The taxpayers of Concord may not realize it, but they own a lot of mushrooms.
There’s ghost bolete in Marjorie Swope Park. Slippery Jacks in Morono Park. Dyer’s polypore in the Emerson Tract. And earthballs – lots of earthballs.
Those are some of the fungi found growing on city-owned lands by 11 people who participated in the month-long BioBlitz project, organized by UNH Extension in September. The project urged anybody who was interested go out into property owned by their community and record any plants, animals, bugs and fungi they found on a specialized app.
“The quantity of observations was exciting and the number of people involved. It really proves the point that community members who are interested and engaged can collect really useful natural resource information,” said Haley Andreozzi, wildlife program outreach manager.
She pointed to an example: One women found a tree of heaven in Nashua. This invasive species is being targeted by the state, partly because it’s a favorite host of a disastrous agricultural pest called the spotted lantern fly, which is moving north into New England, and the Bioblitz observation may help that city control the tree population.
Concord’s 11 participants report more mushrooms than anything else, reflecting how a wet second half of the summer created a spectacular autumn for fungi fans. The Capital City wasn’t alone: the almost 7,000 observations reported by the citizen-science project from 105 towns reported 184 different species of mushrooms, a number barely edged out by that most prolific of land creatures, the insects and their spider cousins. Flowering plants and wildlife were left in the dust.
The plant world did get one bragging point from this Bioblitz: Giant blue sage was photographed in the town of Newton on the Massachusetts border. This is the first time it has been formally found in the Granite State.
“It’s not a native species here in New Hampshire. My understanding is it’s a prairie species, potentially used as an ornamental,” Andreozzi said. She believes it has been seen once in Massachusetts and a couple of times in Connecticut, but not for a half-century, so its presence here is surprising.
The idea of a bioblitz has been around for a while in many locations, including New Hampshire, as a sort of community scavenger hunt that gets citizen scientists to help catalog all the wild species in a community. Pre-COVID it took place on one day in a specific spot. Volunteers, led by knowledgeable guides, would spread out and record as much of everything as they could find. The process has been made much easier by apps that allow quick identification and recording of species on cellphones.
The pandemic forced a change with the bioblitz as with everything else, moving it online and doing away with official guides, although there were still a few guided tours. Because the program didn’t want people wandering onto private property it was limited to lands owned by towns or cities, but this had a secondary benefit by helping people learn about local property that may not have known existed.
About half the towns around Concord had participants, although usually it was just one or two people. It didn’t take many people to be productive, however: the single participant in Northfield registered 104 reports.
The town of Bow was in a class by itself. Four contributors registered 619 reports, which was 10 times the number registered by Concord’s 11 contributors.
Details of the 2021 NH Bioblitz can be found online at https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/675469c24b5c4515af448c21fe47dafb. It’s full of interesting tidbits even if you didn’t participate; for example, did you know there’s such a thing as a naked-flowered tick trefoil?