This week Kew magazine editor Christina Harrison has been mainly...looking at fungi!
Yes, I'm proud to admit I'm now slightly obsessed with mushrooms, toadstools and all things fungi. All life depends upon them so I think we should ALL be interested in these amazing organisms.
We've commissioned our photographer to go out hunting with Kew's mycology experts for a feature for Kew magazine's next autumn issue, and I haven't been able to resist going on my own fungal forays too. The enormous range of sizes, shapes and colours is thrilling, and when I found some pristine bracket fungi the size of dinner plates in Richmond Park at the weekend I almost jumped for joy! (almost).
Fungi at Kew Gardens (Image: Paul Little)
Unfortunately I'm hopeless at putting a name to any of these species and therein hangs the warning. There have been plenty of stories on the television recently warning people against the advice of celebrity chefs to get out there and forage. Not only do you have little chance of finding something edible (only about one per cent of the UK's fungi are worth eating), but you are taking away key elements of a natural habitat if you pick them. There is also the fact that the amount of incidents of people being poisoned by picking wild mushrooms has apparently doubled in the last year.
So, unless you're on a guided fungal foray with a true expert, leave the fungi where they are – they are a joy for fungi-spotters such as me and vital for the insects and animals that need them, not to mention the fact that the future of the fungi itself depends on its spores being released from these truly wonderful fruiting bodies.
We'll be looking at fungi at Kew in next autumn's issue of Kew magazine – I hope you enjoy these 'taster' pics. Kew Gardens and Wakehurst run fascinating fungal forays each autumn – make a note to book early for next year as places are limited.
Have you spotted any intriguing fungi this year?
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Christina accepts a Kew Publishing award at the Garden Media Guild awards in 2012.
Christina joined Kew in 1999 after finishing a BSc. degree in Plant Ecology and an Advanced National Certificate in Horticulture. After initially working as a horticulturist in Kew’s Arboretum and the Hardy Display section (on the Grass Garden) she went on to become Festivals Interpretation Officer between 2002-2008, helping Kew’s onsite visitors understand what makes Kew tick. In the meantime she completed an MA in Garden History, a subject that continues to be one of her passions.
Christina was short-listed for a Garden Writers Guild award in 2007 for one of her articles in Kew magazine, and is the author of Kew’s Big Trees, published in 2008. She became editor of Kew magazine in September 2008. “I see Kew magazine as a window on the world of Kew,” she says. “I hope between its pages the many facets of Kew’s work and the people who make it happen are revealed for all to see and encourage readers to continue to support Kew.”
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