The day after last week’s post, I headed back out to another local woodland to check up on the fungal situation. Building on the violet webcap theme, I was this time lured down an amethyst deceiver rabbit-hole. Thankfully, I was able to return from it.
I saw a tweet recently from the editor of the Inkcap Journal about how she could never find these mushrooms. The question was whether they are as bright as people say, or if that was deceptive. They are, of course, deceptive by name but also in their appearance.
I was scanning the path edges along a usual mushroom route I take through this woodland when I spotted a very small, dark mushroom under the birch and holly. It was almost black in the shade but on closer inspection it was one of perhaps 100 amethyst deceivers in the local leaf litter.
As I slowed down upon finding the mushroom, I began to see more and more. They were everywhere. I was careful not to step or kneel on them. I took some photos of them in varying states.
Herein lies this family’s deception – they are often confusing because they can look so different in anything but colour. Perhaps their name also derives from the fact they are hard to see.
These blogposts can also be deceptive. Though I have found things to photograph, we are nowhere near a mushroom peak. Things are not in full flow. The Sussex Weald’s woods look dry still, with heavy rain not yet enough to provide the water for full-on fruiting across the board. In other words, the mushrooms remain small and sparse, but there if you look. This brittlegill was exploding onto the scene like the shark from Jaws.
Something that can always be relied upon is a hard-wearing polypore. This fan of small brackets is the sort of thing you can find all year round.
There were more of the typical mushrooms, but mostly in the shaded areas under holly or lower vegetation. This crew of bonnets were growing in their hundreds.
On the woodland floor I spotted some very small mushrooms with conical hats. These tips look a bit like the famous magic Psilocybe mushrooms. After a bit of research I decided that they are in fact peaked webcap.
You can forgive me for seeing their similarity for liberty cap, the magic mushroom. In this photo you can see a small amount of the webbing which gives this huge family of mushrooms its general name.
Some of the more summery mushrooms were there to be found. This included the undisputed king of looking-like-they-just-burst-through-the-door, tawny grisette.
Another amanita to be found was this blusher, I think. It is quite difficult sometimes to tell the difference between a couple of relatives in this group, including the panther cap and grey-spotted amanitas.
The pinkish-hue and appearance of the stipe was enough to suggest to me that it’s a blusher, rather than a grey-spotted amanita.
I like the felty-caps of these two friends down among the old holly leaves and sticks.
Before making my way back home I happened upon another gathering of bonnets, again under holly in very shady woodland. It’s where the moisture is and therefore where the magic happens.
If you can, make some time to get out there and find yourself some mushrooms. You won’t regret it.
At long last some time in the woods! Get ready for a mammoth mushroom post to celebrate the start of the season. I am so annoyed to have missed UK Fungus Day due to work commitments (no time or energy to do writing, visit woods or take photos) and also I have at least one other mushroom post that hasn’t made it to the surface yet.
In south-eastern England we have finally had some rain after a very dry summer. iNaturalist and social media have shown lots of autumn mushrooms popping up, including the first fly agarics. This week I had the chance to check things out for myself, and was not disappointed.
I am fortunate enough to live near a large expanse of ancient woodland/wooded heathland which is part of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This landscape is fungal heaven in places that have been wooded for more than 400 years. It’s dominated by birch, oak, beech and pine, trees that have strong associations with fungi.
The early signs were good as I discovered a beefsteak fungus growing at the base of an oak tree. This is a species which can be mistaken for body parts, and though it’s parasitic, its impact is said to work more slowly than a tree’s ability to heal itself.
Amethyst deceivers are a common species at this time of year, often found growing in profusion. I spotted this tiny one growing in moss at the base of a tree.
Recent storms had created a realignment of the woodland canopy. A beech tree had broken off in high winds, opening up the woodland to light. The concentrations of deer are high here, so it will be interesting to see how well the woodland manages to renew in this sudden clearing.
No, this is not an amphibian! I spotted this holly leaf covered in a species of wart-like fungus which I think might be in this family. Please add a comment if you know what it is.
Lurking behind a fallen log was what I think is a deer shield mushroom. I saw far more in the proximity of fallen wood, rather than in the open woodland floor. Perhaps the heavy rain recently has washed things away.
