Martin Mere

Midweek Visiter - - Martin Mere -

THROUGH­OUT the year, there have been a num­ber of or­gan­isms, nei­ther an­i­mal nor veg­etable, creep­ing through the soil and pen­e­trat­ing wood.

They break down plant mat­ter and can grow to be­come the big­gest liv­ing or­gan­isms on the planet.

And, now they are erupt­ing out of the ground in all shapes and sizes. The or­gan­isms in ques­tion are fungi. Un­til the 1960s, fungi were con­sid­ered to be plants.

How­ever, un­like plants, fungi do not take their en­ergy from the sun!

They do not have chloro­phyll, which is the green pig­ment that plants use to har­ness so­lar en­ergy.

There­fore, fungi need to get their en­ergy from some­where else.

Most species of fungi do this by send­ing out rhi­zomes, or hy­phae, which cover the ground.

These thread-like fil­a­ments re­lease en­zymes to break down plant or an­i­mal mat­ter which is then ab­sorbed back into the hy­phae.

Hy­phae can cover huge ar­eas but are still clas­si­fied as one or­gan­ism and there is a honey fun­gus in North Amer­ica which has been found to cover al­most two and a half miles of wood­land.

The part of the fun­gus that we tend to see is the fruit­ing body, which is fa­mil­iar to us as toad­stools, brack­ets and mush­rooms.

At Martin Mere, the three most no­tice­able fungi dur­ing the au­tumn are: the Shaggy Ink Cap, which can be best seen near the Raines Hide; the birch bracket, which, as its name sug­gests, grows on birch trees; and the Fly Agaric, which can be found around the edges of the car park and looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale.

Fungi are hugely im­por­tant to our ecosys­tems.

They nat­u­rally break down plant and an­i­mal mat­ter, which turns to soil.

They cre­ate re­la­tion­ships with flow­er­ing plants and trees, with over 85% of all plant species de­pend­ing on a fun­gal re­la­tion­ship.

The fun­gus gives ex­tra nu­tri­ents and min­er­als to the plants, which help them grow.

Hu­mans also rely on fun­gus not only for food and drink (they are used in brew­ing beer) but for drugs, such as peni­cillin, and also for the en­zymes used in bi­o­log­i­cal wash­ing pow­ders.

WWT Martin Mere Wet­land Cen­tre is open every day (ex­cept Christ­mas Day) from 9.30am to 6pm and park­ing is free of charge.

Si­t­u­ated off the A59, it is sign­posted from the M61, M58 and M6.

The cen­tre is also ac­ces­si­ble via the South­port to Manch­ester and the Liver­pool to Pre­ston line by train from Burscough Rail Sta­tions.

Visit the web­site www.wwt.org.uk/ mar­t­in­mere/ to find out what’s on all year round at Martin Mere and the other eight WWT Wet­land Cen­tres.

Nick Brooks

Look­ing like the toad­stool de­picted in fairy tales, the fly agaric can cur­rently be seen at Martin Mere

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