Autumn fungi in the Midlands

Fly Agaric fungi on woodland floor

Fungi are the “fruiting bodies” of mushrooms and toadstools, producing the spores (equivalent of seeds) from which new fungi grow. In a sense they are a bit like flowers. They come in many shapes, sizes and beautiful colours and most appear in autumn.

In the UK very few of our fungi are poisonous although several when eaten can make people feel unwell. Some people are more sensitive to them than others. There are two particularly dangerous ones with fabulous names, the death cap and the destroying angel. Therefore, unless you’re a very experienced mycologist (fungi expert) it’s best to play safe and just look, take a photo but don’t touch.
Some good ones to look out for this autumn are:

Fly agaric

The classic fairy-tale toadstool, red with white spots (actually called “floccose”). This beautiful toadstool is poisonous and very common, usually found under birch or pine trees at almost any of our properties with these trees.

Close up of a Fly agaric toadstool in the woods
Close up of a Fly agaric toadstool in the woods
Close up of a Fly agaric toadstool in the woods

Parasol

The caps of these light brown toadstools can grow to the size of a dinner plate in some places. They are harmless (and actually make good eating) usually found away from trees in grassy places in large numbers at places like Calke Abbey, Croft Castle, Croome, Kedleston Hall, Hardwick Hall and Longshaw Estate.


Shaggy ink cap

Sometimes called the lawyer’s wig because of its shape as it unfurls, this mushroom produces a black “ink” as it slowly decays that can actually be used to write with if you are not in a hurry! Very common, growing in lawns, verges, fields and other grassy so likely to be found at most of the places we care for.


Common puffball

There are many different but similar puffballs which are common in most grassy places and woodlands in autumn, including the less common giant puffball that can grow up to 40 cm across and weigh several kilograms.

The distinctive puffball mushroom
Close up view of a large puffball mushroom in grassland
The distinctive puffball mushroom

Amethyst deceiver

The deceit is that although this toadstool is a bright purple colour it is in fact harmless. This delicate toadstool’s cap is only 5-8 cm across, quite abundant preferring shady woods.

Amethyst Deceiver
Amethyst Deceiver
Amethyst Deceiver


Waxcaps

A large group of brightly coloured, shiny mushrooms that grow in lawns and short grassy places where the soil has remained largely undisturbed for many years. There are red, orange, yellow, green and white ones but the really special one is the pink ballerina.

Pink Ballerina (wax cap)

Longshaw Estate is a special place for these fungi  as is the long established turf lawns at Berrington Hall in Herefordshire. However, they can also be found in good years (wet Septembers) at Calke Abbey, Clent Hills nr Birmingham, Long Mynd in the Shropshire Hills, Edale and Ilam in the Peak District  


Beef steak

This is a bracket fungus that grows out of the tree trunks of old oak and sweet chestnut trees. It tastes like roast beef but when growing and fresh can look like a large, reddish-pink tongue or lobe of liver. Often found at Kedleston Hall, Calke Abbey and Clumber Park.

Chicken of the woods fungus
Chicken of the woods fungus
Chicken of the woods fungus


Chicken-o-the-woods

There are many other species of bracket fungi to look out for on many different trees including the remarkable chicken of the woods, which is a bright sulphurous yellow and grows on oak, ash, willow and sweet chestnut to name a few. Why chicken, yes believe it or not, it tastes like it. This striking fungi  can often be found at Croft Castle, Hanbury Hall, Kedleston Park, Ilam Park, Hardwick Hall to name just a few.