Fungi are members of an enormous group of eukaryotic organisms that are neither plants nor animals. They are essential to the smooth running of the planet’s ecosystems and are fundamental for the decomposition of organic matter, recycling of nutrients and as symbionts to plants, animals and other fungi. It is thought that more than 90% of plants have a fungal ‘helper’ which ferry nutrients and water up to their hosts.
Fungi are widespread and hugely diverse, being utilised by humans for antibiotics, biological pesticides and in brewers yeasts and the mushrooms we eat. However, fungi continue to be one of the more mysterious groups of organisms despite their common occurrence, with the majority of fungal species remaining inconspicuous for most of the year, only appearing for a short time to produce spores i.e. the familiar toadstools or moulds we see in autumn.
There are roughly 15,000 species of wild fungi in the UK with some 5,000 recorded in Surrey. Some of the more common fungi found in British woodlands are:
1. Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius)
2. Horn of plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides)
3. The sickener (Russula emetica)
4. Charcoal burner (Russula cyanoxantha)
5. Wood blewit (Lepista nuda)
6. Larch bolete (Suillus grevillei)
7. Common stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)
8. Hedgehog mushroom (Hydnum repandum)
9. Violet webcap (Cortinarius violaceus)
10. Verdigris roundhead (Stropharia aeruginosa)
**please ensure that you thoroughly consult fungi identification manuals before eating any wild mushrooms **
Life on Earth could not exist without the recycling activities of fungi and thus their conservation is vital for the health of the UK’s ecosystems. If you would like to learn more about fungi or are interested in the events, lectures, science displays and outreach activities available for UK Fungus Day on Sunday 13th October, then visit http://www.ukfungusday.co.uk/.
Find the UK’s largest fairy ring
What is a fairy ring?
A fairy ring is a visible circle or arc of fungus fruit bodies (mushroom shaped or puff balls) that form in open grassland, wooded areas or in leaf litter. There are an estimated 60 species of fungi that form fairy rings with some of the rings exceeding 100 years old!
This autumn the hunt is on to find the UK’s largest fairy ring, to compete with last year’s 50m diameter ring produced by a Lepista fungus! Could you find it? Go to http://www.ukfungusday.co.uk/page10.php to submit a fairy ring to the survey!