Fungal Foray report by Ann Lightman 15 October 2016

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On a lovely Saturday morning in October (15th) a small party of ten explored the fungi growing in Lawnswood Cemetery. The walk was led jointly by local expert, Mary Larner, Mid-Yorkshire Fungus Group and Pete Banks, Parks & Countryside Ranger who leads the Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery’s Action Days. The group varied in age and expertise…with several bringing along reference books to aid identification. This review is from one at the top end of the age range and virtually no subject knowledge.

 On the walk we learned that fungi has a very special place in the health of a woodland – many species live alongside the tree roots and can provide the tree with some nutrients it is unable to extract for itself. The idea that fungi could be a benefit to the host was new to me at least and we were assured in another instance (tar spot on Sycamore), that although it is unsightly, it is not detrimental in any way. Others live on rotting wood and help in the recycling progress.

The variety of the species judging from what I suspect is a small selection of the total (even though we probably saw about 35 different examples), is quite amazing. From their location – many on the ground, but some on the trees, their size – from the long-lived Razor Strope on a tree trunk, to a minute clump of what looked like tiny wooden eggcups with pebbles inside – half a dozen would fit on a thumb nail. There were variations in colour – a group of brilliant white pillars marched into the dark undergrowth, another clump was a bright yellow (sulphurtuft gives a clue), from delicate pink undersides to a bright red top-surface (well had it not been munched by slugs). Many were of course well camouflaged in the leaves – greys and browns predominated. Their habit varied – some growing (vigorously in a couple of cases, the soil they had pushed through being present) in clumps, others were individuals, though usually within a group. Textures varied – from woolly, to slimy (it looked as if they were glistening with dew), rough – on stalks, on cap edges, to smooth.

We were shown some of the steps in identification – which is difficult even for experts as the colour might vary due to whether it was new, at its peak, or on its way out. Smell was important as was looking at it from all angles. The underside (on some cup-forming fungi that could be done without picking it) – some had gills, some did not, and were sponge-like. There was a difference in the spacing and the colour of the gills. The stalks (Stipe) could either be strong (toughshanks) or brittle (brittlestem). The variety of a whole new world was opened up to us – it was a great privilege to be taken around by such expertise and enthusiasm and in such lovely surroundings.