WILDLIFE Ready for a funghi foray? Autumn means fallen leaves, flamboyant colours, fresh cool air – and fungi! Hetti Lawrence Sally Henderson WORDS: ILLUSTR ATIONS: N W oodland walks are a joy in any season. Carpets of bluebells in spring, blissful cool shade and birdsong in summer, glistening spiders’ webs and sleepy silence in winter… but an autumn woodland is something particularly special. Few landscapes in Yorkshire can boast such a dazzling array of colour than a woodland - the golden yellow of the field maple, the bronze of the common beech, the fiery orange of the oak, the warm red of the rowan. This rich landscape of warm colours brings life back into a chilly scene, and makes for a memorable autumn wander. And it’s not just trees that reveal bursts of colour in a woodland. Get a little closer and you’ll see flashes of white, yellow, purple and red clustered around the base of living trees or lining trunks of dead ones on the Honey Fungus woodland floor – fabulous fungi! Well, more likely what you will see on the surface is a mushroom or toadstool. The fruiting body of the fungus is called the mushroom (sometimes called toadstool, usually when referring to poisonous mushrooms), whereas the entire organism – including the roots we can’t see – is called the fungus. Trees and fungi have a very important relationship, in which they both support each other and, in turn, the long-term health of the woodland. Fungi feed on the decaying plant matter that litters the woodland floors in autumn, and help recycle those nutrients back into the soil to aid tree growth. Fungi also provide food for a wide variety of insects, from tiny beetles to large slugs; these insects are then eaten by other wildlife like hedgehogs, squirrels and all sorts of woodland birds. There are two main groups of fungi: spore droppers and spore shooters. Spore droppers (basidiomycetes) generally have gills or tubes underneath where they let their spores fall to the ground to be carried by the wind. Fly Agaric Ochre Brittlegilll Yorkshire Life: October 2020 71
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