Mush­room hunt­ing’s so much fun, guys!

Bristol Post - - ENVIRONMENT -

WITH all the re­cent rain and the sea­sonal winds bring­ing an au­tum­nal chill to the air, many mush­room hun­ters minds will be turn­ing to the mag­i­cal sur­prises that might be spring­ing up in the woods, wait­ing to be found.

How­ever, find­ing fungi isn’t al­ways as easy as it looks.

Gen­er­ally, fungi doesn’t want to be found and eaten be­fore they’ve had a chance to re­lease their spores to bring along the next gen­er­a­tion and can of­ten go to great lengths to re­main hid­den. Truf­fles, for ex­am­ple, fruit just be­low the ground, so you’re very un­likely to ever find one un­less you are in pos­ses­sion of a truf­fle hound that can find them with their sen­si­tive nose. There are some fungi, on the other hand, that thrive on be­ing found such as the stinkhorn. This fungi re­pro­duces through be­ing par­tially eaten by flies so it goes to great lengths to at­tract them with its in­tense and of­fen­sive stink.

We see and iden­tify fungi by the fruit­ing bod­ies (mush­rooms), which are only pro­duced when the fungi wants to re­lease spores.

Most of the time the fungi in­habit the world be­low our feet as a fine web of threads called the mycelium, which is very of­ten so fine that it’s in­vis­i­ble to the naked eye and nearly al­ways un­der the ground and out of sight.

When the mush­rooms do ac­tu­ally ap­pear they can last in this form for as lit­tle as an hour but gen­er­ally about three weeks is a fair aver­age for many com­mon fungi.

That, of course, means that they are in­vis­i­ble for 95 per cent of the year, so you have to be on your toes to find them.

Have a look in any fungi book or web­site and you’ll no­tice im­me­di­ately that many fungi ap­pear to be quite boldly coloured.

Think of the fly agaric ( left) – the deep red fungi with the white spots which crops up on the front cover of many a fairy­tale. There are oth­ers too, such as the scar­let wax­cap and the beech­wood sick­ener that ap­pear around this time of year, with bright red caps.

The amethyst de­ceiver per­haps pushes the bound­aries with its deep pur­ple coloura­tion, as its name sug­gests.

Ochre brit­tlegills and meadow wax­caps ( be­low) stand out to the hu­man eye with their bold yel­low and or­ange caps and the par­rot wax­caps, which are pop­ping up in our lo­cal lime­stone grass­lands, are a spec­tac­u­lar range of faded yel­lows, greens, purples and reds.

There are also lots of brown and or­ange capped fungi pop­ping up in all sorts of habi­tats in­clud­ing the yel­low­ish weep­ing bo­lete un­der pine and the bright or­ange false saf­fron milk­cap un­der spruce trees.

All th­ese bold colours seem strange if you want to re­main in­con­spic­u­ous but if you stop to think for a minute, you re­alise that th­ese are the com­mon colours of au­tumn.

The fad­ing greens, the deep­en­ing rusts and reds and the golden hues mimic the colour of leaves as they flut­ter down to the wood­land floor on the same winds that bring a chill to the au­tumn air.

Have a walk through your lo­cal patch and see if you can find any fungi grow­ing among the leaf lit­ter and mar­vel and how they can ap­pear hid­den even when wear­ing a cap of many colours.

You can also visit one of our re­serves to en­joy a colour­ful au­tum­nal stroll per­fect for some fungi spot­ting: avon wildlife trust. org.uk/re­serves.

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