The field mushroom (Agaricus campestris) was once a very common fungus but it is now declining. It is the original edible mushroom but specimens are now much harder to find and so cultivated species now form the basis of supplies in our supermarkets.
The field mushroom occurs on fairly rich soils, usually amongst grass and are often in troops (large groups) in late summer and in to the autumn. They first appear as 'buttons' but soon grow to have the distinctive smooth, white cap with black or very dark brown gills. The cap can be anything from 5 to 10 cms across.
As I said, they are good to eat but you need to be absolutely certain that what you are picking are field mushrooms otherwise you may not live to pick another!
Agaricus silvicola: the wood mushroom
The wood mushroom (Agaricus silvicola) is the woodland equivalent of the more familiar field mushroom! Rather than appearing on grassland the wood mushroom lives up to its name and can be found in both deciduous and coniferous woodlands; it has a particular liking for beech trees however. It has a creamy cap that can tinge yellow and has a scent reminiscent of aniseed. It is an autumn species that tends to occur on open soil rather than amongst leaf litter so look for it on banks and sloping ground free of lying leaves. It usually occurs in small groups but it can also appear in troops as well.
This is a widespread species but not that common. It can be found in the autumn and is edible; but is best avoided in case of confusion with some of the similar and deadly amanita species.
Coprinopsis picacea: the magpie inkcap fungus
In Dorset we have some lovely beech woods and in autumn the fallen leaves and remains of the beech nuts (beech mast) form thick carpets on the ground which become home to a complex micro system of organisms, both animal and vegetable, that breakdown this 'waste' product. Leaf litter is something one probably rarely looks too closely at but, out of this rotting material comes beautiful gems such as this stunning magpie inkcap fungus (Coprinopsis picacea). By far my favourite fungus, this is fairly common in southern England but, being an inkcap, it only presents in this immaculate form for a few hours before the caps start melting away in to an inky substance.
It apparently smells of naphthalene (ie moth balls) and is said "to be poisonous but eaten by some with no ill effects". Note, the book says eaten by some with no ill effects, it does not say what happened to the others! In any event, who would want to pick and cook such a lovely structure. Is it not best left where it was found for others to see?
Coprinopsis atramentaria: the common inkcap
The common inkcap (Coprinopsis atramentaria) is, as the name might suggest, very common but because they 'liquidise' very readily they are often hard to identify and, in any event, are only around for a couple of days! They are also inclined to be quite variable in appearance.
This is very much a species of woodland and, in particular, tree stumps, twigs and general wooded debris that have a soil covering but you can also find them on grassland where there is buried timber below the surface. Generally solitary or in small groups they are visible from spring right through to the autumn.
They are considered edible but I think you would have to find them pretty fresh and cook them quickly to get them at their best. You should also avoid having a glass of wine with them as they can have nasty effects when eaten with alcohol! Indeed, it has apparently been used as a drug to help cure alcoholism. The black liquid has also been used as a drawing ink.
Coprinopsis nivea: the snowy inkcap
Many things in nature have their own particular niche and it is very true of most fungi who have a preferred host on which they grow. In this case, the snowy inkcap (Coprinopsis nivea) thrives on old cow and horse dung and so it is often found in pasture that is well grazed. The dung is not always still visible when the fruiting toadstool appears above ground. This is a summer and autumn species growing in groups or small troops and is widespread and common.
The distinctive feature of this species is the appearance of black marks around the edge of the cap. The cap starts bell shaped but flattens with age before slowly distintegrating as all ink caps tend to do. Its edibility is unknown so if you want to try it let me know how it tastes, if you survive the experience of course!
Coprinellus disseminatus: the fairy inkcap
Were you ever told that fairies live under toadstools? Obviously the are no such things as fairies surely? Well the scientists at the Mycological Society decided to name this species the fairy inkcap (Coprinellus disseminatus), or fairies bonnets, so what evidence did they have that fairies really wore these fungi as bonnets? It is a lovely thought that harden, factual based researchers could put all that to one side to indulge in a bit of childhood romance!
So enough of the fantasy what of reality? Firstly, this is a widespread and common species found on the rotting wood, usually stumps, of dead broadleaf trees. It almost always grows in a cluster or troop. Indeed there are often so many of them my field guide describes them as a swarm rather than a troop. The caps are slightly conical rather than domed and they have grooves on the upper surface and gills below. Being inkcaps they are only in pristine condition for a short time as the caps quickly start to dissolve and wither away.