This mazegill-like crust fungus caught my eye.
This small polypore, which I have not looked to ID yet, was in fine fettle on a little birch stump. Not unlike a thought-cloud.
A reminder that it’s not just humans that enjoy fungi. Not that anyone is in any rush to chow down on this one.
This crust fungus interested me as it looked like a map of Scandinavian islands.
It’s always nice to find a bolete. This is probably a birch bolete as it was growing underneath birch trees. I moved the beech leaf but it fell into this position purely by accident. Lots of autumn happening here.
There were two moments during this two-hour walk that I let out some expression of joy upon finding mushrooms to photograph. I don’t know what family this, well, family of fungi, are in, but they are beautiful. I love to find fungi in this state, at this time of year, before the leaves have fallen.
Autumn appearing in beech, birch and bracken.
As a lone male visiting woodland, I am very aware of the impact my presence could have on women who are walking alone. I saw a woman walking and turned away to walk a different path to ensure she didn’t have to experience the fear of having some weird dude approach in a secluded area or pinchpoint of woodland. I also have my camera clearly on show. Sometimes I have considered getting a hi-vis vest with a mushroom emoji on the back. I would implore other men to consider how you are perceived in similar situations.
A pine tree had come unstuck and much of its bark had been pulled away. Looking more closely I could see some kind of root network. Now I’m not sure if these are aerial roots put on by the tree as it tried to consume its own decaying matter. Then again there was a lot of hyphae-like structure in among the roots, but the whole structure couldn’t have been all fungi. Here we have the foundation for much of life on earth, the partnership of fungi and plants.
It made me think of how Britain is faring at the moment. We cut our ties with our European neighbours in January 2021 (i.e. the wood-wide web), thinking we could grow taller and stronger alone. The truth is that everything is connected and we are diminishing in isolation because we need our nearest neighbours to thrive.
And then I found a mushroom I had never seen before – a webcap, probably violet webcap!
Seeing this mushroom sitting there took my breath away. It is a stunning fungus. The photographs just don’t do it justice.
Looking back at the photos I could see a spider using the underside of the cap as a place to find prey. It’s a smart move as many small insects and other arthropods are attracted to mushroom gills and caps.
One of the highlights of this walk, literally, were the spreads of yellow staghorn in the moss.
Their likeness to flames is really pleasing. I also love how they grow out of a tiny alcove in fallen wood as if from a little firepit.
Here is an example of how far and wide the little fires were burning.
A new blog post series of single images, maybe, to counteract the decline of Twitter and the TikTok-isation of Instagram? This image was taken at Cowdray Park near Midhurst on Monday 14th November. It was a stunning autumn evening, with trees in shades of gold, yellow and orange all the way to the sumptuous Downs.
On Saturday 12th November I led a fungi walk for London Wildlife Trust at Dulwich Wood in south-east London. I only managed one photo on the day because I was working and leading the group around, but it was a pretty good one nonetheless. When doing a pre-walk check I accidentally flushed a woodcock from… Continue reading Flushing woodcock in Dulwich 🦆→
I want to start by saying thank you to everyone who stopped by last week to read my click-bait post about honey fungus. The post had nearly 200 views in one day, which is a huge amount for this blog and broke the single day record. My blog could have nearly twice the number of visitors as in 2019, probably due to the fact I have had more time to walk locally taking photos and to spend time writing these posts. Otherwise I would be stuck in a car driving to and from an office I probably didn’t even need to visit so often.
I think the fact more people are working from home could be key to protecting local green spaces going forward. In the UK ‘lockdown’, as the period of late-March and most of April and May 2020 are known, millions of people discovered their local green spaces. If people value something close to home, they will learn about it and in their stewardship, nurture and defend it. I discovered fungi close to home, and I’ve sought it closer and closer ever since.
This is black bulgar, a rather odd species that seems to explode in October on large fallen branches. The first time I saw this, it had appeared on the fallen limb of a massive oak tree which had come down that summer.
