Mushrooms & Toadstools

Fungi - The most Curious and Colourful Life on Earth

There a different kingdoms of life on earth such as animals, plants & bacteria, there's at least six well known kingdoms and some scientists suggest up to twelve. The kingdom we are looking at today is roughly known as mushrooms and toadstools and more accurately known as fungi. Not so long ago fungi was regarded as the work of evil spirits, faeries or witches. Nowadays many toadstools are shunned as all being dangerous, just because a few are poisonous. The kingdom of fungi is huge somewhere between 1 million and 10 million worldwide and only around 100,000 species have so far been described scientifically and given a binomial (Genus + species) names. The kingdom of fungi also pre dates the kingdom of animals, so its safe to say these fascinating fruiting mineral bodies where around in the great forests well before us humans walked the earth.



All types of fungi goes through its different stages of growth as we see in the 3 photos of the Fly Agaric toadstool above, The first picture shows the toadstool in its infancy stage 1 - 4 days. In the second photo we see the toadstool in its full beauty (4 -7  days), really standing strong and easily recognisable as a Fly Agaric. The third photo shows again a Fly Agaric but in its final stage, colour faded and cap completely open. 

Feeding Habits & Partnerships

Plants receive their energy directly from the sun and atmosphere using photosynthesis. Mushrooms and toadstools and other forms of fungi work in a different way, they receive their energy by digesting dead organic matter. They absorb nutrients directly through their cell walls. Nutrients with simple molecules such as sugar can be absorbed easy enough but larger more complex molecules/proteins, are harder to absorb and digest, the fungi makes use of various enzymes (chemicals that help break down and dissolve molecules) so they can be easily absorbed.

 

Over millions of years certain fungi have formed fascinating relationships with plants and trees. The Mycorrhizal relationship is particularly interesting as the fungi wraps itself around or penetrates the roots of a plant/tree. With this relationship a mutually beneficial exchange takes place. The fungus which cannot obtain energy directly from the sun (as it lacks chlorophyll) receives its sugars from the plant roots. In return the fungus provides the plant/tree vital nutrients which it extracts and transports from the soil, these nutrients would be otherwise unavailable for the plant/tree. The worlds forest ecosystems would collapse without these wonderful partnerships.

 

Of course not all fungi offer a beneficial relationship. Some parasitic fungi weaken their host where others kill them. Many parasitic fungi dwells within their host for some time before attacking and killing the tree. Its all part of natures great complex circle, the tree is killed thus providing an opening for young trees and other plants to grow and the deadwood turns into a great habitat for hundreds of other species.

 

Autumn is by far the best time to take a toadstool nature trail through the forest, not because their are more mushrooms and toadstools about but because the fungi which is their all year round becomes more conspicuous.

September Fungi Guide

These are the specimens we stumbled across the last few weeks, Please don't pick any of them for consumption without a guide. 

The Sickener  Russula emetica

 

Distribution

Very common and widespread throughout Britain, Ireland & mainland Europe.

 

Habitat

The Sickener can be found beneath conifers (pines and firs in particular) and sometimes on mossy heathland.

 

Season

August to October

 

Toxicity

As its name implies, if The Sickener is eaten expect severe sickness, early symptoms of poisoning are nausea and vomiting, accompanied by severe stomach pains and followed ultimately by diarrhoea. Poisoning by this mushroom is seldom fatal, but it should be treated as a toxic toadstool, look and marvel but don't touch.

 

Notes

When in good condition these toadstools are among the prettiest of the woodland fungi. The Sickener photographed is a very young specimen, just 1 or 2 days old, the photograph will be updated in the near future.

 

 

Tawny Grisette Amanita fulva

 

Distribution

Fairly frequently occurring in most parts of Britain, Ireland and Mainland Europe.

 

Habitat

Can be found beside woodland paths and prefers an acidic soil.

 

Season

July to October.

 

Notes

These wonderful toadstools are so stately its a shame to collect them and furthermore they are slightly poisonous, they must be well cooked to kill the toxins before eating, in fact its easy to confuse this one with other Amanitas so its probably best to leave it alone.

Morel Morchella esculenta

 

Distribution

Infrequent in Britain and Ireland, occurring in Europe.

 

Habitat

On chalky soil under deciduous trees. The Morel can behave in a symbiotic relationship with trees or alone.

 

Season

March to August

 

 

Notes

Although these mushrooms are prized edible mushrooms, this mushroom must always be cooked completely through otherwise they can cause severe stomach pains and sickness.

Common Puffball Lycoperdon perlatum

 

Distribution

Widespread and common worldwide.

 

Habitat

The common puffball usually appears in small groups or lines in all types of woodland and grassland habitats.

 

Season

July - November

 

Culinary Notes:

The common puffball is a popular edible mushroom and makes a very good meal if prepared right. The first important step is to remove the outer skin, a rather fiddly job and best done with a sharp knife. Use only the young fresh fruit, which when cut in half along its vertical axis, are white fruit all the way through, if there is any dust spores, its likely they are earth balls which can look quite similar but can cause severe poisoning. Also discard any that have begun to turn yellow or brown as they are likely to be to mature to eat basically negatively affecting the flavour of the dish. The white flesh can be added to omelette, soups, pasta etc.

Yellow Stagshorn Calocera viscosa

 

Distribution

Common and widespread throughout Britain and Europe.

 

Habitat

On roots and stumps of conifers.

 

Season

Can occur throughout the year, but more prevalent in Autumn.

 

Notes

The Yellow Stagshorn is not known to be poisonous but is generally regarded as being inedible due to its lack of flavour and insubstantial size. Although its commonly known as Yellow Stagshorn the colour of this fungi is more often pale orange.

Hares Ear Otidea onotica

 

Distribution

Local distribution in Europe. Uncommon in Britain & Ireland.

 

Habitat

Hares Ear can be found in woods under hardwoods or conifers, often clustered but occasionally growing alone or scattered.

 

Season

June to November.

 

Notes

Spoon shaped, ear shaped or cup like, with a rose or pink colour or yellowish colour.

Panther cap Amanita pantherina

 

Distribution

Rare in Britain and Northern Europe, More Common in Central and Southern Europe.

 

Habitat

The Panthercap is Ectomycorhizal (feeds off the shallow roots) mainly with hardwood trees such as Oak or Beech.

 

Notes

This beautiful but poisonous toadstool. contains Psychoactive chemical compounds which are also toxins so its best treated as a poisonous toadstool. The photograph on the left is a Panthercap in its young form 1-3 days old, we will try to update the photo as soon as possible. 

 

Lactarius volemus

 

Distribution

Widespread throughout Europe, found frequently in Great Britain.

 

 

Habitat

Oak and conifer forest.

 

Season July to October


Notes

A fairly easy to recognise mushroom recognised by its indented cap and browny yellow colourations. These mushrooms contain a milk which rapidly turns brown and stains everything that it touches. The milk has a fishy odour that becomes more fishy smelling over time.

Giant Polypore  Meripilus gigantius

 

Distribution

The Giant Polypore is common throughout Britain, Ireland and most of mainland Europe.

 

Habitat

A parasitic fungi found at the base of pine, beech and other broadleaved  trees, also occurs on stumps of recently felled trees.

 

Season

July to October

 

Notes

The caps of this magnificent fungi can be up to half a meter wide, also known to cause stomach upset if eaten.

*All Photos were taken in Austria.

*This page will be updated regularly over the coming months.