Mushrooms and toadstools at Abinger Roughs

A close up of the fly agaric toadstool

Abinger Roughs is a great place for enjoying autumn colours, but it’s not just the glorious beech trees that provide us with this spectacle. After dry summers, the autumn rains start the fungi growing. The woodland floor bursts with a great variety of mushrooms and toadstools, and living and dead trees and fallen timber will provide homes for bracket fungi.

When can you find fungi?

 
Fungi don’t just pop up by magic. We see them mainly in the autumn, when it’s wet but usually still warm enough to provide good conditions for growth.
 
The important part of a fungus lives underground all the year round. This compact mycelium, composed of thousands of little white threads, will produce the familiar mushrooms and toadstools.
 
These fruiting bodies ripen their primitive seeds, known as spores, which are then released into the air to spread the next generation.
 

How many different fungi are there?

 
Abinger Roughs offers a good home to fungi, with 267 different sorts being found here through the seasons. They vary from the very common to the quite rare, and from the edible to the poisonous.
 
You can find many brightly coloured species in the leaf litter and around the trees if you look.
 

What do the fungi do for the woodland?

 
Fungi are vitally important for the health of a woodland. These rotters keep our woods tidy and clear for us to walk through, and in doing so recycle the nutrients needed for living plants to thrive.
 

What to look out for?

 
Three species to look out for are the penny bun, a ‘sponge cap’ and delicious edible mushroom; the death cap, one to seriously avoid; and the well-known fly agaric, the subject of folklore and fairy tales. Never eat any fungi you have picked without being absolutely sure of the identification, verified by an expert.
 

Useful guide to fungi

 
You may find it useful to refer to a guide book when looking for fungi and the Collins Gem Guide – Mushrooms by Patrick Harding and Alan Outen is a good place to start.
 
Enjoy your fungi foray.
 
Remember that some fungi are poisonous...