Pelican in the early 1960's. We wanted to know what they were. Curiosity really started something In the Faribault Public Library I found only two old mushroom books, The Mushroom, Edible and Otherwise, M. E. Hard, 1908, and Field Book of Common Mushrooms, W. S. Thomas, 1936. Two of Pete's photographs were easy to identify, Amanita muscaria and Hypomyces lactifluorum. With permission to check books out of the Carleton College Library in nearby Northfield, much more and up-to-date information became available. From references I learned about the importance of writing detailed descriptions of fresh specimens (including the use of color charts), microscopic study of spores in making identifications, and drying mushroom collections for future microscopic study. In my reading I was disturbed to discover that Minnesota was not included in citations of states whose specimens had been examined
Pete resurrected the microscope he had had in Medical School so I could see spores. The first ones I saw were the beautiful, longitudinally ridged spores of Boletellus russellii. This was fascinating!
After learning of the importance of dried specimens, I dried my collections in the oven of the stove with the door ajar, but had to discard some because the drying was not correctly done, some specimens becoming moldy. After studying at the University of Michigan Biological Station and observing how drying was properly done, Pete made me a great dryer incorporating the unused copper screens from the very high, small sun room windows, windows that couldn't be opened. From Sears I ordered a set of metal strips to assemble with wing nuts and bolts to make a frame to hold the screen shelves. The boys referred to this as "mom's Erector Set". The assembled shelves had an unbleached muslin cover with vents and a moveable front flap, to provide access to the shelves, and, below, a two-burner hot-plate with three heat settings.
My collections were stored in glass and plastic jars with tight- fitting lids. Pete brought home glass jars from the hospital and office laboratories where they had contained Ethicon foil packets. They were excellent for storing larger dried fungi. A druggist ordered smaller plastic containers. After the specimens were dried and placed in the jars, a few naphtha flakes were added to each to prevent insect infestation. Printed labels were placed with each collection, attempting to give my collections the same authenticity and appearance as those of other herbaria. A sample label:
Herbarium of M. G. Weaver MINNESOTA FUNGI Fuscoboletinus weaverae A. H. Sm. & Shaffer
Scattered to cespitose on humus in mixed woods (Quercus, Populus, Betula, Pinus res- osusus, P. banksiana and P. strobus, Sect.
35, Pelican Twp., Crow Wing Co., Minn. 12 Sep 1964. MGW # 1086. det. A. H. Sm.
The containers with specimens were filed by mushroom families and/or genera in unlidded, labeled boxes which I cut down from corrugated grocery cartons, covering the printed sides with Kraft tape and using the strips left from the cutting as dividers in the boxes. These boxes were stacked on metal shelves. This was my herbarium. The room that used to be the boys' playroom, was now my playroom.
Subi Qasem, the graduate student from Jordan who had spent time with us at Pelican, had recommended a book on mushroom identification by Clyde Christensen, Department of Plant Pathology of the University of Minnesota, Common Fleshy Fungi. In addition to that book, I acquired another by Dr. Christensen, Common Edible Mushrooms, in which he described The Foolproof Four: Morels, or Sponge Mushrooms, Puffballs, Sulphur Shelf Mushrooms (Sulphur Polypores) and Shaggymanes
I became acquainted with Dr. Christensen in 1961 when I sent fresh specimens requesting help in identification, learning that these were very young Polyporus sulphureus with pores so small that I did not see them, even with a magnifying hand lens. After a few exchanges in correspondence, I asked if I might meet with someone in his department to assist in the identification of some of my more interesting and puzzling collections, bringing a few transparencies together with notes and dried specimens. I mentioned that I would like some advice about dried specimens, to see the specimens in their herbarium, to discuss synonymy and the "correct" names according to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, as well as information concerning the adoption of "new" genera. He replied graciously that he and Dr. French would be available for an hour or two some Saturday morning. His answers to my questions were most interesting, especially rereading his letter some thirty years later. In a letter dated October 24, 1962, Dr. Christensen stated:
"We have very few mushrooms in our herbarium, for obvious reasons. If pickled in alcohol or other preservative liquids, the mushrooms soon lose their characteristics and in fact are likely with handling to end up just a formless mass of gick in the bottom of the jar. Dried, most of them shrink and shrivel out of shape and are almost hopeless from a taxonomic standpoint. Soon they become invaded by beetles that consume them, unless constantly protected, and that requires more work than it is worth, since the dried specimens are only of limited value anyway. Third, many of the fleshy fungi that were at one time put in the herbarium here were identified by by collectors whose knowledge of the mushroom flora of the state and of other regions was limited, to put it mildly, and so many of them have been misidentified. As to "correct" names, according to the Botanical Rules of Nomenclature: these rules so far as I can see are just thrown out the window by most of the taxonomists dealing with mushrooms and related fungi - any one of them can - (and usually do) rearrange the species, genera, families, and so on in any way they happen to feel like doing."
In spite of his remarks, I continued drying my collections. Evidently he wasn't interested in using dried specimens for microscopic study.
I sent dried specimens with descriptions of the fresh mushrooms to several authorities for identification and was excited and thrilled when I received their friendly and encouraging replies. Most of these people had not studied Minnesota collections previously. Collections were sent to: Dr. Walter Snell and Esther Dick of Brown University, Boletaceae; Dr. Ronald Peterson of Buffalo University, later of the University of Tennessee, Clavarariaceae; Dr. William Denison of Swarthmore College, Pezizaceae; Dr. Kenneth Harrison, University of Michigan Herbarium, Hydnaceae; Dr. Howard Bigelow of the University of Massachuetts, Clitocybe. Incidentally, I learned that Dr. Denison and Dr. Bigelow were Oberlin College graduates.
