Survey in Sharphill Wood by Nottinghamshire Fungi Group 2013
Thursday 17th October was the date chosen by the Group to very kindly carry out a survey of species of fungi present on a snapshot basis in Sharphill Wood on that day. John Elwell and Chrissie Wells volunteered to go along to learn a (very little) bit about how this is done.
The outcome was a real eye opener – there is certainly a lot of skill and knowledge involved which I imagine would take years to develop. We set out at 10 a.m. and by the time John and I left two hours later we had progressed only from the south east entrance to about two thirds of the way up the eastern path, mostly staying on the path or close by. During those two hours some 52 species had been found, although not all could be identified on the spot, some having to be collected and looked at under the microscope, they were so minute. Imagine what 30 people could have found in four hours! We are now in possession of a list of these species, their Latin names, their common English names, the location in which they were growing and where possible the growing medium plus tree name.
- The Group feed back the results of their surveys nationally so Sharphill can participate in contributing to the British Mycological Society records
. You need very sharp eyes – there are some very very small specimens and you need to know what you are looking for – a small orange or white blob on a fallen tree trunk could very well be a fungus
- There are THOUSANDS of species in the UK. Many look similar and experts are needed to help with identification. I had a book with me and I very soon gave up on that as there were so few I could identify
- Some fungi may grow one year and be completely absent the next e.g. earth stars which appeared last year (they are relatively rare)
- Never eat a fungus which has not been positively identified as edible by someone who knows their stuff
- Most specimens in Sharphill grow under trees but do like an open space and a bit of light. Obviously they like a dead branch or tree trunk or some loamy soil to grow in.
- If you become interested in fungi, it helps with identification if you can recognise different varieties of tree that they grow on, either by bark or twigs as the leaves may be long gone
- Some can be identified by smell, pleasant or unpleasant!
- Some bracket fungi can destroy the host trees – an example is the Chalara fraxinea.
- Unlike birds and mammals, fungi don’t fly or run away when you approach. You can stand and look at them, photograph them
This is what we already knew:-
- Penicillin is made from a green fungal mould
- Fungi can grow on humans – as in athlete’s foot!
- The word toadstool has no scientific meaning and it seems arbitrary whether the term “mushroom” is used (as in field mushroom or parasol mushroom) however they are all fungi.
- Fungi don’t produce their nutrients unlike green plants (which produce organic compounds such as sugar and starch using the chlorophyll they contain, with the water and minerals taken in by their roots, in the presence of sunshine). So they have to take it from their growing medium whether rotting matter, animals or humans. (Sorry!)
- Chalara fraxinea is a type of fungus which has been, and is continuing to decimate ash trees across Europe
- Mildew that grows on your clothes at home in damp cupboards is also a fungus!
- Fairy rings may take you back to childhood, however gardeners do not always like them! The most damaging fairy rings are slowly spreading colonies of the fungus Marasmius oreades, which live in the roots of turf, altering the appearance of the grass and producing toadstools at certain times of the year, mainly in late summer and autumn. All types of lawns and areas of rough grass can be affected by fairy rings.
Interesting facts –
- Agaricus silvicola (wood mushroom) and Agaricus campestris (field mushroom) are the familiar edible ones and there’s agaricus bisporus that you find in the shops, globally available
- Mycophagists are the people who go out searching for edible fungi
- Psilocybin are the magic mushrooms which have psychedelic properties – they are being studied for their possible value with psychological disorders.
- There are some constituents of fungi that can be beneficial – they canmodulate immune system responses and inhibit tumour growth in preliminary research, whereas other isolates show potential cardiovascular, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties
- Extracts from some fungi can be used as dyes for wool and other fabrics
- Lepista saeva is also called the blue-leg, bluebutton or bluey and this is very popular in Notts. See below a recipe that is often used to cook them
Finally, to get technical, there is a logical order to define and help classify all the different species which the experts and scientists use.
Species Agaricus campestris, the field mushroom, belongs to the Genus “agaricus”. This in turn belongs to the Family Agaricaceae which belongs to the Order Agaricalis. This belongs to the Subclass “Holobasidiomycetidae”, which just means substantial mushrooms. This subclass belongs to the Class“Hymenomycetes” which belongs to the Subdivision “Basidiomycotina”, which belongs to the Division “Eumycota”.
This gives an idea as to just how many species there are! However if you become interested in this fascinating subject the above does not really need to roll off your tongue – you just need a friendly expert, a good identification book a magnifying glass, and if you are really keen a microscope to examine the tiny, tiny specimens and look at the gills more closely. For more guidance, safety precautions and information on this fascinating topic, you can look at the Nottinghamshire Fungi Group website at http://www.nottsfungigroup.org.uk/Contact and membership details can be found on there.
Recipe for Bluey mushrooms which you can buy in Nottingham market during the winter season, however any edible mushrooms would be good cooked like this.
500g of field blewits
1 pint of milk
1-2 tablespoons of flour
1 large onion
Large knob of butter
Mashed potatoes – depending on how many you are cooking for
Salt & Pepper to taste
Parsley to garnish
1.Remove the stems from the mushroom and chop them with the onion. Fry this mixture in the butter until it softens.
- Cut up the rest of the mushrooms roughly, place them in a saucepan and cover with the milk. Simmer on a low heat for about 40 minutes. Top up with more milk if the pan contents run dry.
- Meanwhile peel, boil, strain and mash the potatoes.
4.After 40 minutes, take the pan containing the blueys off the heat, strain, reserving the liquor. Make a roux (white sauce) with the flour and melted butter and use this to thicken the mushroom and onion liquor. Pour this over the mushrooms in the saucepan, add seasoning and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes.
5.Serve on heated plates surrounded by a ring of mashed potatoes and garnished with chopped parsley.
Hint: If you like mustard add a small teaspoon to the sauce at the simmering stage.