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Fabulous Fungi

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Posted: Friday 9th November 2018 by WildBlog

(c) Guy Edwards / 2020Vision

By Joe McSorley, Living Landscape Manager at Avon Wildlife Trust

With all the recent rain and the seasonal winds bringing an autumnal chill to the air, many mushroom hunters minds will be turning to the magical surprises that might be springing up in the woods, waiting to be found.

However, finding fungi isn't always as easy as it looks. Generally, fungi doesn’t want to be found and eaten before they've had a chance to release their spores to bring along the next generation and can often go to great lengths to remain hidden. Truffles, for example, fruit just below the ground, so you're very unlikely to ever find one unless you are in possession of a truffle hound that can find them with their sensitive nose. There are some fungi, on the other hand, that thrive on being found such as the stinkhorn. This fungi reproduces through being partially eaten by flies so it goes to great lengths to attract them with its intense and offensive stink.

We see and identify fungi by the fruiting bodies (mushrooms), which are only produced when the fungi wants to release spores. Most of the time the fungi inhabit the world below our feet as a fine web of threads called the mycelium, which is very often so fine that it’s invisible to the naked eye and nearly always under the ground and out of sight. When the mushrooms do actually appear they can last in this form for as little as an hour but generally about three weeks is a fair average for many common fungi. That, of course, means that they are invisible for 95% of the year, so you have to be on your toes to find them.

Have a look in any fungi book or website and you'll notice immediately that many fungi appear to be quite boldly coloured. Think of the fly agaric - the deep red fungi with the white spots which crops up on the front cover of many a fairytale. There are others too, such as the scarlet waxcap and the beechwood sickener that appear around this time of year, with bright red caps. The amethyst deceiver perhaps pushes the boundaries with its deep purple colouration, as its name suggests. Ochre brittlegills and meadow waxcaps stand out to the human eye with their bold yellow and orange caps and the parrot waxcaps, which are popping up in our local limestone grasslands, are a spectacular range of faded yellows, greens, purples and reds.

There's also lots of brown and orange capped fungi popping up in all sorts of habitats including the yellowish weeping bolete under pine and the bright orange false saffron milkcap under spruce trees. All these bold colours seem strange if you want to remain inconspicuous but if you stop to think for a minute, you realise that these are the common colours of autumn. The fading greens, the deepening rusts and reds and the golden hues mimic the colour of leaves as they flutter down to the woodland floor on the same winds that bring a chill to the autumn air.

Have a walk through your local patch and see if you can find any fungi growing among the leaf litter and marvel and how they can appear hidden even when wearing a cap of many colours. You can also visit one of our reserves to enjoy a colourful autumnal stroll perfect for some fungi spotting: avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves.
 

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