Somehow, I learned about a mushroom organization that was to meet at the University of Michigan Biological Station, Pellston, Michigan in 1963. Pete and I decided to go. Tom, too. We had a wonderful time, going on mushroom forays to see what we could find, having mushrooms identified by Alex Smith, a renowned mycologist, and talking about mushrooms with an interesting group of people. Being housed at the Station involved taking our own bedding, staying in a little corrugated iron cottage with a fireplace, and eating scrumptious food with fellow mushroomers in the large Station dining room.
I discovered that mushroom courses were given at the Station during the summer and was encouraged by Pete and the boys to apply for study there. The application blank I had to fill out asked for a college transcript and references from my college biology teacher. I hadn't studied biology, and if I had had a biology teacher, he would probably have been dead. The best I could do was to ask for references from some of the college profs who had helped me with mushroom identification, explaining my dilemma to them. They were very understanding and cooperative: William H. Snell, Brown University, who had identified some Boletes from Pelican; Clyde M. Christiansen, Plant Pathology Department, University of Minnesota, who encouraged me to specialize in Minnesota Boletes since little was known about them in Minnesota. I was excited when I learned that I was accepted to study at the Summer Session at Pellston in 1964.
Peg reflects in Rememberings p 73
"For many years Michigan has been the center of mushroom collecting by outstanding mycologists from throughout the U. S. and foreign countries, so I was surprised to learn that the blond Crinipellis which I had collected was a new, undescribed species, which Bob Shaffer published as C. cremoricolor Shaffer and Weaver. The undergraduates said they felt sorry for me when they saw me working in the lab late in the evenings, but I was having a wonderful time! The two and a half months flew by. When Pete and Tom came to pick me up, we were housed in the Dean of Women's roomy, comfortable residence. During the summer I had shared a one-room, corrugated-metal, cottage with Olive Barlow, a medical doctor slightly younger than I, who was difficult, making disparaging and false remarks about me to her classmates, saying nasty things to me about my friendship with the Shaffers, etc. By giving me such fine quarters at the end of the session, Dr. Stockard, the Station Director, might have been trying to make it up to me for my unpleasant summer roommate I invited Bob Shaffer over in the evening so that he, Pete and Tom might become acquainted. Imbibing wine, we had an enjoyable confab."
p75 "After I wrote to my parents about how happy I was to be going to study mushrooms in Michigan, my mother replied that I should stay home with my family, that I shouldn't leave them even to attend Bible School. (I certainly wasn't interested in attending Bible School.) I was fifty-four years old and my mother was still trying to control me. Tom, the only boy at home, was a high school senior. Pete and Tom said they could manage. They probably enjoyed a summer by themselves.
It was wonderful to go back to school to pursue something in which I was intensely interested. I was most fortunate to study under Bob Shaffer who was an exceptionally good teacher. Previously, with instruction only from books, I had tried to do sectioning of mushrooms for microscopic study, not being too successful. Also, I had had difficulty interpreting what I saw under the microscope, especially the structure of pileus cuticle.
Four or five times a week a small group would go on forays, sometimes to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, traveling in a state-owned Ford Carry-All. The other students were Tana Burge, Sherm Brough and Rod Cyrus, all graduate students, much younger than I. However, they accepted me, a fifty-four-year-old-amateur, and didn't make me feel uncomfortable. When they learned that I was especially interested in studying boletes, they contributed those they had collected. Jocelyn, Bob Shaffer's wife, and Martha, his five-year-old daughter, accompanied us. "
1964 Michigan Biological Station -with Dr Bob Schaeffer, Jocelyn&MarthaSchaeffer. Peg Weaver, Shrem Brough and Rod Cyrus.
Continuing on p 75 "Because the Herbarium of the University of Michigan had very few mushroom collections from Minnesota, Bob Shaffer wanted me to send mine This was an opening for me to make a contribution to the knowledge of Minnesota mushrooms. I was thrilled. Consequently I divided each of my collections and made a carbon copy of each description of the fresh specimens, keeping one and sending the other to Michigan with its collection, hoping that the part of the collection I was retaining would someday be housed in a Minnesota herbarium. I invested in a microscope and a drawing instrument to attach to the scope so that I could make tracings of images of spores, pileus cuticle, pleuro- and cheilocystidia and other definitive structures.
Two of my collections were identified by Alex Smith as new species: Fuscoboletinus weaverae A. H. Sm. & Shaffer, from Pelican; Psathyrella rhodosporaWeaver & A. H. Sm., from the Nerstrand Woods area. Although it is considered an honor to have a mushroom named after a person, such as Fuscoboletinus weaverae, I felt strongly that a name should be related to some character of the mushroom. Alex agreed to let me name Psathyrella rhodospora with rosy spores, "rhodo" being Greek for "rose", although he had suggested naming it P. calkinsii after the person who had collected it, Dr. H. E. Calkins, who brought it to me for identification, thinking it might be the pink-spored Pluteus cervinus which is edible. I was surprised that Alex listed me as the senior author, an honor, saying that I had done most of the work on the specimens.
Although Bob Shaffer had difficulty in convincing me that I should publish, I agreed to co-author two articles for the Journal of the Minnesota Academy of Science where we published lists of Minnesota species, noting when and where each was collected and the herbaria in which it was deposited. To get the correct identifications of some of my more puzzling collections I was able to send them to authorities in specific fields, many of whom had never seen Minnesota specimens previously. In their publication these authors then cited Minnesota collections which they had examined. Minnesota was on the mycological map! "
My mom worked with Dave McLaughlin of the U of Minnesota for the next several years, and ended up being the primary author of this special publication of a key to the mushroom flora of Minnesota.