Sunday 12 October was UK Fungus Day, and Iona Fraser had organised a foray based at the Ashdown Forest visitors centre, so it was a perfect opportunity to discover more about this big and important group of organisms. Iona had invited Ted Tuddenham along too, so there was much expertise present.
Unfortunately, since it had been so dry recently the fungi were looking a bit thin on the ground, so we weren’t sure if we’d find much. That could have been especially disappointing since loads of people turned up.
Starting off in the woods near the centre it certainly was a little hard to find things, though Ted pointed out the large brackets, and reminded us that what we see as the ‘fungi’ are just the fruiting bodies; the vast mass of the fungus will be the network of tiny threads inside the tree or within the soil.
So, to begin with we mostly focussed on the few common fungi that we could find, whether in the oak and birch woods, or in the Scots pine clump, many of which have particular associations with specific trees and so helps in their identification. This gave us some useful familiarity with species such as Trametes versicolor (Turkeytail), Scleroderma citrinum (Common Earthball), Russula betularum (Birch Brittlegill), Phallus impudicus (Common Stinkhorn), Paxillus involutus (Brown roll rim), Hypholoma fasciculare (Sulphur tuft), Amanita citrina (False death cap), Amanita fulva (Tawny grisette), Auricularia auricula-judae (Jelly ear), and Boletus badius (Bay bolete).
Nevertheless, on the way back to the barn a few more interesting things cropped up such as Gymnopilus junonius (Spectacular Rustgill), and we had plenty of species to be getting on with to try and identify and label.
Iona then took a group out, and others went out in smaller groups too, and gradually we built up a reasonable collection which was not nearly as meagre as we feared. There were some hedgehogs (Hydnum repandum), which are unmistakable with their spines instead of gills (and is a good edible fungus, too),
and the floury-smelling Miller (Clitopilus prunulus).
Highlights for me included several waxcaps and Cordyceps militaris, a very curious fungus which grows inside the larvae of moths and butterflies and then erupts out of the insect, killing it. Schizophyllum commune (Split-gill) was also distinctive, with its very different gill arrangement,
and there was also a curious Hydnellum species, which required extensive microscopy to figure out what it was, so we look forward to an update from Iona on that one.
In the end, despite an unpromising start, we found over fifty species and consequently had an excellent introduction to some of our local fungal neighbours. More pictures and the list of species can be found on the Facebook group. Huge thanks to Iona and Ted for such a fascinating afternoon.