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