They can be found from spring through until the autumn but are more common later in the year. I do not know if they are edible but as they start to decompose very quickly the chances of finding them in perfect condition suitable for picking are pretty remote so I would not plan on having them for breakfast tomorrow, leave them for the fairies to wear.
Parasola plicatilis: the pleated inkcap
This is the pleated inkcap (Parasola plicatilis), a small inkcap but not one of the coprinus genus, this is a parasola - but it is not a parasol mushroom! The pleated cap gives it is species name of plicatilis. It is common either as solitary specimens or in small groups in on bare earth and in grass in fields, along path edges, lawns, just about anywhere really which makes it very common.
The photograph I have taken is of a newly emerged cap which is dome shaped but it soon opens up to form a classic parasol with pleats, a truly lovely little fungi often overlooked bacuase of its small size.
I have no idea if they are edible but in any case they are so small and you would need a good number of them to make a reasonable breakfast that it really is not worth the trouble!
Psathyrella piluliformis: the common stump brittlestem
With fungi being something of a challenge to identify unless you specialise in them it is always good to find one that has a distinctive feature. The two tone cap here, dark around the edges and lighter in the centre marks this out as the common stump brittlestem (Psathyrella piluliformis).
A widespread and common species it is found in autumn growing on decaying wood of mainly beech and oak trees. It starts with a conical cap which gradually flattens out with age and the differentiation in colour becomes slightly less obvious. It usually grows in a small cluster.
It apparently has a rather bitter taste so it is best left where it is to spread its spores and create new fungi.
Panaeolina foenisecci: the brown mottlegill
This little fungus is a light buff colour when it first emerges and then as it dries from the outer edge inwards it turns darker and so you get the two-toned effect of light centre and dark edge. Eventually, of course, it will become completely brown; hence the brown mottlegill (Panaeolina foenisecci). That said, there are other brown mottlegills so you need to be a little cautious here!
An abundant species on short grass so is often found on lawns in small troops. It will also occur in parks, on cricket pitches and on path edges, it is quite widespread. A summer and autumn species and is not edible.
Stropharia coronilla: the garland roundhead
The garland roundhead (Stropharia coronilla) is a widespread species in the south of England and is quite common on lawns and grassy places. They can be solitary but, in general, they occur in small groups. They have a lovely shiny brown cap which often hides the stipe so it looks just like a brown lump on the grass. An autumn species like many fungi.
This species is known to contain harmful chemical substances and is best left alone.
Hypholoma fasciculare: the sulphur tuft fungus
The sulphur tuft fungus (Hypholoma fasciculare) must be a familiar sight to anyone walking in the woods in autumn. It has to be one of our most common fungi as it thrives on tree stumps. It grows in dense tufts or clumps and it is visible all year round. The yellowish cap can vary in size from a little as 2cm up to nearly 6cm and they start out convex in shape, then flatten out and eventually have a sort of Dutchman's cap appearance so plenty of variety to confuse the unwary like me!
Certainly not edible and best left alone.
Hypholoma marginatum: the snakeskin brownie fungus
Snakeskin brownie (Hypholoma marginatum) sounds more like a biscuit than a fungus doesn't it? I have no idea why it should be called that although it is two tone brown in colour. This is one of those common fungi that grow in big clusters or 'tufts' on, or near, rotting wood. This species particularly likes stumps of conifers and, of course, Forestry Commission woodland is where you expect to find stumps of felled conifers. It is found in late summer and autumn.
I think it is edible but don't try it until you have checked with an expert.
Panaeolus semiovatus: the egghead mottlegill
This small, white capped fungus seems appropriately named as the egghead mottlegill (Panaeolus semiovatus) having a cap that is undoubtedly egg-shaped.
A dependency on the dung of herbivores (especially cows and sheep) means it will usually be found on grazed pasture. It is a simple but effective piece of cyclic ecology; the mycelium of the fungus breaks down the dung and then, when the dung is nearly completely gone, the fruiting body appears and spores are released onto the nearby grass. The cows or sheep then come along grazing on the grass and consume the spores which pass through the animals gut to be ejected as fresh dung for the fungus to start feeding on anew. The size of the fruiting body will depend on the nutrient content of the dung.
