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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