Fungi to be around...
New life is springing from the earth and releasing unusual smells. Coal-gas, aniseed and sickly sweet perfume: the scents of fungi fill the autumn breezes.
The pungent scent of aniseed in deciduous woodland is the clue to start looking for groups, and sometimes rings, of blue-green and grey caps of Aniseed Funnel. These are edible fungi, but do not confuse them with the deadly poisonous Ivory Funnel, which also grows in rings or the similarly-coloured Verdigris Agaric.
Bernwood Forest is a fantastic place for a wide variety of fungi. Among the trees you may smell and then see the poisonous all-yellow Sulphur Knight, which stinks of coal-gas, and the pink Rosy Bonnet, also poisonous, with an unpleasant scent!
The distinctive scent of Mousepee Pinkgill (poisonous) will be evident before you see its yellowish broad cap with a bluish-green ‘bruise’ in the middle.
This fungus is similar to the Parrot Waxcap (inedible) which is often found in lawns and heathland; its bell-shaped slimy green cap changes to yellowish green and even pink.
Conifer plantations such as Finemere Wood are good places to look out for Plums and Custard, a fungus that grows on and around conifer stumps. It smells of rotting wood, which is appropriate because this is an inedible fungus.
You may find Slippery Jack, an edible fungus with a very slimy chestnut brown cap, among Scots Pine; and where there are larches look out for Larch Bolete, another edible fungus, with a yellow cap flushed rusty brown.
Both of these fungi have pore-like tubes instead of gills on the underside.
Beech woods in the Chilterns, such as Dancersend nature reserve near Wendover, are great places for fungi walks. Look for the Collared Earthstar whose outer skin splits into four to eight segments giving it the appearance of a pointed star.
Most identifiable among all the toadstools is the poisonous Fly Agaric whose distinctive white-spotted red cap is the stuff of childhood fairy tales. Look for it particularly near birch trees. It doesn’t have a particular smell but being so easy to identify is always a rewarding fungi to find!
When out and about on a woodland walk, make sure to use all your senses so you don’t miss out on some of the season’s more interesting fungi.
Learn more about our local fungi from this handy pocketsized book: A guide to finding fungi in Berks, Bucks & Oxon (£5.95 Pisces Publications) www.naturebureau.co.uk/ bookshop.