It is common and can be seen from spring through until the early winter and it will be seen mainly as a solitary specimen but occasionally you may find a small troop. It is not edible.
Panaeolus papilionaceus:the petticoat mottlegill
They may not be everyone's cup of tea but fungi really are an interesting aspect of nature. Fungi serve a vital role in breaking down waste and returning materials to the soil where they can be re-used. Often this waste it feeds on is dead wood but not always. The petticoat mottlegill (Panaeolus papilionaceus) specialises in recycling animal dung.
This fungus has a distinct life cycle (which it shares with some other fungi species) where it thrives in animal dung. From the mycelium that performs the breaking down function it produces the fruiting bodies (the cap that we see) and the spores from the cap fall on to the ground amongst the grass. Animals come along grazing and eat the spores along with the grass, the spores pass through the gut and are ejected inside fresh dung where the fungus starts to break it down! Incredible when you think that once a cow-pat, for example, has been totally broken down by the fungus, the fungus will die because it has nothing left to consume so it is dependant on a new cow-pat being generated to continue its survival through its spores. Without the fungus (and other creatures of course) there would be heaps of dung so the fungus is essential in maintaining an equilibrium. However, it cannot totally rid us of dung as it needs more to survive.
That is the wonder of nature.
Kuehneromyces mutabilis: the sheathed woodtuft fungus
Tree stumps and rotting tree trunks are ideal places to find this fungus, the sheathed woodtuft (Kuehneromyces mutabilis); indeed it is the bestfind any of these tufted species that grow in large clusters. The sheathed woodtuft thrives in decidous woodland with falled tree debris and is widespread and very common. The cap is two or three toned brown; dark on the outside, then pale and sometimes a dark patch in the centre.
This is an edible species but it looks very similar to Galerina marginata which is deadly poisonous. Do you want to test your powers of identification with your mouth?
Tricholoma saponaceum: the soapy knight
The Soapy Knight (Tricholoma saponaceum)? You might think that is because it has a waxy surface to the cap but no, this species of fungus smells like the kind of cheap soap once used in the washrooms of 'institutions''! My guide does not say what sort of institutions. It has an earthy, rancid taste so not really one to eat but one to smell.
Prefers woodland, either mixed or coniferous, where it grows on acidic soils. Appearing in Late summer and throughout the autumn it a widespread but occasional species that appears as solitary stipes but does sometimes appear in groups. The surface of the cap tends to flatten as it ages showing the white gills around its fringe. They can be as much as 5 inches across so can be pretty big in fungi terms.
Clytocibe pollyphila: the frosy funnel
The frosty funnel (Clytocibe pollyphila) is widespread and qiite common being found predominantly in broad-leaved woodland, especially where beech and/or oak are present, but also occors in coniferous woodlnd. They grow in late summer and early autumn on soil where there is not too much leaf litter.
They have an undulating cap with a slightly rusty centre, almost as if water has collected in the middle at some point and started the rusting process! Why, then, is it called the blue spot knight? Often they have have blue 'spots' on the outside edge of the cap when mature. Naturally the one I found and photographed does not show this!
They are apparently edible although a bit tough and stringy, think I'll stick to shop mushrooms!
Clitocybe nebularis: the clouded agaric
Common names can be so confusing! This is the clouded agaric (Clitocybe nebularis) and so you might reasonably think that it is related to the more distinctive red-capped fly agaric but no, totally different families. The fly agaric is an Amanita whereas the clouded agaric is a Clitocybe. Just to add to the confusion, Agaric comes from Agaricus which is the familiy name of fungi we know as edible mushrooms so neither the fly or clouded are Agarics at all ...
The clouded agaric is pretty common, especially here in Purbeck, as it thrives in both deciduous and coniferous woodland and is quite at home amongst the conifers in and around Wareham Forest. It usually appears in troops, or possibly as a ring. The cap is slightly convex at first and gradually flattens and then becomes concave. The cap is a milky grey in colour, often darker in the centre. The cap can vary in size from a couple of inches in diameter to six inches or even more.
Supposedly edible but apparently it is known to cause gastric upsets so another species left well alone for others to see and enjoy.
Clitocybe rivulosa: the fools funnel
We all know, I hope, the danger of eating wild fungi without adequate knowledge of exactly what one is picking and if that does need re-emphasing here is a species designed to do just that! Fools funnel (Clitocybe rivulosa) is deadly poisonous and is best not even touched let alone eaten. It looks like fairy ring champignon which is considered a delicacy in France, it grows in rings like champignon and grows in similar places so you can see the difficulty.
The fools funnel grows among short grass on lawns, parks and pasture in small groups but, more often, in rings. It is widespread and common in autumn.
Collybia butyracea: the butter cap fungus
The colouring of the butter cap (Collybia butyracea) can be quite variable but this coffee and cream colouring seems to crop up quite frequently although coffee with no cream edge seems to common too. The species itself is widespread and very common amongst fallen needles in coniferous woodland although it does occurr in deciduous woodland as well. Emerging with a convex cap it tends to flatten out with age and can grow to around 3 inches across. However, the main aid to idenfification is the greasy or buttery surface to the cap, hence its common name.
It is not a recommended species for eating.
Collybia maculata; the spotted toughshank
The brown speckles on the top of a cream toadstool make this species fairly easily identifiable. The brown freckles give it its name of spotted toughshank (Collybia maculata); maculata which means spotted. This species occurs from spring through to winter but is most common in autumn in needle and leaf litter in woodlands of all types, especially those on more acidic soils and heaths so Purbeck is ideal for it and it probably one of the first species you would encounter here when walking in Wareham Forest. It is widespread and occurs in troops so where there is one you will often find several.
It has a bitter, unpleasant taste so is best left alone.
Laccaria laccata: the deceiver
The deceiver (Laccaria laccata) is considered by some to be the most common species of British fungus but it is very variable, or deceiving, and appears to be several species all at once! It is quite plain with few distinguishing features which makes it even harder to be certain that it is what it is. It can be found in broad-leavved and coniferous woodland, on heaths and amongst short grass anywhere, often where there is birch nearby.
Usually appearing in small troops in summer through to winter. It may be edible, it may not, my books do not say, so I would leave well alone!
Laccaria amethystea: the amethyst deceiver
The amethyst deceiver (Laccaria amethystea) is is a lovely, delicate fungus of shaded woods where it can be quite abundant. It occurs elsewhere but shaded woods, both deciduous and coniferous, are the most likely place to find it. It is especially associated with beech trees.
It occurs from late summer right through in to winter but September and October is most likely. It is most easily distinguished by its unique colouring and it is probably the only mauve (or lilac) fungus to be found in the United Kingdom.
It is edible but has very little taste or smell so it is probably best left alone to delight others who may pass by later!
Armillaria mellea: the honey fungus
Honey fungus (Armillaria mellea) is aptly named; it not only has the colour of honey but it has a slightly sticky appearance which makes it look as though it has been smeared with honey.
It always grows in 'clumps' and can be found on tree stumps, buried branches and the dead roots of trees of all kinds. It also produces the common white rot you see on dead wood. This fungus is a deadly parasite in woodlands, plantations and gardens and is certain death to any tree that becomes infected by it. It accounts for the loss of considerable amounts of commercial timber each year and is virtually impossible to eradicate once established. It can wreak havoc in gardens amongst shrubs.
It is also known as boot-lace fungus as it has long black cords that spread underground to infect new trees. It is a very common species. The fruiting bodies appear in late summer and early autumn and are edible when young but become toxic with age. Are you going to decide whether they are too old to eat or will you just leave them alone?
Macrocystidia cucumis: the cucumber cap
This amazing collection of fungi covers several square metres on the edge of the car park at Upton Country Park. It is quite a sight, especially if you like toadstools. It has the common name of the cucumber cap (Macrocystidia cucumis) and is actually quite common according to my book but I have never seen it anywhere else in Dorset. It can grow on the edge of woodlands and roadsides especially under broadleaved trees and likes bare soil. At Upton it has taken hold of some bark chippings that were put down to keep the weeds out and is thriving; indeed, it may even have come in with the bark clippings.
It apparently has a strong smell of fishy cucumber hence its common name! I have no idea whether it is edible but I think it is best left well alone, not a good idea to take chances with fungi ...
Marasmius oreades: the fairy ring champignon
Several fungi grow in rings like this but one of the most common is the fairy ring champignon (Marasmius oreades). It often grows on lawns, pastures and other grassy places as well as in leaf litter; it is a very common species. It is also considred something of a delicacy to eat but it often grows near deadly Clitocybe species and so extreme care needs to be taken when harvesting!
