Fungi for Beginners!

This is the time of year when the Welsh countryside is in eclipse (in temporary decline), the leaves shrivel and fall, the berries drop or are eaten, the nuts hidden away by squirrels and jays, the swallows and martins are gone and the other birds have gone quiet. The waters are muddied by heavy rain and the clouds roll in from the west. Even the wasp’s nest in the shed falls silent.

But look again!

This is the season for fungi.

Honey fungus in the wood, bad news for this old hazel. Suddenly, everywhere there are strange fruiting bodies of the hidden silent mycelia that infiltrate the whole of our natural world and surround us.

We have been trying to identify just a few of the species we have seen recently and are accumulating vast picture files of “unidentified” fungi — so many, so transient, so changeable and so tricky to pin down but at least they sit still while you photograph them.

Some are easier to identify than others!

Stinkhorn — Phallus inpudicus

Like these Stinkhorns — the rude and smelly fungi of yore, still attracting flies who stamp their little feet in the glebal goo and spread the spores to other smelly places that flies frequent. Follow your nose and you will find they are quite common!

Not being an expert and only just starting it is the more easily identified fruiting bodies that will figure initially — these saprophytes and parasites are often named with a nod to their appearance, location and preferred host.

Scleroderma citrinum — Common Earthball

Scleroderma citrinum — Common Earthball (underside)

These balls grow in the earth attached at the base by coarse white mycelial strands. These were in the New Forest under beech trees.

Common Earthball — ruptured.

They rupture irregularly to release their spores

Genus Lycoperdon — Puffball

All the different puffballs are still a mystery, they differ from earthballs in tapering to a stout, stem like base but are many and varied and difficult to sort out! These were seen in the grave yard at the ancient cistercian abbey of Strata Florida in Mid Wales — if you recognize the type please tell me!

Lycoperdon utriforme — Mosaic Puffball

Here’s another conundrum — some sort of Cup Fungus from the New Forest but which?

Mystery Cup Fungus — seen in October
Cuphophylus (Hygrocybe) pratensis — Meadow Waxcap

Another common one is the meadow waxcap, in meadows (you see!) and with a very waxy appearance, as it matures it turns itself inside out and often splits and distorts giving it a spooky look — common around Halloween!

Happy fungus hunting!


Out and About with No Vomiting

When you live in one of the wetter parts of our planet it is no good saying “90% chance of precipitation today — I think I’ll stay at home!”

You have to buy decent wellies (with grip) and really good waterproofs and embrace the rain.

Never more so than in the glorious autumn when the quality of the light enlivens the golden palette of the forest floor, set rustling by busy squirrels. The sky between the trees is streaked with flashes of blue from nutting jays.

In the tops of the trees flocks of foraging siskins chatter.

But look under foot!

Parasol Mushroom — Lepiota procera

Nature’s bounty: you could fall over this one — something nice for supper! Fried in butter.

Also Field Mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) in profusion but my camera battery was flat so I’ll have to describe the wide ring of domed white delicacies, growing in our field where the sheep shelter, they have pink to brown gills (the mushrooms) so are not Avenging Angels or Death Caps (their gills are white) but beware the Yellow Stainer (Agaricus xanthoderma). These are one reason why you should always forage mushrooms by pulling them out to include the base which can give valuable information for identification. When you bruise a Yellow Stainer, as you might expect, they stain yellow and the flesh at the base is unmistakably bright yellow. They look very like their delicious and innocuous cousin but will make you very sick (thank you U-tube for saving us from that!)

Our Field Mushrooms were a little more watery than the ones you buy and had a faint tang of aniseed — very tasty with butter and lemon juice and no tummy ache!

Here’s another you should not eat: the Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

At a distance, in shade, we thought this was a cricket ball.

The woods are magic at this time of year but beware the little people: