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All things fungal


We went for a walk this morning in one of the local nature reserves and were rewarded by the sight of a rather late shaggy parasol mushroom. Parasols are one of my favourites – bringing back child hood memories of a white-out – a field so dense with mushrooms and parasols that the overall effect from the next field was of snow.

I have found parasol mushrooms in grassland, in woods and by the side of my compost heap where they rose to astonishing heights at the end of November. I kept meaning to pick and eat them – but shaggy parasols come with a bit of a health warning. They can give you a stomach ache unless you cook them well.

I’m a bit risk averse so in the end I enjoyed watching them grow and go over rather than picking them.

There are a lot of garden plants that do rather better for having fungi around. A good example is the English Bluebell which has silly little stunted roots. The fungal roots or mycelium invade the plant’s roots and they then do a deal – the fungi nicks a bit of the plant’s sugars and in return keeps it topped up with minerals and water. So even when I can’t eat them I am pretty well always pleased to see fungus even though some do kill living trees like honey fungus.

This year has been a fantastic year for fungus, from the crowd-pleasing but evil Fly Agaric (which is instantly recognisable as a cartoon toadstool, red with white spots)

to the scrumptious Ceps (which look like smallwooden carved seats with sponge rather than gills below). It was lovely to get down to Sheffield Park gardens at the end of October and see rows of photographers taking photos of fungus rather than just trampling on them like they normally do.

Actually Fly Agaric is not a complete villain, it likes the same conditions as Ceps do, which means that you can look for red splotches and the Cep will not be far behind. But Ceps aren’t the only edible bolete though, nor are they even the best. We have a lot of beautiful silver birches that have colonised the commons nearby and where there are birches there will be Birch Boletes which stain an ugly blue colour but go beautifully with chicken.

We also get troops of Slippery Jacks and Tamarack Jacks which are perfectly edible though a trifle slimey. The Tamarack Jacks in particular are interesting because they are so very yellow!

I have had a few goes at getting fungus to grow in my garden without an awful lot of success. Some of the spores need to be pre-heated by an animal gut before they will germinate, so I have tried adding loads of boletes to different parts of the compost heap in the vague hope that some will work. To date my only success has been the parasol mushrooms but hey ho here’s hoping.

I have found the Cornwell mushroom blog so life may well never be the same again.

I want to leave you with a final photo of what I think is an amethyst mushroom. Shame we can’t include them with the flower arranging!

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Thats a fascinating blog - instinct has told me to leave fungus alone in my garden (I always thought it would spread them if disturbed) now I know why I have lovely blue bells.

4 Dec, 2009


many plants have fungal associations with their roots. botanists have only recently made the link with many plants and trees.

lovey blog and photos.

4 Dec, 2009


A very interesting blog. It's a pitty some fungi are not more common. I don't see many around here at all.

4 Dec, 2009


It's a whole new unknown area to learn about for me, so thanks, ss, for teaching me! I certainly wouldn't eat any fungi I found - because I don't know one from t' other!

4 Dec, 2009


i did a year of mycology at uni but i am very wary about id and certainly only eat a few wild ones that i know to be safe.

4 Dec, 2009


Fascinating :-)

5 Dec, 2009


has been a very good season for fungi in Norfolk. Saw a Fly Agaric this afternoon, only the second one I have seen in Norfolk.

6 Dec, 2009


Fascinating blog! :-))

13 Dec, 2009

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