Jan 7th meeting: Dr. Robert “Bob” Cummings: The 10 Best, the 10 Worst, and the 10 Ugliest Mushrooms in Southern California

Our club proudly presents our January speaker : Dr. Robert “Bob” Cummings.

10 Best, the 10 Worst, and the 10 Ugliest Mushrooms in Southern California

Bob Cummings, PhD, Prof. (Emeritus)
Department of Biological Sciences
Santa Barbara City College
Overview of Lecture

Out collecting in our lovely forests and oak woodlands, people always stop to look in our baskets and ask if we’ve found any good edibles. And which ones are the best. There are so many, I usually forget some of the best ones. I’ve been asked this question so many times that I decided to make a checklist of my personal favorites to be better prepared to answer next time. So, what’s number one going to be? Black Truffles don’t occur here. They’d top my list and probably everyone else’s, but it wouldn’t be fair to include them. White Porcini? Black Trumpets? Morels? Or Coccoras (…think about that last one)?  Over the years my rankings of the best edibles has had to be revised many times. Usually because of the most recent exotic and memorable mushroom dish I’ve eaten. If you are a mushroom hunter you have your own strong opinions that probably conflict with mine. Heated discussions to follow.

After edibility, the next question people invariably ask is if we’ve seen any poisonous species on our hunt. And which ones are the worst. And how likely might it be for a beginner to make an unfortunate mistake? We answer best we can without enough specimens or pictures to illustrate our points. For the remainder of the hunt I find myself making a mental checklist of the toxic species around here, too. Number one on most peoples’ list has to be the Death Cap, a European species, as is the aforementioned Black Truffle. But unlike the Truffle, the Death Cap was successful in getting established in Southern California. Why couldn’t it have been the other way around? But many other toxic mushrooms cause a lot of pain and suffering here, too. My list of toxic species has had to be revised also over the years, due in large part to the specimen identifications I do for emergency rooms. Good stories to follow.

Finally, the ten ugliest mushrooms (that only a mother (or a mycologist?) could love). I think these less-than-lovely species deserve their share of time in the spotlight too, warts and all. They may be photogenically challenged, but they merit appreciation equal to that of all forms of life (I’m thinking of Naked Mole Rats for some reason). How many times have you had to point out the mycorrhizal value of The Dog Turd Mushroom, or the fascinating life cycle of the Dog Vomit Slime Mold, after stopping someone from giving them thoughtless kick? Should our list include Black Witch’s Butter instead of the Black Witch’s Saddle? Should we swap out the Dog Penis Stinkhorn for the Dog Turd Mushroom? Tough questions.  By the way, have you noticed how often witches and dogs get dragged into this odd sector of mushroom names?


Bob has been leading forays, collecting, photographing, and eating wild mushrooms in the Santa Barbara area since the 1960s.  Over the years he has built a large collection of photos and a modest herbarium of specimens for taxonomic reference.  He is a member of the North American Mycological Association Toxicology Committee.  He fields calls on a regular basis from lay persons, physicians and veterinarians from central California involved in mushroom poisonings, as well as working closely with emergency room physicians at local hospitals and clinics.  He is a frequent foray leader and speaker for such organizations as the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Slow Food of Santa Barbara, the Los Angeles Mycological Society, and other mycological and natural history groups. Bob currently teaches an online course for Santa Barbara City College in plant diversity. For the past seven years he has pursued his other passion, wine making. He lives in Montecito with his wife, Lynne, a retired elementary school teacher (and bird-watcher).

We will take Bob to dinner before the meeting around 5:00 at the Blue Water Seafood Grill  3667 India Street   Come along to meet Bob over dinner.

At 6:30 PM, January 7, 2019 please come join us on an auditory adventure kicking off 2019 San Diego Mycological Society Meeting, in Room 101, Casa Del Prado in Balboa Park.

Important Information for SDMS events:


Fungus Fair is less than 2 months away: Sunday February 17, 2019 10:30-3:30. As a club we need your help to make this event great!
Please mark your calendars and start spreading the news to colleagues, family, friends and mycology enthusiasts!

Consider being a volunteer for the event, we have several positions available to fit your needs and availability. We will train you for any position you wish to help us with. It is very minimal and mostly self-explanatory, but we will be there to guide you so you can enjoy the event and feel confident in helping us.


Here’s how to  volunteer:
If you are interested in being a volunteer at the fungus fair you can let us know several ways:

In each please include your : name, telephone, email address (what’s the best way to contact you), what position you would like to do (can also leave it open and we place you where you are needed the most), what times you are available

Also, as a member perk you get to come on our annual foray to help find fresh specimens, held Saturday Feb 16 location TBD. (Weather cooperating, otherwise we will suggest possible areas to scour for specimen). We will be discussing this a bit further in our January Monday meeting.

Positions available:

Set Up 1: Saturday 2/16, 5-10 pm, food provided. We need to set up tables, chairs, booths, ID table, to be ready for next days event.

Set Up 2: Sunday 2/17, 8-10am. Last minute touches making sure the room is ready to receive guests.

FAIR BEGINS::::: 10:30 am Sunday Feb 17

Greeters: We need two at a time, located at each entrance. Helps answer questions about events as well as direct people to the right location so their answers can be fully met. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to know everything about mushrooms being in this position)

Membership Table: Collect money and enroll new members (and old) for their membership.

Children’s Table: Help facilitate activities for children during the fair. We have some games and ideas with this, but you are able to get creative and plan some of your own.

Book Store: Need several!!! Sell merchandise from our book store (T-shirts, books and other interesting material). We accept money, Venmo, Paypal and CC.

Floaters: Help all positions in the room. This helps people vending, greeting, and sales people are able to take adequate food and bathroom breaks. Will be able to help with all positions.

Break Down: Severely needed help to break down everything after the fair! We need to make sure we remove all our items as well as the vendors, break down of tables and chairs.