Reino Fungi Festival comes to Pucón

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Gabriel Orrego, scientific director of the Reino Fungi Festival, in one of the educational activities. Photo: Antar MachadoGabriel Orrego, scientific director of the Reino Fungi Festival, in one of the educational activities. Photo: Antar Machado
By Antonia González
Translation by Patrick Nixon
Last year, Gabriel Orrego (a forester and environmentalist), Nicole Mintz (co-founder of the El Cañi reserve), and Miguel Bolt (creator of Magma Lab) launched the "Bosque Fungi" project to conserve and restore forest ecosystems through learning experiences in the Pucón area.
"We created a self-guided tour about how forests recover, from the perspective of the soil and its formation, fungi and their mycelium. It is also about how the forest grows and the key role played by the often-little mentioned world of fungi, native fungus, and our fungi biodiversity, which is a national treasure," said Orrego in an interview with Patagon Journal.
Encouraged by the excitement and increasing interest in fungi seen in recent years, Orrego and his collaborators at Bosque Fungi decided to create a festival that would combine this interest from the perspectives of science, medicine, technology, art, design, and culture. With the support of the Fundación Mar Adentro, on Friday, May 27, the first Festival Reino Fungi (The Fungi Kingdom Festival) will be held in Pucón, Chile. The three-day, free event aims to contribute to the conservation of native forests and their fungi through cultural activities and environmental education.
Why is it so important to protect fungi? Fungi play an extremely important role in recycling nutrients, says Orrego. "Everything that plants absorb to stay healthy, to grow and be interconnected is the result of the expertise of the fungal mycelium in the soil.” In addition to the important role fungi play in transporting nutrients, they are also responsible for the vegetative reproduction of organisms. 
Cortinarius flammuloides. Photo: Verónica LópezCortinarius flammuloides. Photo: Verónica López
Mycena haematopus. Photo: Verónica LópezMycena haematopus. Photo: Verónica López 

"Everything that plants absorb to stay healthy, to grow and be interconnected is the result of the expertise of the fungal mycelium in the soil.” 

Orrego adds that the health and life of a forest is reflected in its soil microbiology and its fungi. He says to conserve fungus it is essential to protect forests and all of their environmental properties. "Due to the nature of the climate, Chilean forests are great carbon sinks, with carbon in their soils. That is a very valuable, little-known fact, it should be common knowledge.”    
Through educational activities planned for Festival Reino Fungi, the organizers seek to raise community awareness about value the world of fungi. Already, they have taught educational modules in four local schools in the Pucón municipality: the Liceo Bicentenario de Hotelería y Turismo, the Escuela Los Arrayanes, the Complejo Educacional Carlos Holzapfel, and the Colegio Pucón.
"It was important for the schools and the children to understand that fungi are really important for the forest. The festival has heightened that awareness and meant that more children can learn about fungi, not just those that go to the forests. They can also see that there is a large group of adults that are interested in this issue as well as mycologists who come from all around the world to study Chile's fungi," said Orrego, who is also science director of the festival.  
Conservation education activities. Photo: Antar MechadoConservation education activities. Photo: Antar Mechado
The festival
The festival itself will take place over three days (May 27-29) and include educational activities to celebrate fungi. Cultural activities will include the documentary "Fantastic Fungi" directed by Louie Schwartzberg; the immersive virtual reality work "Hypha" directed by Chilean media artist Natalia Cabreba; and GIRA, a virtual exhibition of the Museo del Hongo.
In addition, there will be speeches by experts on healing fungi, edible wild mushrooms, and biotechnical uses of mushrooms. There will also be live music, stalls where local companies will sell mushroom-related products, and food and drink stands featuring local restaurants such as Cassis and Trawén.
Several academic and research institutions are collaborating with the festival including Fundación Mar Adentro, Fundación Fungi, Universidad de la Frontera, PAR Explora Araucanía, CRT+IC, and Museo del Hongo.
Photo: Verónica LópezPhoto: Verónica López
"We feel that this is the moment to bring together all of those who are interested and related in some way to the world of fungi in a festival of mycophilic culture. We are also aware that celebrating the world of fungi is a strategic move for conserving its natural ecosystems, which are the temperate rainforests of the southern Andes," said the festival's producer Miguel Bolt.
The Universidad de la Frontera's Pucón campus will be one of the main venues for festival activities along with Bosque Fungi, Hotel Selina Pucón and Espacio École. Admission is free with prior registration via the festival website ( and seating will be limited in accordance with current pandemic restrictions.