It is a small species and the cap changes as it ages, it starts flat with a small raised centre but gradually the edges rise up to reveal an array of gills around the edge of the cap.
Oudemansiella mucida: the porcelain fungus
This fungus, associated with dying beech trees, has a slimy covering which makes it appear shiny and hence it has derived the name of the porcelain fungus (Oudemansiella mucida) although it is also known as the poached egg fungus.
Occurring in late summer and in to the autumn it forms high up in beech trees and so may not always be seen until the dying tree falls, or loses branches in a storm, and then it is visible at close quarters. It usually occurs in clusters of several caps together.
It is edible if you wash the slime off it but you have to be able to reach it first to pick it!
Lepista saeva: the field blewit
The field blewit (Lepista saeva) is commonly found in pasture but, despite its name, also occurs on heathland and in broad-leaved woods. It likes alkaline conditions and poor soils so the limestone Purbecks cliffs suit it. Widespread and common where it occurs it has a tendency to form in rings although sometimes they may just be in random groups.
It has a large, waxy cap up to 12cms across to it is a big fungus and it is, apparently worth eating. I will leave you to try it.
Lepista nuda: the wood blewitt
You can find wood blewits (Lepista nuda) in broad-leaved woodlands at just about any time of year, it also crops up in gardens (especially compost heaps) and in hedgerows too. It is widespread and very common but also a bit variable and can be mistaken for similar toadstools. More likely, of course, the similar but rarer species are likely to be dismissed as this one!
This species has a lilac coloured stem but that is not always visible without destroying the fungus as it is hidden under the large cap which can be as much as 10cm across. Said to be good to eat but it causes 'adverse reactions' in some people - want to give it a miss? I would!
Hypsizgus ulmaris: the elm leech fungus
You can see fungi growing out of dead wood in just about any woodland setting but to see one growing out of the side of what appears to be a living tree is most unusual. The elm leech (Hypsizgus ulmaris) is an uncommon fungus that was widely reported during the Dutch Elm Disease epidemic in the 1970's on dying elm trees but it can now occasionally be seen on oak, poplar and horse chestnut. It is not a species that kills trees but one that soon gets established in a dying tree.
It grows in small tufts but quite often in several groups on the same tree and appears in autumn. It can be eaten; the flesh is white but tough so probably not worth it.
Mycena galericulata: the common bonnet fungus
The common bonnet (Mycena galericulata) is very common; indeed, probably one of our most common fungus species. You will find it any just about any broad-leaved woodland on dead wood and, especially stumps where it can be extremely prevelant in big tufts with many stems. It can be found all year round but is particularly noticable in the autumn.
It is edible but as the individual specimens are quite small they are really not worth the effort to collect.
Mycena polygramma: the grooved bonnet
A delicate fungus growing on the rotting wood of broad-leaved trees and shrubs, this species has the English name of the grooved bonnet (Mycena polygramma) because the cap is bonnet shaped and has grooves in it! It is frequently associated with hazel coppice and you can see some fallen hazel leaves on the ground in this picture. It is a widespread and very common fungus, usually growing in small troops. The cap starts bell shaped but slowly flattens out to leave a centre 'hump'. Initially a creamy white but changing to an ochre colour with age.
Apparently has a faint taste of radish but you would need an awful lot of them to make a worthwhile meal so don't bother!
Mycena sanguinolenta: the bleeding bonnet
The stem of this species exudes a pink fluid if broken and hence its name, the bleeding bonnet (Mycena sanguinolenta). In heraldry sanguine is an Italian word for a blood red colour.
This is a very common fungus in coniferous woodland where it appears amongst the fallen needles and also amongst mosses where present. It actually grows on dead wood but this is often hidden by the the needles and moss. It also grows on heath and moors amongst the heather and so is abundant in the Purbeck area of Dorset. This is very much an autumn species.
You can eat it but it is hardly worth the trouble.
Amanita rubescens: the blusher
The blusher (Amanita rubescens) is a very common but variable species of Amanita fungus that occurs in broad-leaved woodland, usually in association with birch, beech or oak. It is one of the first to fruit after rain in the late summer or early autumn. It can be found in small groups but is more often solitary. This species is particularly prone to attack by insects and little holes can often be seen in the stem.
