There was a brilliant turnout for the fungus walk at Tudeley Woods last Saturday - more than Martin and I were expecting, but it was great to see so many people taking an interest in the fungal delights of autumn. It was a pretty good turnout by the fungi as well and we were barely out of the Carpark when we found a Rosy Bonnet (Mycena rosea, see below). This lovely little species is in a genus called Mycena, which is a large group of usually small, forest dwelling mushrooms of which this is one of the most spectacular.

The mycenas are ‘saprotrophic’; this means they get all their nutrients from dead plants, animals or their waste. It used to be thought that this was how all fungi acquired nutrients, but it is now known that there is a different group of fungi that work with living plants in order to survive. These team-workers of the mushroom world are called ‘mycorrhizal fungi’ (which for all you greek lovers means, literally, fungus and root).

The roots or ‘hyphae’ of the fungus connect with the roots of a tree; the tree is then able to feed the fungus with sugars that it makes in its leaves through photosynthesis, while the fungus feeds the tree with nutrients like nitrogen that it collects from the soil. This works because the tree can make its own sugars while the roots of the fungus are more effective than the roots of the tree at collecting nutrients. They both play to their advantage and offer the other something they would struggle to acquire themselves. This relationship is called ‘symbiosis’.

An example of a mycorrhizal fungus that was found on Saturday is the famous fly agaric (Amanita muscaria, see below). These were growing wonderfully and looked beautiful in the dappled sunlight under the canopy. 

Another mycorrhizal fungus we found was the matt bolete (Boletus pruinatus, see below). This is relatively easy to identify as it has pores instead of gills on the underside of the cap (as all the boletes do) and has a brown, almost velvety quality to the cap.

The sulphur tufts (Hypholoma fasciculare) below are saprotrophic like the mycenas; they grow on dead trees all year round and are identifiable by their sulphur yellow colour, tinged with green on the underside. They grow together in dense clusters and always stand out against the backdrop of rotting wood.

If you have any questions about mushrooms or Tudeley Woods, then feel free to drop me an e-mail at thomas.pinches@rspb.org.uk

(Photographs by Claudia Pinches)

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