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Autumn Fungi Exploration

A Petts Wood Indian summer – but the good days suddenly gave way to a storm. It looked like our fungi walk was under threat as the day before peoples’ gardens were lashed by heavy downpours and a gale ripped fences and lifted garden furniture.

However, it was promptly followed by a serene morning of blue skies over the National Trust woods with sunshine streaming into the woods and chestnut, oak and birch glowing.

A fully booked fungi walk led by local naturalist and fungi expert, John Pelter. He began promptly and we followed him into the woods, pausing almost immediately as he showed us a glistening group of the Conical Brittlestem, Parasola

conopilea, the incredibly variable, Honey Fungus (Armillaria sp.) very common in gardens. Then further along, the more

ominously named False Deathcap (Amanita citrina) that is edible, but tastes of raw potatoes. Someone asked, particularly in these cash challenged times whether foraging for food may become a necessity for some.

On today’s walk we spotted about 20 species. John explained about the hundreds of miles of ‘threadlike fungal hyphae – thin tubes that can form visible bundles and attach themselves, symbiotically, to particular host trees. Fungi can act as friend or foe to trees as pest controllers, decomposers as well as causing disease and wood rot. Nevertheless, they have a crucial role in nature’s biodiversity. On the walk peoples mobiles clicked as they positioned themselves, sometimes quite awkwardly on the ground to get a close up

record of the different specimens which included: the Common Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme), Fairy Ring Champignon (Marasmius oreades), Birch Bracket (Fomitopsis betulina ) Oak Bracket (Pseudoinonotus dryadeus),

Candlesnuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon), Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria),  False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca),

the Brown Birch Bolete (Leccinum scabrum) and Magpie Inkcap (Coprinopsis picaceus) – found under a beech tree (see pic). Where appropriate specimens were shared for a

chance to examine and smell.n cautioned

and advised that we need to be very sure what is safe to pick. Another walker quipped. ‘It may be only edible to you once!’

There are estimated to be 2 to 3 million species of fungi specimens worldwide and there are 15 thousand known UK species.

Walks & Talks. Further nature walks and talks are being organised at the National Trust Petts wood for 2023. Do let me know if there are any specific themes that you would like to suggest. Also, if you have a specific interest and knowledge that you would like to share and contribute to the programme.

Mel Wright


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