The little frog was lucky it didn’t become dinner.  

Thinking it had found a safe off-season respite, the petit pinkletink was hanging out in a moist mushroom for rest, relaxation and refuge. It must have been quite surprised when it came face to face with Gretchen Anderson.  

According to Ben Hall, who shared the story and photos with me last week, Gretchen has been walking daily, focusing on observing and learning about mushrooms in Island woodlands. She was fortunate enough to come across a bloom of edible black trumpet mushrooms.    

As is best practice before one consumes wild foods, harvests should be inspected and cleaned before eating. I have more than once fished spiders out of my foraged finds. As Gretchen prepared her produce, she found that pinkletink. And in another mushroom was an acorn that had begun to sprout. Treasures for sure — though not ones that would be good meal additions.  

Eastern black trumpet mushrooms are known for their edibility and are considered one of the finest finds for fungus foragers. The local species is craterellus fallax, which is closely related to the European trumpet, craterellus cornicopiodes, found on the other side of the Atlantic.  

Both species have relevant nicknames. Poor man’s truffle, black chanterelle and horn of plenty speak to their positive attributes. Trumpet of the dead, devil’s trumpet and horn of death tell another story, an imagination of the devil and buried dead playing these horns from their below-ground graves.   

These funnel-shaped black, grey or brown mushrooms are easy to identify, though hard to find as they disappear into the similarly-colored forest floor. Black trumpets are mycorrhizal, having a symbiotic relationship with the roots of oak, maple or beech trees, though they do not grow directly on the tree. Find them near these tree species in groups in the dirt, and often affiliated with mossy areas and small streams and their washes. 

Lacking visible gills or true spore-bearing structures, these mushrooms do produce pink to orange spores from their false gills. They are saprophytic, meaning that they can also feed on dead organic matter. The outside of these mushrooms appears wrinkly with folds and ridges and, if you didn’t know better, unappealing. Don’t be fooled: finding a flourish of trumpets will be music to your mouth.  

Typically these mushrooms appear in late summer and fall, but they are highly affected by rainfall. Drought will cause them to not emerge at all or to come late. So it is not surprising that their appearance is late this year and that they are being found and harvested into November. 

It is likely that the recent heavy rains precipitated their emergence. Knowledgeable mushroom hunters know to look for trumpets six to fourteen days after a major rain event. It also helps that we haven’t had a hard frost yet either.  

The good news for fungus finders such as Gretchen is that there are no poisonous lookalikes, and once a group of trumpet mushrooms is discovered, one can return year after year to collect them in that place.  

A food source, home for wildlife and plant incubator, Eastern trumpet mushrooms should toot their own horn. They are truly a cornucopia for all.  

Suzan Bellincampi is islands director for Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown and the Nantucket Wildlife Sanctuaries. She is also the author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature and The Nature of Martha’s Vineyard.