Have you noticed lots and lots of different types of fungi springing up everywhere recently? We have created a handy Fungus Spotter Guide for you to download and take with you when you’re out and about to help identify some of the most common ones.
Every October we hold a Mushroom Magic event jointly with the Bucks Fungus Group (see below). Unfortunately, we have had to cancel this year’s event so instead we would love you to send in your Fungus photos and we will display them here in our very own “Fungus Exhibition” for everyone to see. You can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the #BucksFungus. Need help identifying your fungus finds? Mike our resident Fungus expert is here to help. Just email your fungus find photo to email@example.com or use #FungusFindHelp and he will try and identify them.
You might have noticed we find Fungi fascinating so we thought we would share some of our knowledge about them below.
Are mushrooms part of the plant kingdom?
No, mushrooms don’t belong to the plant kingdom. Nor are they part of the animal kingdom. Instead, they belong to their own Fungus Kingdom.
What’s the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool?
There is no real difference. They are both fungi that have a stalk (stipe) and a cap. Sometime the edible ones were called mushrooms and the poisonous ones were called toadstools but this doesn’t always hold true
Are there other types of fungi?
Yes, lots of different types. Many, such as the moulds and mildews are microscopic and difficult to see with the naked eye. These are called micro-fungi. The larger fungi that we see in the fields and woods are macro-fungi. These include the mushrooms and toadstools, along with bracket fungi that grow out of trees, round puffballs and earthballs that grow on the ground and a whole host of other weird and wonderful forms.
How do you know which ones are edible?
There is no simple way to distinguish between the tasty fungi and those that will make you sick or even kill you. The only way is to learn how to identify individual specimens but take care as some edible ones can look very similar to poisonous ones. The best way to learn is to go on fungus forays with your local fungus group (see ‘Discover More’)
Why do we get so many mushrooms in the autumn?
Fungi are present all year around but usually hidden away as a mass of fine fungal threads (hyphae) underground or in rotting trees. When the time is right these threads produce fruiting bodies – the mushrooms, brackets and other forms that we see bursting forth from the ground. In order to produce these fruiting bodies, the fungus needs the right balance of warmth and moisture. Summer is usually too dry and winter it is too cold but autumn (and to a lesser extent, spring) provides the right combination of moisture and warmth.
Toadstools seem to appear almost overnight?
This is because the fruit body does much of its growing (or cell division) underground. The final stage of growth occurs when there is enough moisture in the soil to literally pump them up!
Are fungi useful?
Some mushrooms provide us with a useful source of protein. Some micro-fungi are used to make bread, beer and wine. They also protect us from a range of diseases and infections through their use in antibiotics. Because most fungi feed on dead and decaying matter, they help break down all the dead leave, twigs and branches and return the nutrients to the soil. Some fungi can form relationships with plants and trees with the fungal hyphae help the plants absorb nutrients from the soil.
Are mushrooms and toadstools endangered?
Many grassland species have declined due to the use of chemicals to improve the grass. Also, some of the tastier species from both grassland and woodland, are at risk from over collecting.
The Bucks Fungus Group organise a range of fungus forays throughout the year. Unfortunately, due to Covid 19, these have been postponed for the time being. However, they have added a Members’ Sightings page to their website to show images of all the wonderful mushrooms and other toadstools their members have found individually. For more information see www.bucksfungusgroup.org.uk.
BBOWT (the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust) also have some great pages looking at local fungi species. See www.bbowt.org.uk/wildlife-explorer/fungi.
The British Mycological Society is the national organisation for the study of mushrooms and other fungi – mycology is the study of fungi.
Their Recording Groups page lists details for a range of local fungus groups across Britain including the Bucks Fungus Group. Their Mycokids page provides a fantastic introduction to the world mushrooms, toadstools and other fungi.
You can find out more at www.britmycolsoc.org.uk/.