The fungi found on the Common come in all shapes, colours and sizes. Some are parasites taking nutrients from living timber or other materials. Others form mutually beneficial relationships with particular species of trees or plants exchanging nutrients with them. There are also fungi that derive their nutrients from decomposing plant or animal tissues. Fungi are complex organisms consisting of a fine web of filaments, the mycelium, growing beneath the surface whose function is to take up nutrients. What we see above ground is the reproductive part, the ‘fruitbody’ which we commonly call mushrooms or toadstools. When spores ripen they are released into the air thus enabling the development of new fungi.
Blackening Waxcap (Hygrocbe conica)
This fungus is found in grassland and is one of several species whose long- lasting caps turn black as they mature. Caps come in a range of colours, including black, and vary in shape. They commonly grow in groups and can be abundant. Hygrocbe, meaning ‘watery head’ refers to the fact that these fungi are always moist. They appear in late summer and autumn.
Fly Agaric (Amanita muscari)
This fungus with its bright scarlet cap covered with distinctive white pyramidal warts and white gills is one of the easiest to spot. The white warts often wash off and the colour fades in rain. It is common and can be seen from late summer through to early winter. It frequently grows under birch forming a mutually beneficial relationship. It is poisonous so should not be picked or eaten.
Snowy Waxcap (Hygrocybe virginea)
Snowy Waxcaps are common fungi of short grass in fields and on commons, although they are edible they can also be confused with some of the most deadly poisonous fungi you may find, so you need to be absolutely sure of correct identification. It is well worth buying a reliable book to find out more about fascinating fungi and how, for example, to take a spore print.
Turkeytail (Trametes versicolor)
Turkeytail is a fan-shaped bracket fungus with colourful concentric rings on the upper surface. The durable ‘fans’ grow in layers and are inedible. The underside has tiny, shallow, white or cream pores. This wood – rotting fungus grows on dead stumps and standing hardwood trees such as beech and oak. Turkeytail can be seen all year round; it is common and widespread.
Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes)
This stump- rotting fungus has attractive orange- brown caps with white gills that turn pale yellow with age. It grows in groups and on upright trees is can form huge tiers. Cultures of Flammulina velutipes were flown on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1993 to research the reaction of fungi to low gravity. It appears throughout the winter often surviving very cold weather.