By Sue Curnock
November can reveal a wonderful array of mushrooms and toadstools. Fungi can be found everywhere – in parks, gardens and on lawns but the best places to look for them are in woodlands and old pastures. The part of the fungi you will see are the fruiting bodies - the main part of the fungus, the mycelium, is underground or hidden under rotting matter. Fungi play a vital role in breaking down organic material such as leaf litter and dead animals, returning the resulting nutrients back to the soil.
They have some fascinating names including beefsteak fungus, dead man’s fingers, brain fungus and ugly milk cap. One of my favourites is the yellow brain fungus, named after the gelatinous irregular contortions which develop on its fruiting body. These golden yellow beauties are mainly seen in winter on deciduous trees and are particularly fond of fallen branches of dead wood. During very dry weather they turn orange and shrivel to a tiny fraction of their former size, making them much harder to spot.
Some of our showiest fungi are waxcaps. With a spectacular colour range they’re found on grassland where the soil has been undisturbed for a long time and has received little or no fertiliser, such as grassy churchyards, old lawns and parklands of stately homes or historic monuments. With names including snowy, scarlet, parrot and ballerina, this family of colourful fungi goes by the name of Hygrocybe, meaning ‘moist head’. Many of the mushrooms in this group have shiny, sticky or greasy caps that make them stand out, but it’s their thick waxy gills that give them their common name.
One of our biggest fungi is the giant puffball. Found in grassy habitats including fields, lawns, parks and golf courses, these fungi produce massive fruiting bodies, often the size of footballs and sometimes larger. When mature they release trillions of microscopic spores, often in response to rain or physical disturbance by animals or humans.
We are always pleased to hear about you wildlife sightings, please visit www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/sightingsform or phone our free information hotline WildCall on 01273 494777.