Spring Mushrooms

Note: Please do not eat any mushrooms that you collect from the wild as a result of anything that you read on this page. You should not eat wild-collected fungi unless they are identified for you by an expert.

Spring isn’t the time when most people would think of searching for mushrooms but there are one or two species to be found.

Common Morel (Morchella esculenta)

A real prize for foragers is to find morels. These are amongst the most delicious of all mushrooms but they are not at all common in Great Britain. They are ascomycetes, so they do not have quite the same structure as many of the more familiar mushrooms. They are said, by some, to prefer to grow alongside woodland rides and on woodland edges, on the drip-line of trees. These two were amongst a small group growing on the grassy edge of a wide path through woodland.

St George’s Mushroom (Calocybe gambosa)

Another one to watch for at this time of year is St George’s mushroom, which grows from about the time of St George’s day onwards, until around June. These resemble the edible mushrooms that you can buy in the supermarket (Agaricus bisporus) and the common field mushroom (Agaricus arvensis) but they belong to a different genus, Calocybe. An obvious difference is that they have white gills. Also, they have a distinctive mealy smell, similar to the smell of damp flour. They are popular for eating in some European countries.

St George’s Mushroom (Calocybe gambosa)

The ones that I found were on a reclaimed colliery site, growing beneath trees. The main part of fungi that grow on the ground is an underground network of very thin threads called the mycelium. Many fungi are mycorrhizal, which means that the mycelium has a relationship with the roots of a particular plant. You will find the fungus growing near only those trees or plants with which it can form this relationship. The St George’s mushroms that I found were growing in a ring and this indicates that this fungus is proabably not mycorrhizal. Instead, it is probably saprobic, which means that it feeds on dead organic material in the soil. The mycelium gradually spreads outwards, over the years, as it feeds.

St George’s Mushroom (Calocybe gambosa)

Howell Wood Fungi

Encouraged by this week’s talk from David Winnard on “Edible and Poisonous Plants and Fungi or the North-West,” I spent an hour in Howell Wood searching for fungi. Rain in the past few days has increased the chance of finding something interesting.

Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)

Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)

Alongside one of the rides, I found quite a few stinkhorn, in all stages of development. The smell from these was pretty obvious, without getting too close.

Candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)

Candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)

Most of my identifications of fungi are suggestions only! I believe that these little fungi, growing from a saw-cut in a rotting log are Candlesnuff fungi. They were only a centimetre or two tall.

Earthball (Scleroderma)

Earthball (Scleroderma)

Earthballs growing by the path looked good. I don’t know enough to say which species this Scleroderma was.

Birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus)

Birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus)

On fallen birch, I found this birch polypore. There were many other bracket fungi, large and small. There were also many other fungi growing amongst the moss and leaf litter and I now need to narrow down the identities of these.

Unidentified fungi

Unidentified fungi