With the summer fading quickly, I was delighted to join the Wild Marlow Fungi Foray on Marlow Common on Sunday 13 September. The event was organised by Wild Marlow with Penny Cullington from Bucks Fungus Group leading a small group of members around a section of Woodland Trust's Pullingshill Wood.
I know Marlow Common well and was sure we would see lots of fungi and mushrooms, but I was still shocked when I realised how much there was to see and learn. Within seconds we were examining our first specimens (Milk cap Lactarius, Blusher Amanita rubescens, etc). Penny was incredibly knowledgeable and full of insights, sharing both the latin and common names of the species and explaining how rare or common each was. As we proceeded just a few more feet we saw several other types of mushrooms, some which I was familiar with but many that I had never come across before and few that Penny herself said she does not often see.
We were barely a few yards down the lane after the first hour when I realised I was probably in the middle of the shortest two-hour walk of my life. There was so much to discover!
We eventually proceeded from the trench at the side on the road into the woods. Penny picked up many fungi and explained that the fruit we could see was just the fruit of a whole network of Mycelial thread below the surface. So although you should only pick ones that are open and have had a chance to disperse their spores, handing them can be perfectly safe, so long as you know what you are doing and have the necessary skill of identification! We were not collecting mushrooms to eat, although one member did take home a large Sep to cook. Ideally you should only collect mushrooms that you will eat yourself and that you have correctly identified to be safe. Penny collected a few samples in her many plastic containers for study and identification, so that she could report back to the Bucks Fungus Group.
The experience of seeing up to 25 different species and to hear all about their anatomy, life cycle, names, preference for location and tree types was so interesting. Highlights for me included holding a Death Cap (deadly if ingested) and seeing Penny rub a fungi with a Ferrous Sulphide crystal to identify the mushroom when it turned pink. We also learnt about collecting ink cap mushrooms to make ink for writing and drawing. We saw the milk cap ooze a white milky liquid and other species turn blue when cut with a knife. We also found certain trees to find specific mushrooms, for example the Birch led us to a great Fly Agaric, the classic red topped mushroom.
I can certainly recommend the Fungi Foray for anyone who gets the chance – you will certainly not be disappointed. I am planning to return to the same area this week to see how things have changed and I will definitely go out after the next rainfall when the mushrooms will be in full abundance. September and October are the best times to see Fungi and Mushrooms and with the other Wild Marlow members we had a great time, whilst following social distancing rules. We all enjoyed a real social ecological education and surprise. My thanks to Penny and Sarah for arranging it all.