This species is edible and "usually excellent". That said, it is an Amanita and if you make a mistake in identification ... I'll say no more.
Amanita excelsa: said to be edible
Safe to eat or certain death? Now there is a question it is best not even to contemplate! As far as I can tell this is Amanita excelsa (or possibly spissa) which is very common and edible according to one of my reference books. However, it is a definite 'look-a-like' for Amanita phalloides which is affectionately known as the death cap fungus and for Amanita virosa, aka the destroying angel and I am sure you have worked out that both of these species are DEADLY POISONOUS. So get the answer wrong and that's it, no second chance! The death cap and destroying angel are apparently so poisonous that you only need to touch them to transfer the poison to your fingers, then you stop to have sandwiches for lunch and then, a few painful days later, the lights go out. This is why, of course, unless you are an expert, fungi are best admired from a short distance and not in the hand. Amanita excelsa is common and found in woodland, often on acid soils.
I like the comment in my new book about Amanita excelsa; "Said to be edible" - obviously the author has decided not to try it to find out for himself.
Hygrocybe spadicea: the date waxcap fungus
One of my first laws of species identification is the principle that statistically you are more likely to see a common species than a rare one and so if, if in doubt, err on the side of the common species. One sunny afternoon in December 2012 I was walking along the cliff tops at Durlston Country Park when I happened across this lovely, shiny waxcap fungus. I am no expert in fungi and I certainly did not recognise this one and so I took a photograph with a view to idenifying it later. I often do this only to find that it is impossible to be sure which species it is as there are so many that look so similar. I have two field guides to fungi and I could not find this one in the first but found it in the second. I say 'found it', I was pretty sure from the illustration and the description that it was the date waxcap (Hygrocybe spadicea) but it indicated it was an uncommon species in Britain which put me off somewhat! However, it being found only in pastures on limestone or basalt and pasture on limestone is exactly what you find on the Dorset coast at Durlston I plumped for it. Subsequently I have discovered from the County Recorder that this species has not been recorded in Dorset before and it is a nationally very scarce species. Now, I do not claim any real credit for this discovery; it could have been found by anyone with enough interest in fungi to stop and look, but it does show that although you statistically you are more likely to see a common species you should also always expect the unexpected!
I have no idea whether it is edible but as it is such an attractive toadstool I think it is better left for others to see rather than to pick it for the table, there are plenty of mushrooms in your local supermarket to eat!
Hygrocybe conica: the blackening waxcap fungus
A conical shaped toadstall emerging from grass displaying a distinctly shining surface to the cap indicates a waxcap or Hygrocybe species. This one, found up on the Purbeck Ridge in early autumn, is indeed a waxcap. It starts off with this beautiful maroon coloured cap but it quickly ages and becomes black and so has earned itself the common name of the blackening waxcap (Hygrocybe conica). No waxcap is particularly common which always makes finding one a bit special and this one is described in my guide as being 'occassional'. There were only a couple appearing in the rough pasture up on the ridge which would seem to be the ideal sort of place to find them. I have also seen them in Kent, above the white cliffs but that doesn't count in the nature of Dorset!
Supposedly edible but only if picked when newly emerging but surely best left alone to display their early beauty to others?
Hygrocybe psittacina: the parrot waxcap
I find fungi in general hard to identify so a distinctive one comes as a bonus. The bright yellow colour and waxy finish to the cap make this quite distinctive although there are a couple of similar close relatives but they seem to be much, much rarer. The Parrot Waxcap (Hygrocybe psittacina) is not uncommon, described by Roger Phillips as 'occasional', and is found on grassy areas on downs and on heaths which ties in with the two places I found it this year, Hartland Moor (heath) and Durlston (downs).
Apparently an edible toadstool but it a bit unpleasant as it tastes as slimy as it looks.
Hygrocybe pratensis; the meadow waxcap fungus
One of the more common waxcaps, the meadow waxcap (Hygrocybe pratensis) starts with the familiar conical shape that most waxcaps start with but it opens up beyond this so that the edges start to turn upwards creating a wavy edge. You can still see the top of the original cone in the centre. With a lovely soft brown colouring and waxy finish to the top of the cap the meadow waxcap is an attractive fungus found in late summer and the autumn like most fungi; the meadow waxcap is usually in pasture and so lives up to its common name. Its scientific name is pratensis which means 'of pasture'.
