Fungi of every shape and size imaginable

Fungi in leaf litter by Bob Chapman
Fungi in leaf litter by Bob Chapman
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LIANNE DI MELLO, the communications officer at the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, talks about all the different types of fungi to spot this autumn

When we think of a fungus, the first thing that springs to mind is the traditional red and white toadstool – but when you start looking, there’s seemingly no limit to the variety of shapes, textures and colours that you’ll see.

Once you start searching seriously for fungi you will soon find anything goes. Here are some fungi you can spot this Autumn.

- Fly Agaric: Portrayed in children’s fairy stories – and often with a pixie sitting on the top, the bright red caps can measure 15cm across when mature and have white spots, which are the remains of a veil which covers the immature fungus.

- The Blusher: The reddish-brown cap starts as a hemisphere and then flattens out, measuring 5–15cm. The white flesh reddens when damaged – hence the name.

- Stinkhorn: This fungus can be usually be smelled before it’s seen and may be as far as 20m away. It starts in the ground, looking like an egg, which then develops into a fruiting body which may grow to 20cm high. The dark tips of these are covered with mucous, attracting flies with their smell of rotting flesh.

- Shaggy Inkcap: These are dainty toadstools with acorn shaped caps, usually about 10cm tall. As they age the caps become bell-shaped, darken in colour and melt.

- Orange Peel: The name is a very apt description – as it looks exactly like a piece of discarded orange peel. The irregular cap can grow up to about 8cm in diameter and has a smooth, bright orange upper surface and a greyish orange, powdery lower surface.

- Yellow Brain Fungus: The fruiting bodies are bright yellow and sinuous, and as the name suggests have a brain-like structure. They can grow up to 10cm across and are found on the dead twigs of deciduous trees.

- Sulphur Tuft: These are small toadstools which grow in large groups, usually on dead deciduous wood and are bright yellow in colour. The cap measures 5-6 cm in diameter and is smooth and the gills beneath are grey-green in colour.

- Common Earthball: The fruiting bodies are potato-like in appearance, up to 10cm wide, browN-coloured and with a rough scaly pattern. On maturity they break open and release the spores from within.

- Picking and foraging for fungi is increasingly popular – though it shouldn’t be done on wildlife sensitive sites, and not without some expert guidance. Excessive picking over the long-term may impact fungi which are an important part of the woodland ecosystem.

To find out more about fungi, or the trust-led walks or talks, visit hiwwt.org.uk.