Permit me to start with a rather cheap gag. The first rule of fungi is that many of them cannot be identified in the field. The second rule of fungi (and you’re waaay ahead of me here I can tell) is that many of them cannot be identified in the field. This is highly frustrating (especially if you have a list orientated mind) but nature has obviously decreed that there shall be umpteen little brown fungi that look like they should be unique but sadly aren’t.
What I am finding fascinating about fungi is the fact that they are so intimately bound into their ecosystems, more than any other organisms they depend on complex intertwining relationships often unseen and poorly understood. An Orange Birch Bolete is dependent on Birch trees (and the Birch trees may very well be dependent on the fungus) and will never be found under an Oak for example.
These relationships force you to think about the entire ecosystem you are standing in when trying to identify fungi, what trees are around? Is the soil acid or alkali? Is it ancient woodland or recent regeneration? Is it unimproved grassland or intensively farmed pasture? What large herbivores (many fungi enjoy a nice pile of dung) are present?
Many of the most common fungi also contrive to be spectacularly inconspicuous (or maybe I should say ubiquitous?). I only learned of the existence of the Bracken map fungi recently, it grows on dying Bracken stems causing irregular black lines and blotches and can be seen everywhere there is Bracken, especially at this time of year, go and look for it and you will see it hiding in plain sight.
Of course some fungi just show off their presence and cannot be mistaken for anything else, Yellow Brain being my favourite of these at the moment, a bright yellow jelly fungus. I look forward to finding more of these fascinatingly frustrating fungi.
Graham Watkeys – Taf Fechan Voluntary Warden