COMA is an educational and recreational group devoted to advancement of the science of mycology through public education, organized forays and field trips, publication, lectures, and nature study. Our activities encompass the fields of natural history, botany, taxonomy, culinary arts, photography, toxicology, microscopy, and more. The club actively promotes public education about mushrooms to prevent poisoning by toxic species.
COMA members lead mushroom walks in Westchester County, New York and Southern Connecticut; a few walks take place in Rockland County, New York. Walks are held almost every weekend between May and early November. The club also presents educational programs throughout the year at the Friends Meeting House in Purchase, New York. The club’s annual banquet is held in November, also at the Friends Meeting House. All walks and lectures are free of charge and open to the public.
While walking with us through the woods, you will have an opportunity to learn about mushrooms, trees, flowers, birds, and many other aspects of the natural world. You may also want to learn more about cooking, the environment, photography, traveling, and related interests. Our range of interests is broad, but our focus, of course, is on mushrooms. Every walk is a learning experience. Gradually you will learn to identify many mushrooms, some of which are edible, and even delicious, nutritious, and a benefit to health.
COMA is affiliated with the North American Mycological Association (NAMA), a non-profit organization of professional and amateur mycologists with over 80 affiliated mycological societies in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Your COMA membership entitles you to join NAMA at a reduced rate. NAMA members receive a bi-monthly newsletter, The Mycophile, and can attend annual and regional forays throughout the continent. COMA is also affiliated with the Northeast Mycological Federation (NEMF), a group of 18 mycological clubs in the Northeastern United States. We participate in annual joint forays with other nearby clubs, including the Connecticut Valley Mycological Association, the New York Mycological Society and the Mid Hudson Mycological Association.
A Brief History of COMA
COMA was founded in 1975 by a group of people who wanted to explore the world of mushrooms and to learn and share knowledge about the science of mycology. The Westport Nature Center was COMA’s original sponsor. The association’s name was revised to include “Westchester [County, NY]” in 1978.
Professional mycologists and advanced amateurs have been associated with COMA from its inception. A partial list includes Roy Halling, Peter Katsaros, Carol Levine, Gary Lincoff, Roz Lowen, Vincent Marteka, John Minot, Marge Morris, Sam Ristich and Clark Rogerson, Ann and Bud Schwartz, Sandy and Jerry Sheine, Sylvia and Philip Stein, and Barry Wulff. Clark T. Rogerson, mycologist and former curator of the mycological herbarium of the New York Botanical Garden, served as advisor to COMA from its inception to his retirement in 1996; in 1981 COMA named its annual foray in Dr. Rogerson’s honor in appreciation of his tireless commitment to education and the development of amateur mycology. Ann and Bud Schwartz of Westport, Connecticut were the club’s founders and first directors. Sandy Sheine of Pound Ridge, New York became president in 1978, serving until 1999.
At the forefront of COMA’s scientific activities is the recording of comprehensive collection lists of fungi collected on mushroom walks and the annual forays. In addition, the club conducts an annual survey of fungi at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Pound Ridge, New York for the Westchester County Department of Parks.
Dr. Samuel Ristich, an entomologist, mycologist, and founding member of COMA who has been a constant source of inspiration, challenging ideas, and good humor remarked, “Philosophically and pragmatically I believe in deep stewardship of the planet.” Ultimately, COMA has sought to promote and develop this sense of stewardship of the natural world through the study and appreciation of the world of fungi.