No.22 Find some funky fungi

Step into a wood and you'll be surrounded by fungi

Q. Why did the mushroom get invited to all the parties?

A. Because he was a fun guy

While the mushrooms you'll find in the supermarket are a type of fungi, there are all kinds of others that are completely different. Some have silly names like Purple Jellydisc, Snaketongue Truffleclub and Scurfy Twiglet and come in lots of different shapes and sizes – ginormous, teeny-tiny, camouflaged and brightly coloured.

What weird and wonderful mushrooms will you find on your funky fungi adventures? It's one of our '50 things to do before you're 11¾'.

Where can you find fungi?

Mushrooms (or toadstools) can be found almost anywhere, but they love to grow in damp, dark and murky places best. Look for them on old or fallen trees in the woods, in shady soil at your local National Trust site, or even in damp spots at the bottom of your garden.

You could help fungi to grow by leaving logs and branches to rot in a shady corner outside. Beetles and other little creatures will love you for it – they’d happily munch on mushrooms all day and the old logs will make a cosy home for them too.

Fun fact: Fungi aren’t plants, animals, or bacteria. They’ve their own groove going on and mould, yeast and mushrooms are all part of the fungi club.

Weird or wonderful?

When out on a fungi hunt, you will hopefully come across some really cool varieties with spectacular colours and unusual shapes. Will you find the jazzy yellow Lemon Disco, the Brain Mushroom (you can guess what that looks like), or the white and spiky Bearded Tooth fungus? There's so many strange and interesting varieties out there.

Some kinds of fungi are completely safe and delicious when cooked, while others can be extremely poisonous to humans and animals. You don’t get names like Death Cap, Destroying Angel and Funeral Bell for being the friendliest mushroom in the forest. 

Make sure you check with an adult before you set off on your adventures. And please don’t touch fungi you find in the wild, unless you are with an expert and they say it’s okay.

A small mirror can help you explore underneath toadstools
Children inspect interesting fungi with a mirror at Leith Hill Place, Surrey
A small mirror can help you explore underneath toadstools

Where fairies fly

On your fungi adventures, you may be lucky enough to find a circle of mushrooms.

Through the ages, people have called these ‘fairy rings’ and have told stories of the mythical creatures dancing around the toadstools. It is believed that you can walk through the door to the fairy world if you step inside the circle. Do you dare to enter?

Make your own fungi logbook

Take your sketchbook or camera along on your fungi hunt to keep a diary of your discoveries.

How many different types of fungi can you find? What different colours and weird shapes can you spot? Challenge your family and friends to a funky fungi competition – who will be named the greatest mushroom master?

When you get home, why not draw or make your own toadstool? What animal or mythical creature might live there? Don’t forget to give your fungus creation a name - you could even think of something silly using your own initials.

Who knew mushrooms could be so much fun?