What is fungi?
Fungi is the most fundamental part of the earth's ecosystem, acting as mother nature's recycling centre. Fungi break down the dead, absorb the nutrients back into the soil, and use it to nourish itself and other living organisms. There are many known species of fungi, including molds, mildews, yeasts, rusts, smuts, and of course, mushrooms.
When fungi spore (just like a plant releasing) and sprout, they begin to grow long root-like strands called hyphae that stretch out into the soil to collect nutrients. As more and more fungi grow in the area, they meet other hyphae in the soil and link them up to create a much larger neural-like network called Mycelium.
The UK climate creates a great environment for fungi to flourish as they thrive in moderate temperatures and high moisture with longer periods of darkness in Autumn/Winter. This means that the UK is home to a fantastic array of around 15,000 fungi species, some of whom are protected under various UK environmental laws.
The British Mycological Society (BMS) also have The Red List for Threatened British Fungi, cataloguing almost 400 species in the 'threatened' category: 22 of those being 'critically endangered' and 91 labelled as 'extinct'. See the full list of threatened fungi on the British Mycological Society web page.
The River Thames Scheme's commitment to increasing biodiversity and habitat creation
The River Thames Scheme will work closely with communities and local wildlife and environmental groups to maximise the environmental benefit of the scheme in order to protect and improve the local environment.
Creating, restoring and improving habitats, the places where local wildlife live, is extremely important. We will provide new high quality habitats and replace habitats where they are unavoidably lost or changed when the scheme is built. We will also improve and enhance existing areas to leave more areas for wildlife than before. Our habitat work could include wetlands, grasslands, woodlands, rivers, ponds and hedgerows.
Find out more on the River Thames Scheme website.
Where to find Fungi
Witches Butter (Tremella mesenterica)
- Yellow-orange gelatinous brain-like mass, around 5cm high, usually breaking through the bark of dead branches. Tough irregular pleated lobes with a smooth slimy surface when damp.
- Fruiting season: All year / particularly Winter
- Habitat: On dead but attached or recently fallen branches
- Rarity: Very common in the UK
Elfin Saddle (Helvella lacunose)
- Rather morbid-looking, slate grey fungus with a warped, melted wax-like stem and irregular folded cap, around 5cm high. Elongated holes running through the stem give a haunted appearance.
- Fruiting season: September to November
- Habitat: In deciduous, mixed or evergreen forests - Often on burnt ground
- Rarity: Common in the UK
Dead Man's Fingers (Xylaria Polymorpha)
- Macabre-looking clusters of hard, swollen, warty 'fingers', 3–8cm high. When young they are pale grey with a whitish tip. Inside, the flesh is white and tough under the black outer layer.
- Fruiting season: All year round / particularly Spring/Summer (old ones remain)
- Habitat: On stumps and buried deadwood, especially beech - Often seen poking up through moss and dead leaves
- Rarity: Fairly common in the UK
Devils Fingers (Clathrus archeri)
- Hatching from a slimy, gelatinous 'egg', it grows bright red tentacle-like arms that start to protrude. Related to the Stinkhorn, it smells strongly of rotting flesh.
- Fruiting season: July to October
- Habitat: In leaf litter and mulch, in both woodlands and grasslands
- Rarity: Rare in the UK
Bleeding Tooth (Hydnellum peckii)
- Funnel-shaped white protruding masses, oozing bright red guttation droplets, up to 10cm high. Velvet texture covers the uneven cap, and spine-like teeth hang down from the underside.
- Fruiting season: Appear in July - peak in August and September
- Habitat: In well-drained, sandy soils under pine in old growth forests
- Rarity: Very rare in the UK - Threatened species - Protected by UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP)
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