Fungus Walk 13 Nov 202213th Nov 2022
The New Forest is well-known for the richness and variety of its fungi, and Exbury Gardens is no exception. This year’s annual survey produced the usual rich pickings, especially on the lawns and around the bases of trees where bark chippings have been spread, but also widely around the garden in general.
The lawns sprout waxcaps, a colourful mushroom-shaped group with waxy-looking caps in reds and yellows, which appear in nutrient-poor grassland such as lawns and pastures, an increasingly rare habitat important for conservation. Lawns are also good for corals and earthtongues, neither of which is a typical mushroom shape. Corals are little clumps of upright, forking branches, resembling coral in appearance, and can be yellow, white or creamy coloured. Earth tongues look like little upright pokers, unbranched, and black or brown.
The areas of bark chippings produce a wide range of types and shapes, some with colourful names such as stinkhorn, bird’s nest, and panther cap. This year we also came across some slime moulds, a group once considered to be a fungus but now considered separate from fungi, with an intriguing life-style, often found on rotting logs.
Autumn is peak season for fungi, which come in a fascinating array of different shapes and forms. They are the fruiting bodies of the fungal network under the soil and release spores as a means of reproduction. This network acts to nourish plant communities and ensure their health. Many fungi provide food for slugs, squirrels, flies, deer and many other creatures so finding one in good condition can be tricky. They age quickly, becoming black mushy clumps, so it’s important to catch them young.