In the rest of Europe, foraging for fungi is a regular epicurean activity. The English, however, are reluctant generally to take to the woods for the purpose, but when we do there is so much to find of interest that, to the inquisitive, the search for edible species can seem almost incidental. Our Branch fungal forays are conducted in this spirit.
Our annual October outing took us to Chantry Wood, near Guildford, an area of mixed broadleaf and conifer woodland. An enjoyable visit was led by our intrepid mycologist Professor Maurice Moss. Owing to the dry weather, the fungal finds were not as prolific as usual, but we still came across some interesting specimens.
Examples of our new discoveries included the relatively rare hen-of-the-woods, the false deathcap, and the angel’s bonnet. There are said to smell of mice, raw potatoes and iodoform, respectively. Identifying odours is a subjective process, and many of us were not convinced by the aromatic similarities! We identified some edible bay boletes, with their mild mushroom smell, and several were taken home for dinner.
One striking find was dead wood infected with the green elfcup. Interestingly, Oak stained green in this way was used in the production of multi-coloured veneers once used in Tunbridge ware.
Another example of wood stained by fungal activity was the so-called spaulted heart wood much sought after by wood sculptors and fine furniture makers, with black lines in the wood. These zone lines are produced when competing species or strains come into contact. They produce melanized hyphal cells to maintain ownership of resources in the infected tree.
Maurice explained that the birch polypore, whose fruiting body often grows high up on the tree, eventually contributes to the tree’s death and feeds on the remains. However, the fungus sometimes lives within the tissues for many years without causing apparent damage. It has been suggested that the infection may even benefit the tree in its early years of growth, indicating how fungal infection can be advantageous to forest trees.
For those interested in reading slightly fuller reports and complete species lists, including those from the previous two years at Sheeplease, another of our venues, details can be found on the KSS Branch website along with a species list.
Dr Graham Godfrey, Deputy Chairman, Kent Surrey and Sussex Branch
To find out more about branch activities please visit our website.