Poplar fieldcaps in Dulwich Park

As seen on 23rd October 2022

The title of this post sounds like a type of east London headwear. As you may have guessed, it’s actually about a mushroom in south London.

I led my first public fungi walk of the year with the Dulwich Society at Dulwich Park on 23rd October, despite the thunderstorms either side and torrential downpour intro.

My Dad taught me to play football in Dulwich Park and I was born in Dulwich Hospital. It has many happy memories for me. But no, I didn’t go to Dulwich College!

It’s a fantastic park that provides space and enjoyment to millions of people each year. It was also good for fungi on this occasion and I was pleasantly surprised by some of the things we found. As a landscape it’s former farmland bequeathed to the local council for public enjoyment. Before being farmed privately it was likely wood pasture common land. The Dulwich Society have a FANTASTIC local history Twitter account which has a lot of relevant info.

Charlie and the shrooms

The most interesting find of the walk was a large group of fungi on the decaying stump of a poplar tree along one of the carriageways. From a distance I spotted what looked like litter sat on top of the stump. My colleague Charlie want to have a closer look and I soon followed with the group after she gave a confirmatory thumbs up. It was fungi, not rubbish.

I was baffled by these shrooms. The stump’s bark was peeling away and some honey fungus boot laces were present underneath the remaining wood. But the mushrooms didn’t have the features of any honey fungus I had seen. We did see some earlier in the walk, for comparison.

Honey fungus ‘boot laces’ reaching out from behind the remaining bark

All I could say to the group was that it was likely the mushrooms, whatever species they were, was breaking down what what remained of the poplar tree.

I did some research when I got home that evening but it took me a while to establish what the species was. It didn’t help that this mushrom, what turned out to be poplar fieldcap, has a couple of scientific names and several common names: Poplar Fieldcap, Poplar Mushroom, Pioppino, Velvet Pioppini, Piopparello.

Perhaps the variety of common names is because this is seen as a nice edible mushroom. That’s what you find with something like Boletus edulis which is known as cep (France), porcini (Italy), and penny bun (England). I think it’s known as king bolete in North America. Those mushrooms which are either highly desireable or undiserable (deathcap) are usually subject to common names in different languages.

Thanks to everyone who came to the walk, it was a lot of fun! Great to see so many people despite the very wet weather. After all, that is what the mushrooms want!

Thanks for reading.

Further reading: Fungi | London

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Dulwich Park fungi walk in October

Hi everyone,

I’m pleased to announce that I’m leading a fungi walk in Dulwich Park (SE London) on Sunday 23rd October 2022:

The meeting point is near the cafe at 11am. The walk will last around 90 minutes. The walk is free to attend and is funded by the Dulwich Society.

It’s been such a dry spring and summer but hopefully the stock of old trees and sensitive management that takes place in parts of the park will mean a decent array of fungi can be found. If not, there are always plenty of strange anecdotes about fungi to share.

We’re likely to find common species like inkcaps (above), jelly ear, turkeytail, Ganoderma brackets and brittlestems.

While it’s not a culinary or foraging walk, I can share general information regarding edibility of some common species.

This will be the first walk I’m leading as a freelance guided walks leader (having led walks since 2012). You can find more information about that on my new bookings page.

Thanks for reading.

Free guided walk: trees in Dulwich Park, August 2019

Dulwich oaks 2016-4

I’m very pleased to share this invite to a guided walk I’m leading at Dulwich Park in south London on Saturday 10th August 2019. The walk will begin at 11am and run for about 90 minutes to two hours, meeting at the Court Lane Gates.

The walk is free and there is no need to book.

I would encourage anyone who wants to donate to support London Wildlife Trust in their work at Sydenham Hill Wood and the wider Great North Wood and/or become a member of The Dulwich Society.

The walk is general interest and is open to all. It will be a way to learn how to identify common British trees and delve into their natural and cultural history.

I have lots more info about woods and trees on this page.

Please share the poster on social media if you want to!

Dulwich_Park_tree_walk_2019

My previous posts about oak trees in Dulwich Park can be read here. This story of the historic Great North Wood (which Dulwich Park is a part of) will also be of interest.

Hope to see some people there(!).

Daniel

 

Oaks of London: Rural remnants of Dulwich Park

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Trees: Old field boundaries of Dulwich Park, Southwark, London, September 2016
Species: English oak, Quercus robur
Age: Between 200-500 years?
Status: Fair

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This sizeable boundary oak lost a limb in a recent storm but it should be able to recover. It’s important to remember that many ancient trees lose their heartwood through storm damage, lightning strikes or by other means. It is also very pleasing to see that the fallen limb has been left to decay next to the tree. Southwark Council are generally good at doing this where conservation policies make it to grounds maintenance.

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One of the more intriguing trees is this heavily belted pollard oak. I like to call it the toilet oak. It has put on a lot of bulgewood over the centuries as it’s had to reach out to the light. My images are slightly distorted by the 10-24mm wide angle lens I use, seen in the lean of the toilet block. It seems in fair condition despite the erosion around its base, likely from the soles of children’s shoes as they climb it.

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In the fenced nature reserve area is a neat line of former field boundary oaks from the time of farmland smallholdings, likely dating further back to when this was Dulwich Common. These oaks also show a great deal of bulgewood from the interal shifting of the tree’s woody fibres as it has reached out towards the light. They once grew in full sunlight, undeterred.

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The one nearest the gate has all the signs of recovering from lost limbs, epicormic growth and the need to put on bulgewood. Immediate trouble for this tree is coming from the yew growing on the right hand side.

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It’s an impressive pollard, probably about 300 years old. It is reaching for the light outside the nature reserve.

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The furthest oak has lost one of its limbs and has a large wound in the heart of the tree. I can’t underline enough how important this is as a habitat feature for the fungi and invertebrates. It is a major wound but it should be able to recover over time now that the excess weight has been lost.

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The largest of the oaks is this fine one next to the boating lake. I remember this well from childhood (decades not centuries). It has fairly complete leaf cover, so few signs of stress despite its closeness to the path and amenities.

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The trunk shows the bulge of a former limb, the buttresses at the base holding the tree steady. When I photographed the oak it had been marked by the business card of a commercial dog walker.

Oaks of London archive
I’m leading a tree walk at Dulwich Park on Saturday 29th October 2016 
Dulwich Society
Dulwich Park Friends
My oaks of London gallery on Flickr