Fungi of the Blue Ridge Parkway : The Peaks of Otter and Surrounding Area

Edwards, William Matthew , Department of Biology, University of Virginia
Wilbur, Henry, Department of Biology, University of Virginia
Galloway, Laura, Department of Biology, University of Virginia

This project finds its beginning in the many hikes that I have taken over the years through the Blue Ridge Parkway, specifically along the trails in and around the Peaks of Otter. While on these short day-hikes I would find myself routinely drawn to “Treasures from the Kingdom of Fungi ” and in time I began to document my discoveries through photographs.

My hobby of photographing fungi was taken to an entirely new level during the summer of 2004 as a graduate student at Mountain Lake Biological Station in Giles , Virginia . During this time I had the privilege of taking Dr. Rytas Vilgalys’ (professor of biology, Duke University) Biology of Fungi class. As part of the class I was required to make a collection of fungi fruitbodies from the Mountain Lake area. Each species in the collection was to be identified using field guides, dichotomous keys, etc., dried for preservation and accompanied by a detailed description of the fungi fruitbody. As the class came to an end, it was suggested to me by Dr. Vilgalys that maybe I should do something similar for my thesis project.

Using Dr. Vilgalys as a spring board for ideas about a thesis project in combination with guidance from other faculty advisors (Zach Murrell – Appalachian State University, Henry Wilbur and Laura Galloway – University of Virginia ) my idea of an online field guide for fungi of the Peaks of Otter and surrounding areas began to take shape.

Starting in the summer of 2004 I began to survey a 60.1 mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway between Otter Lake Loop Trail (milepost 63.1) and Buck Mountain Trail (milepost 123.2) in order to determine the most common and unique fungi of the Peaks of Otter and surrounding areas. In other words, my goal was to determine to the best of my ability what fungi fruitbodies an individual would be likely to encounter if he or she were to take a leisurely stroll along one of the trails listed below. The following sites were surveyed for fungi fruitbodies:

1. Milepost 63.1 – Otter Lake Loop Trail
2. Milepost 63.6 – Trail of Trees Self-Guiding Trail
3. Milepost 63.6 – James River Self-Guiding Trail
4. Milepost 74.7 – Thunder Ridge Trail
5. Milepost 78.4 – Apple Orchard Falls Trail
6. Milepost 79.7 – Onion Mountain Loop Trail
7. Milepost 83.1 – Fallingwater Cascades
8. Milepost 83.5 – Flat Top Trail
9. Milepost 85.7 – Abbot Lake Loop Trail
10. Milepost 85.7 – Peaks of Otter Picnic Area Trail
11. Milepost 85.9 – Elk Run Self-Guiding Trail
12. Milepost 85.9 – Johnson Farm Loop Trail
13. Milepost 85.9 – Harkening Hill Trail
14. Milepost 86.0 – Sharp Top Trail
15. Milepost 114.9 – Roanoke River Self-Guiding Trail
16. Milepost 115.0 – Society of American Foresters Trail
17. Milepost 120.4 – Roanoke Mountain Summit Trail
18. Milepost 123.2 – Buck Mountain Trail

In addition to the aforementioned sites, two additional sites at the base of the Blue Ridge Parkway were also surveyed: Day Creek and Pike Road , both of which are located in Bedford County , Virginia .

Each site was surveyed in the following manner:

a. Trail was walked from beginning to end
b. Fungi fruitbodies discovered along and / or near the trail were digitally photographed
c. Fungi fruitbodies discovered along and / or near the trail were collected
d. Collected fungi fruitbodies were identified using field guides and keys

After being identified, the fungi fruitbodies were then dried using a homemade dryer “designed” specifically for the drying and preservation of fungi fruitbodies. Upon completion of the drying phase each specimen collection was placed in a storage container (Zip-Lock Bags) with an identification tag and then placed into another larger storage container (Plastic Storage Totes). Furthermore, detailed descriptions of each species were made that included information on the following characteristics: cap or fruitbody, gills or pore surface, stalk, spore print, and habitat with additional comments made when necessary. Final verification of each specimen in the collection along with individual descriptions of each species was made by Dr. Vilgalys. The collection of fungi fruitbodies for this project is currently stored at Duke University ’s Biology Department.

Once the written portion of the project was complete the next step was to create an online field guide that documented the most common and unique fungi fruitbodies of the Peaks of Otter and surrounding areas. The field guide not only contains images and descriptions of fungi fruitbodies, but also includes general information on the following topics:

A. What are Fungi?
B. How do fungi obtain nutrients?
C. The Structure of Fungi
D. Mushroom Growth and Reproduction
E. Basidomycetes vs. Ascomycetes
F. Fungal Partnerships: Lichens and Mycorrhizae
G. Fungi and the Environment
H. Mushroom Poisoning
I. Collecting Mushrooms
J. Identification and Terminology: Macroscopic and Microscopic Characteristics
K. Mushroom Preservation
L. Common Questions about Mushrooms

The home page for this project can be reached by clicking the appropriate hover button at left.

MS (Master of Science)
Fungi, Blue Ridge Parkway, Peaks of Otter, Virginia

This work was originally submitted to the University Library on
1 CD-ROM ; 4 3/4 in. A zip file that contains the contents of the CD-ROM is now available in LibraETD.

For instructions on how to navigate the website locally on read README_Edwards_William.txt.

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: