Fungi

Fungus Recording & Conservation

Fungi need Friends!

Fungi have always attracted curiosity, and sometimes fear. Their sudden and unexpected appearance, weird shapes and bright colours make them seem magical, and they have often been associated with fairies and witchcraft. They have fascinated storytellers and children for generations, and have played an important part in our folklore. Story book illustrations of mushrooms are amongst our earliest childhood memories of fungi, and may colour our attitudes to them in later life.

Pseudoboletus parasiticus 

Pseudohydnum gelatinosum

Suillus grevillei v badius

Fungi have never been more under threat than they are now. With habitat loss to roads and buildings, agricultural “improvement”, and seemingly indiscriminate use of fertilisers and fungicides, and now climate change, fungi, along with other wildlife, have been having a hard time. The current craze for “wild” (that is to say “free”) food fuelled by the media could be the last straw for many of our fungi. Indiscriminate picking is not only damaging to the fungi, excessive trampling destroys plants and other wildlife which depends upon them. Fungal habitats need to be protected, but it is hard to protect what can not be seen for most of the year.

Do toads really shelter from the rain under toadstools, or fairies dance in fairy rings? Who has heard the music of Trompettes de Mort (Horn of Plenty)?

In fact, fungi are neither plants nor animals, but constitute a separate kingdom, together with mildews, moulds, yeasts, and other, often microscopic organisms. Like animals, they are unable to make their own food, but must obtain organic matter from other living or dead organisms.

Fungi affect all aspects of our lives; without them we would have no bread, beer, wine or antibiotics. Autumn leaves would pile up for ever and never decay. Many of our trees and crop plants would become sickly or even die, since they depend upon a symbiotic relationship with soil fungi to obtain nutrients from the soil. In turn, many fungi are equally dependent on forest trees, so when woods are cleared or replanted with conifers, these fungi disappear. Fungi are also responsible for a few diseases of humans and other animals, and for many diseases of our crops and other plants, such as the Rust on meadowsweet pictured.

You can download this booklet for a general introduction to fungi.


For links to more websites with information about fungi and slime moulds, click here.