Doing the Fungi Walk…!

fungi-featDoing the Fungi Walk

Autumn is well and truly here. Dark nights & mornings, extra jumpers, coats, gloves and an excuse to drink hot chocolate with marshmallows again. The good news is that, once you’re layered up, there’s still a chance to get outside and discover nature with the Elmbridge Rangers.

In this blog, I am going to be thinking about fungi, also known as mushrooms or toadstools. Before I begin, I want to ask you a quick question… what do you think the largest living thing on Earth is? (The answer is at the bottom of this blog.)

Have you seen any fungi in the garden, park or around school this year? Occasionally I get a ring of mushrooms on my lawn around now, but I haven’t spotted them yet. Last Saturday I went to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust in Barnes. When walking round I spotted a few fungi poking through the grass, which you can see in some of the pictures here. It doesn’t have to be Autumn to see fungi though, the photo with lots of little mushrooms was taken this August at Minsmere RSPB – home of Springwatch.

fungi-art1You can find lots of fungi in woodland. They absorb nutrients from dead organic material such as rotting, fallen leaves. They can also be parasitic – absorbing nutrients from the cells of a living host e.g. a tree. Some fungi growing wild are edible, but it’s very dangerous to eat them unless they’ve been identified by an expert. I stick to getting my mushrooms from Sainsbury’s in Walton! As well as being used as a food source, fungi are also commercially important as they can be used to make medicines such as antibiotics. Also yeasts, which are used to make bread rise and to ferment wine & beer, are also technically a type of fungus.

I remember learning at school that the toadstool is like the tip of an iceberg because the majority of the structure lives below the surface of whatever the fungus is living on (underground or in dead wood or a living tree etc). The technical term for this part is the mycelium. The mycelium is a network of tubular filaments, a bit like the roots of a plant. The toadstool is simply the fruiting body that produces spores by which the fungi reproduces. If you’ve ever gently kicked a puffball fungus, you can actually see a little cloud of spores being released.

I was amazed to find out that there are over 3,000 species of fungi on Esher Common. When you look at them close up, the structure and colours are mesmerising, so be sure to take along your camera. They’re easy to photograph as they don’t move much!

See how many you can discover on the Elmbridge Rangers walk, coming up on November 8th; details are below.

Fungi Walk, Sunday 8 November 2015, 10 am to 12 noon, meet at Horseshoe Clump car park, Portsmouth Road, opposite Blackhills, nearest postcode KT10 9JQ.

Find out more about the diversity of fungi on Esher Common. No dogs please.

Answer

It’s thought that the largest living organism on this planet is a fungus! Did you think it was an elephant or a blue whale? Or perhaps you thought of the giant Redwoods?

In the Blue Mountains of Oregon, USA, a fungus (similar to the Honey Fungus) is a staggering 2.4 miles wide!

Here’s a link if you don’t believe me: http://www.bbc.co.uk/earth/story/20141114-the-biggest-organism-in-the-world

 

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Sarah Young - Nature Correspondent

Firstly, I'll let you in on a little secret, I'm from Walton, not Hersham. I hope you won't hold that against me. But I do pass through Hersham station on my commute...does that count? I work in an advertising agency as a copywriter.

If you have any questions or suggestions on my blog, do let me know. I'm often on Twitter @sairthebear. Feel free to follow me for news on nature, conservation and the local area.

P.S. For those of you puzzling over the beach shot. You're right, it's not Surrey. It was taken on Brancaster Beach in Norfolk, the next best place to home (IMHO).

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