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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Sunday Spin: Need it or not, Washington might get official state fungus

Among the down-to-earth topics with which lawmakers dealt last week was the question of whether Washington should have a state fungus.

One bill suggests it should, or at least could. House Bill 1812 asks lawmakers to bestow that honor on the Pine Mushroom or Tricholoma magnivelare, if we’re being formal.

Naming a state anything is often the quest of grade schoolers who are trying to learn a lesson about how government works, and sometimes get a better lesson in how it doesn’t. They get friendly treatment at their committee hearing, because no lawmaker is going to ask a kid a tough question and risk making them cry while TVW cameras are rolling.

 One of the more recent successful attempts was the push by Washtucna Elementary students to name the Palouse Falls the state waterfall.

The state mushroom idea came from a slightly older set, some students at The Evergreen State College, who still got the kid gloves treatment by members of the House State Government Committee. Matthew Hurley told lawmakers the Pine Mushroom is the perfect fungus for the state to honor because of the symbiotic relationship it has with pine trees, making them grow bigger, faster; is a fiid source prized by both the Asian communities and the Salish tribes; and could boost tourism and help veterans who might be recruited to pick them.

(Apparently someone impressed on Hurley the need to boost multiculturism, economic benefits and veterans to catch the attention of various factions in the Legislature. Give the man an A.)

Emily Hall may have gone just a bit overboard when she suggested this fungus – or any fungus – is “an incredible reflection of who we are as a state.”

Committee members refrained from asking the first question that might pop up in their constituents’ minds: Why do we need a state fungus?

One might equally ask why do we need a state fossil, state oyster, state amphibian or a state endemic mammal? (But never “Why a state waterfall?” because, well the kids from Washtucna Elementary were really cute.) One would not ask these particular lobbyists why a state motto, because their college is named for the motto.

The second question a constituent might ask – how many states have a state fungus? – also did not come up. Quick, but by no means definitive, research on Google says only two, Oregon and Minnesota, while Missouri lawmakers considered such a move several years ago but never sealed the deal.

But if Washington must have a state fungus, it may as well be the Pine Mushroom. Some other state might claim Tricholoma magnivelare and Washington might have to fall back on another fungus. Like athlete’s foot.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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