Fungi - woodland recyclers
Autumn's prime time for woodland fungi to pop up. They're quite literally everywhere. Walk through any woods and you'll be surrounded by these strange and fascinating life forms.
Fungi are very unique. They don't have cells like those of a plant. Instead they have something called hyphae. These microscopic threads form a network called mycelium which strangly makes them more like animals than plants.
Fungi get their energy by slowly digesting living or dead matter - just as animals do. They gradually breakdown dead tissue and return essential nutrients back to the soil.
Trees benefit too. Some fungi grow a network around their roots. Acting like a second root system the fungi gives the tree greater access to water and nutrients.
It's not hard to spot fungi in woodlands. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours with names to match their mysterious appearance. The speading bright orange-yellow mass of the yellow brain fungus or witches' butter is hard to miss.
Scarlet elf cups are often called fairies' baths as their red egg cup shaped body makes the perfect shape. You'll spot them growing on rotting sticks and branches, especially where it's damp.
Look up and you'll see the bracket fungus, chicken of the woods growing on the side of a beech, oak, chestnut or yew. The orange or yellow wavy edged brackets are soft and spongy.
The fruiting bodies of fungi make a tasty meal for the wildlife in the wood. Squirrels store them high up in the trees to munch on through winter. You can often spot teeth marks from voles and other rodents as they gnaw away at them. Slugs are also partial to the autumn bounty.