Tag Archives: mycology

More Beautiful Fungi

Unfortunately autumn has brought with it colds and flu, felling people when they least expect it, including yours truly. It tales away the desire to blog. Anyhow, I’m back with some more fungi photos. I’m a relative newcomer to the study of fungi, or mycology as it is known to the scientific community, so if any experts want to weigh in, please feel free to comment.

Firstly, I need to warn people to be very careful when it comes to fungi. Just because it looks edible doesn’t mean it is edible. The innocuous-looking mushrooms in the shot below look like very many harmless species, but are known by the common name Funeral Bell (Galerina marginata) because they are so deadly. So never assume the dangerous mushroom or toadstool is going to look sinister or wear a gaudy uniform. Fungi are a law unto themselves.

Funeral Bell, a harmless-looking, but extremely dangerous customer.

But if you prefer to admire them for their beauty, rather than because you want to fill your belly with them, mushrooms, toadstools and other fungi are extremely beautiful creatures. I say “creatures” simply because it’s very hard to know how to describe them. Fungi are not plants or animals and are in their own kingdom of organisms.

Bog Bell (Galerina paludosa) a very handsome mushroom.

Fungi are mostly parasitic and tend to be associated with certain trees and shrubs. You can even see where a tree has been by the presence of fungus.

Where a tree used to be, the remains of the trunk are underground and shown by the fungus still feeding on them. Although there are many individual mushrooms, these are all only the fruiting bodies of a single organism, kind of like flowers or apples on a tree.

There are many different kinds of fungus and some are very handsome, such as the Dark Honey Fungus (Armillaria ostoyae) which is studded with spines.

Dark Honey Fungus looking very handsome in a cluster.

But some fungi are absolutely massive. One of the most spectacular in Wicklow is the Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) seen below on a piece of dead wood. The name of this fungus comes from the similarity of its shape to that of a saddle, and its similar size. A spectacular giant, especially common on old sycamore trees.

A Dryad’s Saddle with a €2 coin resting on it, giving a sense of both the size and strength of this massive fungus.

Find a nice sunny day, take your camera and go out and get some photos of these beautiful subjects which stay nicely still while you compose your shots. They are part of what makes autumn such a special time of year.



Fantastic Fungi

What makes autumn special… or especially special, as I recently heard someone say, is fungi. There are always fungi around, but usually like veins or threads in the soil or in trees, alive or dead. But in autumn their spectacular fruiting bodies appear, what we call mushrooms and toadstools. And many of them are absolutely fantastic-looking. Each tree will have its own species, so what you find very much depends on where you go, but Wicklow has such varied habitats you are likely to find many spectacularly-different species. Here are just a selection I found in a woods consisting of birch, alder and willow trees on acidic soil:

Honey Waxcap – Hygrocybe reidii, with lovely fleshy orange gills.
Pleated Inkcap – Parasola plicatilis (mature form)
Common Inkcap – Coprinopsis atramentaria, which has spores that ooze like writing ink.
I’m not 100% certain of this identification, but I think it’s a Liver Milk-cap – Lactarius hepaticus. Milk-caps have milky “juice” in their gills containing the spores.
Turkeytail – Trametes versicolor, a fungus found worldwide and which lives in dead timber. It is also known as “rainbow fungus”.
Matt Bolete – Boletus pruinatus, a very heavy mushroom and quite large.
Shaggy Inkcap – Coprinus comatus, also known as Lawyer’s Wig, for obvious reasons. This is an extremely inky fungus, and notoriously strong, the mushroom being known to crack asphalt as it rises. Yet it is extremely brittle too, as I found when I bumped my camera lens off one, and it broke!

These are just a selection I photographed in less than an hour in the woods. As for eating them… I have only very basic knowledge about that and so can give no advice. All mushrooms taste like poison to me! Mushroom soup isn’t too bad though… sometimes. And I would never risk making it myself. The cause of of most food-related poisonings is the colossal ego of a wannabe chef…