Cantharellus formosus – a social network
Cantharellus formosus is a mycelium commonly known as the Pacific Golden Chanterelle mushroom and is native to the Pacific Northwest. The popular edible mushrooms are the fruiting bodies that form on nodes of much larger mycelium organisms that live in the soil and criss-cross the region in vast networks.
The Pacific Golden Chanterelle, like other fungi, are ancient forms of life. Pacific Golden Chanterelle share an intimate and symbiotic relationship with the West Coast’s conifer forests and especially the mighty Western Cedar. These two very different species support each other in a mutually beneficial way at a cellular level, giving and taking important resources that lie beyond each other’s reach.
The Pacific Golden Chanterelle is fed by, and in return feeds, the conifers while actively supporting its community, helping to support soil structure, regulate moisture content and recover nutrients from decomposition. The Pacific Golden Chanterelle lives off the land with its amazing web of branching, connecting hyphae and in doing so strengthens the surrounding landscape.
Conifer forests once fully covered Burnaby, BC and as early as 5000 years ago this area was the foraging and hunting territory for native aboriginal societies. The Pacific Golden Chanterelle featured in the diets of Coastal First Nations and they remain popular delicacies in locally sourced cuisine today.
Pacific Golden Chanterelle mushrooms still appear in local forests from July to December and are identified by their orangy-yellow colour, meaty texture and funnel-shape. On the underside of the smooth cap, the mushroom has gill-like ridges that run down onto its stipe, which tapers down seamlessly from the cap. The false gills often have a pinkish hue. Chanterelles have a mild, sweet odor, are very high in Vitamin D, Iron, Copper, and Niacin. It is interesting to note that Vitamin D is especially important to humans who live in places that can have low-light conditions.
Since Settler times the landscape around Burnaby’s Metrotown has been transformed and today it is a busy urban centre and hub for transit and retail. Maps of Metrotown show how it is connected to its neighboring cities and communities by a network of roads, including the historic Kingsway, the Skytrain as well as many bus routes and cycle networks. More detailed maps indicate an additionally complex web of power lines, water lines, and communication networks that interconnect and support city life like a giant hidden organism.
Each pathway and connection provides an opportunity for social interaction and the sharing of ideas. Mycelium like Cantharellus formosus can be understood as an organic metaphor for the interconnected social networks that bind modern urban communities such as Burnaby’s Metrotown area together – each part connected to the next.