It is apparently good to eat but as waxcaps are a bit special then they should really be left alone.
Lactarius vietus: the grey milkcap fungus
The grey milkcap (Lactarius vietus) is a bit unusual as it likes to get its feet wet. Found on wet soils, usually in association with varieties of sphagnum mosses in woodland areas. A late summer and autumn species it is quite common where the right conditions exist. A distinct funnel shape that starts whitish in colour but truns a greyish-brown with age.
A vile, acrid taste; best left alone.
Russula fragilis: the fragile russula
The fragile russula (Russula fragilis) is one of the later species of the family appearing in late autumn and early winter. It is very common and appears in all kinds of woodland settings but with a distinct preference for birch which makes it common here in the damper Dorset woods where silver and downy birch thrives. A lovely deep purple, flat cap with central dimple and with edging marks around the rim. It has quite a narrow stem for the size of the cap so it tends to fall over easily, hence the fragile russula.
It has a very hot, acid taste and best left alone.
Russula emetica: the sickener
Russulas tend to like damp woodland with pine and birch trees to thrive on; the sickener (Russula emetica) is no exception. Preferring acid soils this is a common fungus of the heaths of Dorset, especially those areas that have been forested. It can often be found in places that are damp enough for sphagnum mosses to grow. A widespread and common fungus that appears in troops in the autumn. It is very much like some other species of russula so habitat is quite a key factor in identification.
Edible? No, certainly not. It is very poisonous; called the sickener for good reason.
Russula caerulea: the humpback brittlegill
I am always nervous when I start to research and learn about new fungi prior to writing my nature note to summarise what I have found out. Why? Because true fungus identification means picking a specimen, turning it up side down to look at the underside, smelling it, possibly even tasting it, may be pulling it apart. I just cannot do that, I feel it has a right to its own life and I should leave it where it is. It is a personal thing I would certainly not criticise anyone for examining a specimen really closely, especially in the name of science.
So, with some trepidation I name this species the humpback brittlegill (Russula caerulea) and now await someone telling me its not! The russulas are very difficult to identify without the close examination I described above but most species of the family have a dimple in the top of the cap whilst the humpback has a small hump on its back! It is found in pine forests in late summer and early autumn so that fits with where and when I took this photograph.
It has a bitter taste so not one for the frying pan.
Xerocomus chrysenteron: the red-cracking bolete
Many bolete species have a cracked surface to the cap but with some it is an identifying feature. The red-cracking bolete (Xerocomus chrysenteron) has a reddish cap that readily cracks to show the yellow flesh of the pores underneath. This is a common fungus not only found in woods but also in parks and pastures, especially where beech or larch are nearby. Generally a solitary species, although occasionally found in small groups, this can be found from late summer through to early winter.
It is edible, especially if you like eating sponge!
Boletus edulis: the penny bun
Cep is the common name of Boletus edulis but also has the local name in England of Penny Bun, the cap looking much like a traditional bakers bun! cep is common in woodlands during the summer and in to late autumn occurring in both coniferous or broad-leaved woodlands. In this country we are used to buying varieties of mushrooms in our supermarkets but in continental Europe cep is much more likely to be seen on sale in markets and shops. It is, however, grown commercially in this country to produce 'mushroom' flavourings for soups and the like.
So, it is edible and, without knowing it, I have probably eaten them!
Boletus badius: the bay bolete fungues
The bay bolete (Boletus badius) is a widespread and very common fungus usually associated with conifers but not exclusively so. Appearing from late summer to early winter it is classic boletes in appearance, largish domed cap, brown in colour with a stout stem and yellowish and fleshy underside to the cap.
It is edible, it has a mild, pleasant taste; nice if you like that sort of thing.
Boletus luridus: the lurid boletes
I was surprised to find this fungi described as the lurid boletes (Boletus luridus) so I checked my dictionary for a definition and lurid does mean vivid in shocking detail! Now I agree that the photo I have taken is vivid in shocking detail as this poor specimen was well past its best when I found it and looking decidedly nasty. However, read on in the dictionary and an alternative meaning for the word is pallid in colour and, as the cap of this species is a paler brown than many of its cousins I suspect that is where the name comes from. It is a widespread species occuring in all sorts of habitat from woods to parks and pasture but it is not that common. It is an early species too, appearing in summer and early autumn.
It is edible but would you want to eat something that looks like this?
