Recent rain has encouraged a wonderful crop of fungi to grow across our greenspaces: popping up in grassy areas, clinging to branches, and sprouting from dead treestumps.
And Halloween is a great excuse to take a closer look at some of the more curiously named mushrooms, which wouldn’t appear out of place in a spooky story. While many of you may be familiar with the field mushroom, not every fungus has that regular shape with stem and cap, and they come in many other colours than brown.
Did you know, from a scientific perspective, there’s no difference between a toadstool and a mushroom. People tend to use the word toadstool to refer to fungi that are toxic, poisonous, or simply inedible, while mushroom is used to describe tasty and edible fungi. It can be very difficult to identify different types though, so it is never a good idea to pick and eat wild fungi. Besides being poisonous, many are also protected species.
Keep your eyes open when walking around the Medway towns – all the photos which follow were taken in local woods – many in Watts Meadow.
First, the classic toadstool from children’s fairytales – the Fly Agaric. Often found where silver birch are growing, they start as small red golfballs, and can grow to the size of dinner plates.
These velvety fungi appear after rain, and it is easy to see why they are often known as Wood or Tree Ears. Auricularia auricula-judae are a type of jelly fungus, and they can be found on living or dead wood.
There are several other types of jelly fungus. A white one is known as crystal brain, and this yellow one is perfect for Halloween: Witches Butter.
Shaggy Inkcaps are a common sight on open grassy spaces. When young, I think they look like white shaggy ghosts, or judges wigs but when they get older they reveal the origin of their name, as they dissolve into a black inky mess.
Another fungus that fits the Halloween theme, these are the spookily named Dead Man’s Fingers. They sprout from dead wood and sometimes appear in clusters, looking almost like a hand.
Much smaller and thinner than Dead Man’s Fingers, these Candlestick fungi grow out of rotting wood. It has many other names: candlesnuff fungus, carbon antlers, and stag’s horn fungus.
The final photo in this article can grow to a really huge size. It is bright yellow – when small it looks almost like the expanding foam used by builders. It grows into a mass of yellow layers, and is called chicken of the woods, or sulphur shelf