A VERY SPECIAL FOREST RESOURCE
"Here little matsi" chants Andy Moore, southern Oregon’s leading expert on figuring out when and where matsutake mushrooms fruit across its varied habitats. Andy, who resides in prime matsutake habitat near Cave Junction, collaborates with the Umpqua National Forest on the matsutake study located on Diamond Lake Ranger District. When asked why his life revolves around matsi, he states "I do it out of curiosity, for the challenge, and because it’s interesting". It’s clear when talking with Andy that he is dedicated to sustaining the matsutake resource.
The commercial harvest of American matsutake from forests in the Pacific Northwest has increased dramatically in the last decade, due to increasing demands for matsutake in Japan and a reduction in matsutake populations due to the decline of their pine forests, caused by the pine weevil. Nearly one million pounds were harvested in 1992 from the Pacific Northwest, for an average price of $8/lb. To the Japanese people, matsutake is a seasonal delicacy and symbolizes fertility, good fortune, and happiness. A gift of matsutake is considered special and is cherished by those who receive it.
The distribution of the American matsutake coincides with the northern coniferous forest belt, running east-west across Canada, and temperate conifer forests extending southward along the Appalachian, Rocky, Cascade, and Pacific Coast mountain ranges. It is found under a variety of conifers with which it forms
mycorrhizae. Among the reported tree associates are Douglas-fir, western hemlock, grand fir, Shasta red fir, Pacific silver fir, Engelmann spruce, white spruce, jack pine, red pine, sugar pine, ponderosa pine, inland lodgepole pine, and coastal shore pine. In southwestern Oregon and along the coast of California, it often associates with tanoak and madrone. In central Washington and Oregon, it most often is found in mixed stands of conifers.
A variety of animals consume matsutake. Small mammals, deer, elk, and bear actively seek the mushroom and may consume large quantities. The study site at Diamond Lake Ranger District monitors animal use. Twenty eight percent of the fruiting showed signs of animal use in 1999.
Managers are concerned about whether continued harvest of the same areas year after year, and raking surface soil layers to find the most valuable young mushrooms, will reduce fruiting in future years.
The Umpqua National Forest has been collaborating with Oregon State University, PNW, and Andy Moore on the matsutake study site at Diamond Lake Ranger District for six years to address this concern. The objective of the study is to evaluate the effects of several mushroom harvest techniques on short and long term matsutake production.
In order to assess the effect of mushroom harvest methods on matsutake production, six treatments were implemented in 1995 on the Diamond Lake Ranger District:
•Control (no mushrooms harvested)
•Best management practice (harvest with minimal disturbance using a gentle rocking and pulling technique)
•Shallow rake/replace (raking of litter layers to the interface with the mineral soil, mushroom removal, and replacement of the litter layer)
•Shallow rake/no replace (raking of litter layers to the interface with the mineral soil, mushroom removal, and no replacement of the litter layer)
•Deep rake/replace (raking of
litter layers and 10cm of mineral soil, mushroom removal, and replacement of
litter and mineral soil)
Production of matsutake on deep rake treatments and the shallow rake/no replacement of litter treatment were significantly reduced.
Long term monitoring of the study site is needed because of the variability in fruiting from year to year. More control and best management treatments have recently been added to the study to increase the confidence of our findings.
If your are interested in more information about matsutake check out the following sources:
Ecology and Management of the Commercially Harvested Matsutake Mushroom – USDA FS, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-412, 11/97
High-Elevation Forests to Produce American Matsutake, High-Quality Timber, and Nontimber
Forest Products – Western Journal of Applied
Forestry, Vol. 13, No. 4, 10/98.