Wildlife enthusiast and resident volunteer, Juliet, describes the fungi here at Exbury Gardens in the New Forest.
"Fungi come in many shapes and sizes and are most plentiful in autumn. There are fruiting bodies of mushrooms and toadstools, which produce spores from which new fungi grow".
"Some are very colourful, as for instance the common and eye-catching Fly Agaric, its scarlet cap flecked with white warty scales.
"Others have strange shapes such as the well-named Wood Cauliflower, which is often found at the base of a pine tree and is reminiscent of a tightly bunched cauliflower head.
"Some, like the Common Puffball, are easy to identify as no other fungi resembles them. This species is very white with a bulbous head covered in tiny spikes.
"Many more are mushroom-shaped and can be hard to identify, often requiring expert guidance or at least a good field guide. The part that we see above the soil is only a small portion of the fungi; small threads called mycelium spread through the soil and colonise vast areas beneath the soil. By breaking down dead material they play an important role in the recycling of nutrients in soil".
"Fungi like warm, damp conditions. Many are not very resistant to frost and turn to mush overnight if a frost occurs. It can be quite hard to find one in good condition as many creatures are attracted to them such as, slugs, mice, deer, squirrels, badgers and foxes - all enjoy a nibble".
"Cup-shaped mushrooms release their spores from their gills and they are blown about in the wind; the tiny Bird’s nest fungi, where the spores nestle seed-like in the bottom of the little cup, rely on raindrops to propel them out. Other types like Stinkhorn attract flies which disperse their spores".
"The New Forest is well known as a place to find fungi, and Exbury Gardens is no exception. You will find them in many corners, around the base of trees, in the woodland areas and on the lawns.
Some grow singly, some in clumps and others are spread widely across an area. You can find some in all stages of growth, from bud-like structures just pushing up, to full maturity and then decay".