Leccinum versipelle: the orange birch bolete
The orange birch bolete (Leccinum versipelle) is an orange coloured fungus, found near birch trees and is a member of the boletes family so I guess the name is a pretty fair description of it! Usually a solitary species, found in late summer and autumn and is quite common. The orange cap is quite distinctive and once seen you will probably remember it.
It is edible; want to try it?
Leccinum cyaneobasileucum: the blue bolete
With names like Leccinum cyaneobasileucum it is little wonder that casual naturalists like me struggled to even pronounce the names of some fungi let alone remember them from one year to the next. In recent times the mycological movement have started giving "common" names to most species but this is one that seems to have been missed! This species does have a distinctive light blue colouring and that accounts for the cyan in cyaneobasileucum and as it is a member of the boletes group I am going to name this he blue bolete.
Despite not being allocated a common name in my new field guide in the same way many others have this is a widespread and fairly common species of dry heath where birch is present. Indeed, the only specimen I have come across was in exactly that habitat at Arne.
I have no idea whether it is edible so if you try it and survive with no ill effects please let me know!
Suillus granulatus: the weeping bolete
The weeping bolete (Suillus granulatus) is a specialised species of boletes that occurs on acidic soil with pine on heathland and as such is ideally suited to the Wareham Forest and that is where I found this one. Indeed, I have seen them elsewhere in the forest so they are quite widespread. They usually appear in these small groups in the autumn amongst the heather or on more open grassy areas.
These are edible but 'apt to be purgative'!
Suillus luteus: Slippery Jack
At first sight this might appear to be a waxcap fungus bit on closer inspection you will quickly see the classic yellow sponge underside to the cap and so change the thoughts to the range of potential boletes species. The shiney surface gives this one the common name of Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus). As with many of the Suillus species (still boletes family) these are associated with acidic soils and pine, usually Scots Pine. Usually solitary, sometimes in a small group Slippery Jack appears in the autumn.
Edible but sometimes purgative so be warned.
Paxillus involutus: the brown rollrim fungus
The brown rollrim (Paxillus involutus) is the only common representative of the Paxillaceae family, the other five are scarce and two are very difficult to identify and have only recently become regarded as seperate species to the brown rollrim itself. Paxillus involutus is a very common species however, found in mixed and broad-leaved woodland in summer and autumn. They have a distinct preference for acidic soils and birch and so are quite common on the Purbeck heaths although they are just as at home on downland. Usually in groups.
They may look tasty but be warned, they are poisonous!
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca: the false chanterelle
The presence of coniferous woodland on the acidic soils of the Poole Basin, especially in Purbeck, means that the false chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) is a very common fungus here. It appears in troops, often in circles, amongst pine needles. It can occur in other habitat types but it is most common on the heaths. It looks very much like the classic chanterelle of French cuisine but it is not related.
It is not poisonous but apparently it tastes foul!
Cantharellus cibarius: the chanterelle fungus
The chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) is the prized fungus of the top chefs, considered to be the finest tasting toadstool. Mainly found on broad-leaved woodlands it grows in the leaf litter, usually in groups and often in troops. Although very common I have rarely seen it, may be they are all picked for the kitchen before I get there?
A lovely, distinctive yellow colour the cap is also distinguishable from its shape as it forms a deep funnel leaving the gills on the outside visible.
Mitrula paludosa: the bog beacon
When you are out in the countryside it pays to keep your eyes open; look up and down, left and right. After a while I think you develop a sense of what is unusual as opposed to 'ordinary'. There is nothing 'ordinary' in the natural world, may be familiar would be better term? When at Arne it is easy to look up in to the trees for birds, or through the woods for deer or out across Poole Harbour for the views but if you keep your eyes open you will find many things that are quite unusual, and this fungus is one of them.
It may not be nuch to look at but in the drainage ditch where it grows there is a lot of it. Referring to my library I find this fungus is called the bog beacon (Mitrula paludosa) and that it grows on rotting twigs in damp ditches amongst sphagnum mosses. The amazing thing to me is that exactly these factors come together in the coniferous woodland near the Shipstal bird hide and there is the fungus im exactly the habitat the book says it occurs in! It is described as 'occasional' which means it is not that common. I want to know how this fungus can survive and spread given the uniqueness of its habitat? You can see it from late spring to early summer.