Over the course of the last few months I’ve been quietly snapping away at the various fungi I’ve encountered in West Lothian and the Lomond Hills of Fife.
I’ll readily admit now that I’m not a fungi person by any stretch of the imagination. I do find them utterly fascinating and will snap hundreds of photos of them, but I find identifying them difficult.
This isn’t surprising, for there are believed to be around 12,000 known species of fungi in Scotland. And identifying them can be even more problematic because the ones that we can see above ground change appearance at different stages of their lives.
It’s entirely possible to find two fungi in different places that look completely different, only to find they’re the same species at different points in their life cycle. As the dome-shaped caps open up into parasols, it’s easy to get confused. And I do. Regularly.
Now appearing in a field near you, wonderful Waxcaps! These colourful chaps are Scarlet Waxcaps (Hygrocybe coccinea) and were found in a field near the local church.
Waxcaps are among the most beautiful mushrooms found here in Wales, a fantastic splash of Autumn colour. The vivid colours of Waxcaps may, to many, shout out danger! However, many species of Waxcaps are entirely edible and can be used to brighten up otherwise dull dishes.
A great excuse to get out into your local fields and go hunting, don’t forget your camera.
The oft quoted Oscar Wilde once quipped “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”. All very well and good, but it’s just one of many reasons why Mr Wilde would have made a terrible fungi hunter. You see, at this time of year, the woodlands and fields are awash with a vibrant diversity of fungi. Fruiting bodies of all shapes, sizes, smells and colours are finding their way into the baskets of foragers the length and breadth of the country. Most of the action is taking place at ground level, so forget the stars and cast your gaze downward.
Waxcaps have to be one of the more photogenic families of fungi; with reds, yellows, greens, browns, whites, oranges and even some which turn black, the waxcap family is a veritable rainbow of colour. Some, such as the Meadow Waxcap or the Snowy Waxcap, and a few others are edible and tasty. Others still are listed as edibility unknown, how lucky do you feel?
So, beautiful and edible, what’s not to love?
An Hour and a Half at Knole Park, Sevenoaks - 17th November 2014
It had been raining on and off for a few days and today the sun was just about out, although showers were forecast, so we risked a walk at Knole Park, Sevenoaks. Being National Trust members we could park by Knole house for free and walk from there. Big clouds were threatening rain soon though!
Right by the car park area was a herd of deer. Deer have been a feature of the park for hundreds of years and of course used to be hunted by the gentry and nobility that visited there. Today, there were plenty of young deer to see.
There was even a white baby deer! Although the deer are used to people, you can’t easily get very close, so I rested the camera on the wing mirror and zoomed in to get these shots.
We walked along the side of Knole house past the cafe that is being renovated, and next to this path were large areas of short grass and moss, kept short by the deer grazing. Here there were a variety and large numbers of fungi, mainly waxcaps like these fantastic Scarlet Waxcaps. They tend to grow in solitary groups rather than dotted all over like some of the other red capped waxcaps. Underneath the gills are quite yellow, very colourful.
Some splashes of yellow in the grass were these splendid Golden Waxcaps, truly amazing looking things!
Looking closely in the grass you could see small yellow fingers pushing up between the grasses. The most numerous were these Apricot Club fungi. Much like Yellow Stagshorn but the clubs aren’t branched to any extent and they grow in grass and not on wood. They’re only about an inch tall so you have to look closely! Not all fungi are toadstool shaped!
As the path went on there was an avenue of ancient Beech and Oak trees looking good in their Autumn colours.
Near the base of one of these trees was a tiny orange toadstool that I haven’t yet been able to identify. When you look in the books (and online) there are actually a lot of tiny orange fungi! The rough striated stem on this one flummoxed me!
Another slimy cap fungi came into view, a dull brown one this time, a Butter Cap. Like the waxcaps this also has a very slimy cap.
As we approached the area where the path crossed the golf course we saw big black clouds approaching fast and realised we were soon to get a soaking! Some more deer were to be seen here including this stag.
And a young buck.
All this in about 20 minutes so far! Anyway, given the impending rain we decided to return to the car rather than continue around the park. We didn’t make it though and we both got a soaking as torrential rain came down for about 10 minutes.
Once back at the car we had a cup of tea from the flask, dried off a bit then decided to drive around Knole to one of the entrances at the Riverhill end. By the time we arrived the rain had gone, although it was still grey and overcast. Even from the car we could see a giant bracket fungus, about 2 feet wide on a large Beech tree. It’s probably a Ganoderma species but which one I don’t know. There was another smaller one on a log nearby.
Given the threat of more heavy rain we decided to just explore within 50 yards or so of the car, but there was still plenty to see. I think when you restrict the area to look at, you look more closely, and so see a lot more.
A clump of moss had recently been kicked up by a deer, attached to it were these Hairy Leg Bell fungi, a tiny species. As it wasn’t attached to the ground I held it up with one hand and took the picture. I think it looks better without the usual background distractions.
Another bracket fungus was found. This time quite small and compact with a white underside and dark top. I’ve seen this before but can’t find it in the books (again). I think it may be a young Hoof fungus. All the books show great big Hoof fungus, and each year they add a layer to the top until they look a bit like an old horses hoof, but much bigger. In fact I’m pretty sure it is a young Hoof Fungus the more I look at it!
At the base of some of the trees were large clumps of Honey Fungus, most well past their best, but still an impressive sight. These were well away from the tree, but growing off their roots and not the trunk or branches. Honey Fungus is highly variable in colour and can be bright yellow or dull brown.
The recent rain had made some grasses look quite interesting, so I took some photos to see if I could get an arty shot!
Some patches of this Orange Honey Waxcap were in the grasses as well. These usually have a dimple in the cap, as shown here.
Some pretty little but darkish fungi were growing out a stump. I felt I should know them but hey ho - after a while looking though images of fungi you zone out and ultimately fail to identify any! I think they maybe a Mycena species (Bonnets). I got one of them pin sharp!
Well it was back to the car again and we drove down to the far entrance closest to the Underiver turning off the Riverhill road. There was still just about enough daylight to have a look around and I’m glad we did. Snowy Waxcaps were here in numbers, a tiny slimy but pretty white toadstool that grows in short grass/mossy areas.
Also in this area of grass were more yellow clubs sticking up, however, these were different to the Apricot Club fungi. They were joined up like a bunch of yellow coral and had branching fingers, they were Meadow Coral, an apt name for a change.
And then another club type fungi! This time it was a group of Yellow Club, subtly different from Apricot Club.
I was still only about 20 yards from the gate, so you don’t have to go far to find all of these! There were a number of large tree trunks lying around in one area that had obviously been there for many years. Growing on these were an abundance of Lichens and Rooting shank toadstools. Of particular note were these Devil’s Matchstick Lichens (In the US they are also known as British Soldiers).
There were hundreds of little red blobs, which by the way, were extremely difficult to focus on! They looked like tiny flowers!
On the same logs were these Cladonia pleurota Lichen (no common name). Trumpet shaped with small specks instead of red blobs for the fruiting bodies. Lichen are actually 2 organisms living symbiotically, a fungi and an algae.
The ferns were dying off now and these even looked good in their Autumn colours. I think if the light had been better the photo would have had more atmosphere, but I included it anyway.
There were many other fungi that I photographed and more I did not, so there’s loads to see. The deer grazing means that Knole isn’t a lot of good for many wildflowers but they provide a great habitat for meadow fungi. With the ancient trees and deadwood as well, there is a great variety of fungi here and it’s well worth a visit. Many of the fungi above I hadn’t seen before, and all were seen and photographed in an hour and a half on what could have been a written off rainy day!