This rather unsightly mushroom did get my heart racing at first. I thought it was perhaps my first local deathcap, but really I think it’s the false deathcap. It has the classic Amanita bulb at the base. I think the colouring of the cap is wrong for deathcap and it has some of the brownish scales of the false deathcap, on the cap.
When the ground isn’t producing the shrooms needed at this time of year, I look to the moss growing on tree trunks. You can often find very small mushrooms there, perhaps bonnets (mycena) or galerinas. The moss holds on to the rainfall for longer, meaning fungi, some of which are parasitic on moss, can prosper. Let’s call them… mosshrooms!
This lovely little mosshroom had actually snapped but I rotated the image for effect.
This beautiful little grey-blue mushroom epitomises the mossy shroomlet. As you can see from the moss fronds, it was very small indeed.
One of my first #FungiFriday blogs was about candlesnuff fungus. It looks quite neat at the stage seen above, when it is first beginning to fruit. In dry conditions you can flick the white ‘wick’ and the spores appear as smoke from a snuffed candle.
A similar type of fungus was this yellow staghorn, a common species. It was growing down on a mossed-over stump on the woodland floor. That oak leaf on the right (I think Turkey oak, Quercus cerris) is so beautiful.
The most unusual find was in the raised rootplate of a rhododendron. From above they looked like potatoes. I am fairly confident this is a cep, Boletus edulis. It is, of course, also known as porcini and is one of the most sought after edible mushrooms. Foraging is not something I do commonly, so I left it there to grow on its merry way.
This scraggly crew are a common but no less beautiful mushroom – amethyst deceiver. They are easy to identify due to their colour and size and are a very common species in the UK. I do find that they are happier in older, more stable woodland. Aren’t we all?
This week I thought I would write a post answering the most common question regarding fungi – which ones can you eat?
Disclaimer: I am not encouraging you to forage without following a code of respect for nature, wildlife, habitats and the environment. Your desire to eat wild food is not more important than the thing you are trying to forage or the habitats those species depend on to exist. Learn your foraging rights and exercise them with restraint. Respect habitats and know what you are picking.
There are few other places to start with edible mushrooms. This mushrooms is known in Italy as porcini, America as king bolete, France as cep and England as pennybun. When finding ceps you’ll need to ensure they haven’t been eaten through by larvae from the ground up. This is done by cutting the mushroom where it’s attached to the soil and looking at the condition of the stipe. Ceps can be eaten raw in salads and are also good in risotto. I’ve only ever eaten them in restaurants. They grow in woodlands, plantations and on heathlands.
Chantarelles are a species I’ve only ever seen twice in the wild and I’ve never eaten one. I’ve eaten horn of plenty but they were a gift from Spain. This is the time of year to be looking for chantarelles (August-September). They are a yellowy-orange colour and look a bit like splattered egg yolk from above. People who reliably find chantarelles often have a patch that they return to each year. Not to be confused with false chantarelle. Later in the autumn trumpet chantarelles are another edible relative (that is a phrase you don’t hear often). I’ve found them growing on heathland.
Chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)
I saw a couple of specimens of chicken of the woods this week, but the best time to find them is May-June. This is an easy to identify fungus which grows mostly on oak, but also on sweet chestnut and even yew. Often it grows on fallen tree trunks. Never, ever, eat this if it grows on yew. Yews are poisonous and the fungus will absorb the toxins. It’s important to know that some fungi absorb pollution, so be careful where you are picking things. They are best eaten when younger. This species is important for invertebrates so don’t hoover everything up. That should be the consideration at all times.
Amethyst deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)
This is a very small, common mushroom in woodland. Sometimes they are so small you completely miss them down in leaf litter. In 2019 on a single visit to a favourite woodland I found thousands of them growing. They are a beautifully photogenic species and when in good light they have a lovely amethyst glow. They can be found from August to November. They have to be picked in larger numbers to be worth cooking.
Giant puffballs are famous for the their unusual size and the fact you can, well, eat them. A smaller cousin of the giant puffball is the common puffball. This species grows on the woodland floor and can be found throughout the autumn. I often find them at the edges of footpaths, which are not great places to find anything you ever want to eat. I think common puffballs look like submarine bread rolls with their speckled caps.