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Fungus & Fire

After a forest fire, what is the first sign of life?

Fungi. Their tiny root-like fibers appear on the charred forest floor and begin to break down debris and release nutrients into the soil. This age-old process is crucial to soil restoration and the forest’s revival.

Learn about the noble lives of mushrooms at the museum’s annual Fungus Fair—Fungus & Fire, Saturday, Dec 6 (10 a.m.–6 p.m.) and Sunday, Dec 7 (12-5 p.m.). The fair explores the role of fungi and mushrooms in the aftermath of California’s devastating forest fires.

Fungus & Fire offers hundreds of fresh specimens on display, cooking demonstrations with local chefs, craft and food vendors, mushroom ID, and a new wrinkle: old sci-fi films featuring mushrooms gone amok. All activities are included with museum admission.

Young visitors can take part in hands-on activities Saturday (11–4) and Sunday (12–4), part of the museum’s monthly Family Explorations! program. Kids can make mushroom ice cream, dye, jewelry, and clay models; build mushroom-growing kits; and use a microscope to explore fungi.

The Fair also features talks and slide shows by mycologists, authors, and scientists. Confirmed speakers include Bob Mackler (“Mushrooms 101: Reproduction, Spore Dispersal, Edibility, and Toxicity”), Dr. Else C. Vellinga of the UC Berkeley Department of Plant and Microbial Biology (“Mushrooms, Toadstools, and Beyond”), and Philip Ross, a mushroom-inspired artist, educator, and mycologist.

The Fungus Fair is produced by the Oakland Museum of California and the Mycology Society of San Francisco (MSSF). Visit or for details.