If you missed our fungi foray last Sunday, don’t despair! Here are some fascinating fungi facts to think about! Did you know that the largest living thing on the planet is a fungus? Or that some fungi are worth more than £250 per ounce? Or that a fungus can save your life?
If you didn’t know this, it’s a great time to open your eyes to the fascinating world of fungi that are all around us! Here at Muir of Dinnet, they are popping up all along the path edges and in the woods. The come in a huge variety of colours and shapes of fungi- but the colourful “mushrooms” are only a tiny part of the story.
The part of a fungus we see, the mushroom, is only its fruiting body (a bit like an apple on a tree) but all of the rest of the fungus is living happily and invisibly underground. We don’t even know they’re there most of the time but a lot of things we see around us depend on their existence. Trees, for example. Every tree you see in the wood will have a mutually beneficial relationship with a few different fungi; the trees and the fungi exchange water and nutrients… and so the trees grow well and we have woods to enjoy. Yeast is a fungus….so if you’ve ever eaten bread or drunk beer, you owe it to fungi! Of course, not all fungi are beneficial- some are parasites, like honey fungus. The largest living organism on the planet may well be a honey fungus in Oregon, spanning roughly 9 km and be as much as 2400 years old.
Some fungi are very good to eat (white truffles can sell for £250/ounce) and animals enjoy them as well as humans. A whole host of invertebrates feed on fungi and squirrels and deer enjoy them too. But never assume that if a fungus looks like it’s been eaten by an animal, it’ll be safe for us- our tummies are very different to those of slugs or deer! The chanterelle in the picture below is a safe mushroom to eat but hasn’t been tipped over by a human- it looked like squirrels had been feeding on these.
Mushroom collecting can be fun but comes with a severe health warning- know what you are eating, or don’t risk it. There are about 10-14 species of deadly mushroom in the UK …and quite a few more that’d make you feel decidedly ill.
If you are interested in fungi collecting, check out the Scottish Wild Mushroom Code
which will guide you through safe, ethical fungi collecting.
Otherwise, come to the reserve and enjoy just looking at the fungi. There’s a whole range, from the purple, yellow, green or brown brittle-gills to the grassland-loving waxcaps. They’ll only last til the first frosts so now is the time to appreciate the hidden world of fungi!
By the way….lifesaving fungi…. some of the first penicillin was created from the fungal mould on a mouldy melon!