British woodland fungi ID guide

Autumn is when a variety of mushrooms are on show in British woodlands. Use our ID guide to try and spot these 12. 

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Mushrooms or toadstools – call them what you will – are the colourful manifestations of subterranean fungal webs or mycelia, which comprise the real engine room of our woods. 

Some fungi are saprotrophic: they obtain their nutrients by breaking down organic remains. Others form mycorrhizal associations with trees or other plants: the mycelia bond with the root cells and thus ferry nutrients to the hosts. Up to 90 per cent of all plants are thought to have such fungal ‘helpers’.

Putting a name to the trees in a wood will tell you what fungi to expect. The magpie fungus occurs mainly in beechwoods, for example, while the sickener prefers pines and the larch bolete is (you’ve guessed it) a denizen of larch plantations.

 

All illustrations © Felicity Rose Cole

Chanterelle

Cantharellus cibarius

Coniferous and deciduous woods. Brilliant yellow; gills run part of way down thick stem. Edible (delicious).

Common and widespread

Horn of plenty

Craterellus cornucopioides

Deciduous woods, often in groups. Blackish, funnel-shaped or tubular cap with frilly edges.

Local: easy to see in some spots

The sickener

Russula emetica

Pine woods. A ‘brittlegill’ with a scarlet cap and pure white gills and stem; gills break easily when touched. Poisonous.

Common and widespread.

Charcoal burner

Russula cyanoxantha

Deciduous woods. A ‘brittlegill’ with a lilac or red wine-coloured cap, often with olive tints.

Common and widespread.

Wood blewit

Lepista nuda

Deciduous woods and hedges. Rich tan cap; lilac stem and gills. Has a sweet, perfumed smell.

Common and widespread.

Larch bolete

Suillus grevillei

Under larches. Cap sticky, orange when young, yellower as it matures. Has pores instead of gills.

Local: easy to see in some spots.

                         

Common stinkhorn

Phallus impudicus

All woods. Cap covered in slime when fresh; releases foul smell to attract flies that spread its spores.

Common and widespread.

Hedgehog mushroom

Hydnum repandum

Most woodland types. Cap creamy on upperside; underside has soft, pale spines (hence the name).

Common and widespread.

Violet webcap

Cortinarius violaceus

Mainly birchwoods. Big, beautiful mushroom with a rich violet cap; browns with age.

Scarce: searching needed.

Verdigris roundhead

Stropharia aeruginosa

All woods; also heaths. Unique turquoise colour with white, fleecy patches when young. Poisonous.

Common and widespread.

Magpie fungus

Coprinus picaceus

Deciduous woods, mainly beech. Bell-shaped cap with irregular white patches. Liquefies when old.

Local: easy to see in some spots.

 Yellow stagshorn

Calocera viscosa

Coniferous woods, on rotten logs and stumps. Slimy when wet; when dry a deeper shade of orange.

Common and widespread.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

  • Join a fungi foray – it’s the best way to pick up ID tips. Many local conservation organisations organise forays on their reserves.
  • Take spore prints from your fungi. Place the cap on a piece of clean paper, cover it overnight and next morning you should have a perfect spore print. Fungi fun!
  • Specialise in a few fungal types, such as colourful waxcaps, coral fungi or boletes. Report unusual finds to your local records group; find a list here.
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