Wildlife Blog: Fungi

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22 October 2020

Woodlands become magical in October!

As the daylight hours are drawing in and the days are getting shorter into winter, this is the time when fungi come to life. Although mushrooms can be found all year round, autumn is prime time for their fruiting bodies and are only the tip of the iceberg for the vast underground network of mycelia, extending many hundreds of meters away.  From toadstools to fairy rings, fungi have a history of folklore and associations with magic, throughout the past.

You might be surprised how many foods are made using fungi. Fizzy drinks, wine, beer, cheese, bread, Marmite, Quorn, coffee and chocolate all depend on fungi. Fungal mycelium is also being used to create environmentally friendly leather, packaging and even building materials!

Fungi, is in a kingdom of its own, separating it from plants and animals; consisting of mushrooms, bracket fungi, moulds, yeasts and (with algae) lichens. Mycology, the study of fungi, covers a range of 12,500 species found in the UK but only 4,500 are typical mushrooms. With new species being discovered all the time they provide a crucial source of the food web in our parkland habitats for wildlife.  Without fungi, the beautiful fallen autumn leaves would not break down into the soil. 

From Chicken of the woods to Turkey tail, here’s some of the best fungi to see in MK:

  • Scarlett Waxcap or hood, Hygrocybe coccinea is usually associated with churchyards and these tiny mushrooms can be found at Stonepit field, Great Linford. (Pictured above)

  • Parasol Mushroom, Macrolepiota procera the easiest and largest to spot from June to September.

  • Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphurous, a large yellow-white coloured bracket fungus growing on trees and stumps.

  • Shaggy Ink cap, Coprinus comatus, is a finger shaped long cylindrical cap found between April and November.  They are also known as Lawyer’s Wig.

  • Wood funnel cap or Trooping funnel, Clitocybe geotropa also known as Monks Head can be found in rings from August to December. 

  • Turkey Tail, Trametes versicolor is a distinctive colourful bracket fungus that grows throughout the year but best in autumn where you can find it in tiers on trees and dead wood.

  • Scarlet Elf cup, Sarcoscypha austriaca – the mystical and cheery red cups grow on decaying sticks and branches in damp spots and beneath the leaf litter from December to April.  Best place to spot is Linford Lakes Nature Reserve.  In European folklore, it was said that wood elves drank morning dew from the cup!

  • King Alfred’s cake, Daldinia concentrica – can be seen as black balls (small burnt cake) on ash trees, fallen branches and rotten deciduous woodland all year round. Named after the king’s poor baking skills when hiding from the Vikings in the 9th Century.  They are home to many insect larval stages.

Why not venture in to your local parkland to see what you can spot? We’d love to see your photos! Don't forget to tag @theparkstrust on social media. 

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