29 December 2014

More of that F word: Fungi in Cheshire

Some of you will remember my fascination with the fungi I discovered everywhere during my strolls around Auckland last autumn – that blog is here.

Well, of course, I’ve done a spot of ‘shrooming since I landed in Blighty at the end of October so, now that the English autumn has well and truly passed over into winter – we had minus 3 degrees Celsius overnight, I thought I’d share some photos of the fungi I’ve encountered during my walks in Cheshire woodlands.

Many of these fungi varieties are the same as those I found in New Zealand, probably because they hitched a ride from here on native British tree roots. That quintessential mushroom the scarlet flycap, or fly agaric as it’s more commonly known here, is definitely more at home in England’s countryside and I’ve found several others that will look familiar to Antipodean eyes. But many more are unfamiliar and I’ve noticed the fungi here are often more colourful.

Here are some I’ve found …

Aleuria aurantia or Orange Peel fungus, so named because it looks just like orange peel that’s been thrown on the ground. It’s vibrant colour is a treat in the brown autumn landscape.

Ascocoryne sarcoides is commonly known as Purple Jellydisc or Jellydrops, making it sound a little like a sweetie though I wouldn’t want to eat it. Its purple colour provides another visual treat amongst the dead trees it inhabits.

Auricularia auricular or Wood Ear. This fungus can often be found growing on the elder tree and, according to wikipedia, the fungus got its original common name of Judas’s Ear from the belief that Judas Iscariot hung himself from an elder tree. Over time, the epithet Judas’s Ear changed to Jew’s Ear. I guess that’s not considered politically correct these days, hence wood ear.

The stereum hirsutum is one of the most common fungi in Britain and can be found in numerous colour variations. It’s also known as the Hairy Curtain Crust, from stereum meaning tough, hence crusty and hirsutum meaning hairy and I guess it does resemble the heavily draping fabric of a curtain.

Hypholoma sublateritium. Commonly known as Brick Caps, these little fungi like to cluster together on stumps and logs. I hope I’ve got this identification right as there seem to be a huge number of similar looking small round mushrooms!

Xylaria hypoxylon. You might think Candle Snuff got its common name from its physical resemblance to a candle but no! This tiny fungus is, in fact, bioluminescent – in a very dark place it can be seen to emit light because the phosphorus that accumulates within the mycelium reacts with oxygen and other chemicals in the fungus.

Collybia dryophila. Dryophila means ‘lover of oak trees’ so you can tell this fungi’s preferred tree but it can also be found on other broadleaf trees and on conifers. It has several common names: Penny Top, Russet Shank and Russet Toughshank.

Coriolus versicolor is a very common fungus, found throughout the world and, as the name implies, includes a wide variety of colours. It is often used in traditional Chinese herbal remedies and is commonly called Turkey Tail.

Commonly known as the Deceiver, laccaria laccata varies in colour from red and pinkish brown to orange so its looks are deceptive (hence that common name), making it hard to identify with certainty and meaning I have probably got it wrong!

Nycena galopus var candida (i.e. the white variety) is more often known as the Milking Bonnet and does a very good job at decomposing leaf litter.

I found this hypholoma fasciculare (or Sulphur Tuft) in its most typical position, growing in a tight clump on the side of an old tree stump. Apparently, it tastes bitter and is poisonous, causing vomiting, diarrhoea and convulsions so don’t be tempted to have a nibble.

Lactarius torminosus, also known as the Woolly Milkcap, varies in colour from pink to ochre and, as my image shows, it often has concentric rings of alternating bands of colour. It’s also quite shaggy when young. 

I'm very much an amateur when it comes to identifying the different species of fungi so if you think I’ve mislabelled something, please do let me know in the comments section below.