or education level.

For still more, go here. 

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