Giant polypore and more in the New Forest ๐ŸŽ

There are certain species of fungi that are relevant to particular professions. Some medical experts may be aware of certain species of fungi that cause lung problems, or cheese growers may want a particular mould to improve their cheeses, for example. In the tree management world, there are several that keep people awake at night. One of those is giant polypore. Just like Jeff Goldblum witnessing a sublimly terrifying, carnivorous dinosaur appearing before him in Jurassic Park, a tree officer may look at giant polypore growing at the base of a tree and whisper the words, “Meripulus”. That’s its scientific name.

During a recent ramble in the New Forest, I was blown away by the sight of a large number of fruiting bodies of giant polypore (also known as black-staining polypore, but perhaps in America) alongside a footpath. Now, I’d seen giant polypore along this path before, where a number of beech trees grow, but I had never seen anything of this size and scale.

The image above reflects the spread of the fungus in the soil, or else along the roots of the tree. This is a fungus that decays roots, and from what I know it is a case of managed decline for the tree. Of course, we should remember that this is perfectly natural and it’s something that has been occurring for millions of years in woodlands. It’s a key process of renewal upon which biodiverse ecosystems depend.

I don’t know for sure who owns this small parcel of the New Forest, but I think it may be the Wildlife Trust. The great thing about having conservation charities as landowners is that they will make sensitive decisions around tree management more often than others, whilst always considering public safety. I say this as a Wildlife Trust employee with a woodland focus currently, and previously for a longer period!

This tree will go down at some point in the next few years, I would guess, either by natural course or by being reduced by the landowner, which is highly possible if there is resource available. Retaining standing deadwood is always preferable but not always possible.

But that is just one species, so let’s look at what else I found on this 9 mile wander in one of Europe’s most important woodland landscapes.

My first sighting of porcelain fungus usually takes place as early as June, but in 2022 it was late September. That to me is evidence of how dry it’s been this summer, with the hottest temperatutes on record in the UK. There should be more to come from this very photogenic species in the weeks ahead.

In south-east London’s oak woodlands it is proving a bumper year for beefsteak fungus (Fistulina hepatica). 75% of mature oak trees in one woodland had beefsteak in some form on the trunk. In the New Forest I found this wonderful example of the fungus, in what was the ideal state for eating. It looks so much like actual meat, it is very disturbing. This was growing on a large oak stump at the edge of a path.

This image doesn’t demonstrate spindle shank (Gymnopus fusipes) that well but they are fruiting in large numbers on oak at the moment. This is a root-rotter on a smaller scale to giant polypore, and it has a very potent aroma. It’s not unpleasant at all but is quite dominant if you know the smell.

I’ve written about boletes recently but this remnant cep (Boletus edulis) really confused me for a while. My guess here is that one of the nearby ponies or perhaps pigs munched the top off what would have been a sizeable mushroom. I identified it by the webbing of sorts on the rounded stipe. I didn’t see any others on the day. The livestock must eat quite a few of the mushrooms actually.

Elsewhere in bolete world I found a beautiful smaller species with very strong yellow pores. Here you can see that boletes and their relatives don’t have typical gills but instead pores. My guess here would be suede bolete, one of the Xerocomus species which is often found in this part of the season.

Here’s a closer look at those lovely pores. I tested them with my fingernail and they didn’t bruise blue, which you may be able to see in the top left of the photo.

Towards the end of the walk, my final find was this typical Agaricus-looking field mushroom that had been uprooted, probably by one of the cattle grazing the lawns. I am a bit indifferent to these grassland species and am wary in general of white mushrooms due to some toxic species like destroying angel, not that it would be found in the open normally.

In general, and following up on my long walk in the Forest in April, or comparing to September 2020, the landscape still looks very dry indeed. That will no doubt have slowed any mushroom fruiting. I’m hoping to return in October or November for the peak period to see how things are.

Thanks for reading.

Further reading: Fungi | The New Forest

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From Brockenhurst to Lyndhurst in the New Forest ๐Ÿ‘ฃ

In April I walked from Brockenhurst to Lyndhurst and back in the space of two days. This post focuses on the first day walking from Brockenhurst railway station.

Iโ€™ve created a route of the walk here.

These are probably the New Forest’s biggest towns, with Brockenhurst being bigger than Bournemouth until the advent of the railways in the mid to late-1800s.

I’ve walked many times in the New Forest. It’s an exceptional place for ancient trees, birds and for fungi. But visiting it this time it felt like it was suffering from an absence of rain, it looked thirsty. In many of the more open landscapes it looked bare and over-grazed. On these two warm and sunny days I didnโ€™t see a single butterfly! These are just my own observations and may not be accurate.

A trackway that leads into Roydon Woods from nearby Brockenhurst opens the door to the walk.

A disused barn with oak planks

A New Forest pony grazing

I found very little fungi. The whole Forest appeared to be exceptionally dry for the time of year. This is probably lumpy bracket.

The trackway through Roydon Woods, now fenced on all sides since I last visited in 2019.

There were a few of these flies basking in the sun. I think they are St, Markโ€™s flies or similar.

The sporophytes of juniper hair cap moss growing on a wood bank.

There is something quite muscular about this dead standing oak, no doubt full of life on the inside.

The arrival of birch leaves is one of my favourite sights each spring.

A close up of moss photosynthesising

I had no idea that this bracken stalk had a little insect sat atop it. That often happens with macro images.

Greater stitchwort flower

Walking along the track a bird on a stump caught my eye. I realised it was a nuthatch and managed to catch a photo of it before it flew to cover. They are usually high in the treetops. This silent bird may have been gathering food for nestlings.

The Lymington River

Primroses and celandines gathering around the mossy buttresses of an oak

Ash dieback has changed the look and feel of parts of the older woodlands around Brockenhurst. The woodland is more open and clearly depleted. Ash trunks lie as if storm ravaged. This is good conservation woodland management for fungi and deadwood invertebrates.

Wood anemones at their peak, surrounded by dogs mercury, another plant of ancient woodland

A triple decker of Ganoderma bracket fungus on the remains of a beech tree

Carvings of an owl and oak leaves made in this dead tree

Arriving on Beaulieu Heath I was baffled by the sights of what looked like chalk downland in the distance. Looking at the map it appeared to be the Isle of Wight!

One of the few fungi I found, a small bracket on a fallen branch

The first beech leaves: they can be eaten (not sure if they affect people with allergies) and also used to make gin. They are soft at first but like their oak relatives will soon toughen up.

A winding forestry trail where the landscape becomes less diverse and the understory generally thins out. This is more of a plantation landscape.

Cladionia lichens on a piece of old pine wood

Can you see the crab spider here? I was astonished. It had matched the red and green of the wood spurge it was hiding in. Crab spiders are known to be able to mimic colours of plants around them. This seemed so specific, as the spurge will not keep the reddish colour for long.

One of my favourite beech trees, encrusted in white lichens

A selection of images showing the lichen communities that can be found in some parts of the Forest.

Ferns acting as epiphytes on this heavily leaning oak tree

To finish, before arriving in Lyndhurst, a selection of beech trees and one with a massive Ganoderma bracket.

Thanks for reading.

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