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If you take a stroll around the Rec on an autumn afternoon and keep your eyes peeled, you will see a surprising array of fungi. They are neither plants nor animals, belonging to a group (or Kingdom) of their own and taking many different forms. What we see on the surface is only the fruiting body of a much larger and truly amazing organism. Within the substrate, often soil or wood, is the vegetative body of the fungus called the mycelium, which is made up of a network of threads called hyphae. The mycelium can cover vast differences and the largest living organism in the world today is thought to be a honey fungus measuring 3.8km across in the Blue Mountains in Oregon
The mushrooms and bracket fungus such as we see at the Rec are produced by hyphae as a way of dispersing the reproductive spores. The spores are contained within the gills or tubes of the mushroom and if it’s mature, there can be up to 16 billion of them! They are mainly carried in the wind, and if they happen to land in a favourable spot they will germinate and start a new fungal colony.
Fungi have complicated and fascinating lives as well as making an immense contribution to our lives, and to the environment. They certainly reward further study.
SULPHUR TUFT (Hypholoma fasiculare)
TURKEY TAIL (Trametes Versicolor)
A decaying Bolete mushroom, possibly the Red Cracking Bolete (Xerocomus chrysenteron) Note, this family of mushrooms has pores beneath the cap rather than the usual gills.
GIANT POLYPORE (Meripilus giganteus)
Glasses shown for sizing
All photos taken at Portswood Rec during October 2022 by Denise Long. More photos of fungi from the Rec can be seen on our Noticing Nature at the Rec Facebook page
Words by Denise Long