Fun­gal for­ays reap re­wards

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

WHAT I find most an­noy­ing about fun­gal for­ays is that I never have the bot­tle to fol­low them up and find fungi that I can then eat.

You would have to be a real ex­pert to know which mush­rooms and toad­stools are safe to eat and chances are you would get one that didn’t really taste very nice any­way. One fun­gus you can eat is the won­der­ful shaggy ink cap. This is a tall fun­gus with a tall, nar­row cylin­dri­cal cap which is white, shaggy and has woolly scales on its sur­face. This ex­plains its other nick­name, ‘the lawyer’s wig’.

Around this time of year the shaggy ink cap will ap­pear al­most out of nowhere on road­side verges and grass­lands.

As I sit here, there is a spot I know just 50 yards away where one of th­ese fungi can be found pretty much ev­ery year.

Some­times it can be found in lines in wood­land glades, as if it is queu­ing up for a fun­gal com­mit­tee meet­ing.

Shaggy inkcaps have also been known to form fairy rings in dap­pled wood­land af­ter a rain shower.

This, of course. pro­vides lots of places for fairy folk to sit and dis­cuss the news of the day – blooming pix­ies com­ing into our woods!

The best time to look for this fun­gus is when turf has been dis­turbed, making it eas­ier to push its way from the ground, or just af­ter rain.

When it is young you can eat shaggy inkcap; it isn’t really ap­petis­ing when it goes a bit manky any­way.

The gills are crowded, start­ing off white and then pink, then black dis­solv­ing from the cap’s mar­gin un­til that cap is al­most en­tirely gone. When it re­leases its spores it se­cretes a black liq­uid, hence the inkcap name.

Trawl­ing the in­ter­net you will find a pic­ture of hun­dreds of shaggy inkcap in a field in Pre­ston which was a for­mer pig­gery that be­came a meadow.

One of its Latin names, Co­pri­nus, is trans­lated as liv­ing on dung.

At this point I nor­mally tell my joke about a mush­room walk­ing into a pub and the bar­man say­ing: “You look like a fun guy.” But I wouldn’t want this col­umn to lose its grav­i­tas.

So, if you catch them straight af­ter the rain, newly-formed shaggy inkcap will be a nice ad­di­tion to a bit of toast.

They are not strong and have a pleas­ant, sub­tle taste.

Th­ese really are a dis­tinc­tive fun­gus with their stately looks and dis­tinc­tive wigs but, at this time of year, many of our woods are filled with won­der­ful, colour­ful and dis­tinc­tive fungi.

If you can get on a fun­gal foray please make sure that you go out with an ex­pert be­fore eat­ing any­thing.

TO sup­port the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side you can text WILD09 with the amount you want to do­nate to 70070.

This trust is ded­i­cated to the pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of the wildlife across Lan­cashire, seven bor­oughs of Greater Manch­ester and four in Mersey­side.

It man­ages around 40 na­ture re­serves and 20 Lo­cal Na­ture Re­serves. To be­come a mem­ber go to the web­site at. lanc­swt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.

For Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlife trust.org.uk.

●● A clus­ter of shaggy inkcap fungi

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