Wednesday, 30 November 2016

We saw lots of fungi on our forays up the Welcome Hills

Many thanks to everyone who came out with me on the fungi forays organised by the Friends of Rowley Fields. Despite the dry autumn that has kept our boots and dogs mud-free but curtailed the emergence of the fungi, we found a surprising range of fungi. Some were edible, some I could give names to, some were too difficult to ID in the field and all were fascinating in their own ways. 

We went on two forays. The routes were similar, starting at the reservoir area, then through Nursery Cover woods and out of the top gate into the sloping field facing the cottages next to the Welcome Hotel, up to the gate that joins to the with the Clopton Field and down to the orchard. If you came along then here's a reminder of what to look out for next time. If you didn't make the forays then here's what you missed.

Fungi aren't plants but a separate kingdom in their own right. Unlike plants, they don't photosynthesise to get the nutrients they need to thrive so, like humans, they have do get these from either living or dead matter.

When we find a fungus what we see is actually the fruit body. The fungus itself is a complex web known as the mycelium that are usually hidden from view. When parts of the mycelium meet and fuse a new fruit body is produced. The fruit body produces the spores which germinate to start a new fungus. Well, just a few of the millions produced might.

We found examples of all of these - note the pics were taken at other times and not on the days.

 Jelly Ears or Auricularia auricula grow on dead elder trees. We only found one example which was a shame because in most years these are easy finds. They are edible but usually used to thicken sauces or stews. We all had a taste. 

 Coriolus versicolor- the many-zoned polypore or Turkey Tail fungus - grows on dead wood. Plenty of these in Nursery Cover.

On a better day we wold have found lots of these in the fields - Agaricus campestris - the wonderful Field Mushroom. At the end of the first foray we found one just about big enough for us all to have a nibble and savour the true taste of mushroom better than any cultivated one. Alas, it has been a dry autumn and these were scarce. Better luck next year.

The delicate Pleated Ink Cap (Coprinus plicatilis) was found in the grass. It's very delicate and will almost certainly break if you try to pick it. 

On the second foray I remembered to take a short walk along the donkey path that runs along the top of Clopton Park to search out the gorgeous Rhodotus palmatus. What a treat it was to find this. It has a fragrant smell - I thought of honeysuckle but maybe apricots...? - and has a lovely peachy colour. Pictures don't do it justice. It grows exclusively on dead elm.

White and yellow Spindles
Once you know these are in the grass, they are a joy to find. How many of us have walked the dogs and trampled on these without ever knowing? They grow in clumps.

The best till last. Did you know the Welcome Hills has a great number of Wax Caps? They thrive on unimproved grassland and we are lucky that both the Clopton side and the Welcome side have the right conditions for these to thrive. Possibly the sloping banks of the hills help excess nutrients to be flushed away. As we discovered, these absolute beauties can easily be overlooked but the reward for careful looking is so much greater. Some are edible but they are all beautiful and we are lucky to have these. I won't label them here.  Characteristics of the Wax Caps are, slimy or silky caps, wide open gills and bright colours. Come along with me next year and see the colours, feel the textures and even taste one or two!