This interview by Richard Schiffman with Hollyhock Presenter Paul Stamets was originally published in The New Scientist, February 2016. Paul will be presenting Mushrooms: Wild & Mysterious at Hollyhock on Oct 23 -27, 2016
Tell me about the hat you’re wearing.
It’s made from a birch polypore mushroom. Our ancestors realized that you could get this tough bracket fungus off birch trees, hollow it out and put fire in it and carry it for days. This enabled the portability of fire that is so critical for human survival. When the same mushroom is boiled and stretched, it produces a fabric. There are only a handful of people in Transylvania who are making these hats now. Because of deforestation and the difficulty of finding large-enough mushrooms, the hats are becoming very rare.