24 October 2019

In pictures: Fungi spotting season at Kew

Embark on a quest for fungi in the gardens and see what treasures you can find.

Grace Brewer

By Grace Brewer

Turkey tail (Trametes Versicolor) with lots of shelves and concentric zones of different colours growing on a dead tree trunk.

Fluted Bird’s Nest (Cyathus striatus)

The mature reproductive structures of the Fluted Bird’s Nest fungus resemble small nests filled with eggs. These egg-like structures contain fungal spores which are dispersed by falling rain drops that knock the eggs out the nests.

The Fluted Bird’s Nest fungus is easily distinguishable from other Bird’s Nest fungi by its funnel-shaped reproductive structures that have a hairy exterior and grooved inner walls.

This is a saprotrophic fungus, which means it gets its nutrients from decaying matter. For this reason, the Fluted Bird’s Nest fungus is often found growing upon woodland debris.

Fluted Bird’s Nest (Cyathus striatus). Brown cup-shaped fungus with a hairy exterior and grooved inner walls. It resembles a small nest containing white egg-like structures.
Fluted Bird’s Nest (Cyathus striatus), Grace Brewer © RBG Kew

Honey Fungus (Armillaria mellea)

Honey Fungus is the common name given to several species of the fungus Armillaria.

It is the most destructive fungus in UK gardens, known for attacking and killing roots of many woody plants. 

In autumn, clumps of honey-coloured mushrooms (which are a type of reproductive structure) appear at the base of infected tree stumps. Unfortunately, there is no effective way to cure these trees; the only solution is to remove and destroy all infected root and stump material.

Honey fungus (Armillaria mellea). Honey coloured mushrooms at the base of a tree.
Honey fungus (Armillaria mellea), Zoe Stewart © RBG Kew

Octopus Stinkhorn (Clathrus archeri)

It is not hard to guess where the common name for this fungus comes from. 

The reproductive structure of the Octopus Stinkhorn hatches from an egg stage to reveal red, tentacle-like arms covered in a dark sticky tissue called gleba. 

When mature, the Octopus Stinkhorn smells like rotting flesh. This unpleasant odour attracts flies which disperse the spores to produce more fungi.

While native to Australia and New Zealand, the Octopus Stinkhorn fungus was introduced to Britain. It is now frequently found in the south of England in autumn amongst wood-chip mulch, decaying tree stumps and leaf litter.

An Octopus stinkhorn (Clathrus archeri) with five red tentacles covered in thick black fluid.
Octopus stinkhorn (Clathrus archeri) © Wikimedia Commons/JeanRoulin

Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)

Chicken of the Woods is a bracket fungus, meaning the reproductive structures appear like shelves and grow on trees. The spongey, bright yellow brackets can typically be found on the trunks of dead or mature hardwood trees.

This fungus is another saprotroph and therefore feeds on dead and decaying matter. It lives in the central dead core of tree trunks and larger branches and colours the wood brown (brown rot) as it decays and then hollows out the wood.

Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). Bright orange to yellow bracket fungus that looks like shelves on a tree trunk.
Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) © Wikimedia Commons/Jean-Pol GRANDMONT

Common Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum)

Mostly found growing in clusters in leaf litter in woodlands, the common puffball has a round reproductive structure covered in short spines. 

Upon maturity, it turns from off-white to brown and a hole appears in the top. When compressed, either by falling raindrops or animals, a puff of spores is released that give rise to more puffball clusters.

Common puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum). A white prickly ball atop leaf litter.
Common puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum) © RBG Kew

Zoned Rosette (Podoscypha multizonata)

The Zoned Rosette is listed as a priority species in England. This is because it is generally rare across Europe but has a stronghold in the UK.

The large pinkish-brown, rosette-like reproductive structure of this fungus is typically seen near the base of old, ancient and veteran beech or oak trees. This habitat has declined in Britain, so the fungus requires surveillance and careful management to ensure its long-term survival.

Zoned rosette (Podoscypha multizonata). A large pinkish-brown rosette-like fungus.
Zoned rosette (Podoscypha multizonata), Lee Davies © RBG Kew

Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus)

This is a common fungus in Britain, often found growing in clusters on lawns.

The Shaggy Ink Cap earns its common name from the mushroom's white cap that is covered in scales, and the black, spore-bearing liquid that oozes from its gills on the underside of the cap.

Shaggy ink caps (Coprinus comatus) on leaf litter. Oval-shaped, all white mushroom stalk and cap.
Shaggy ink caps (Coprinus comatus) © RBG Kew

Fairy Ring Champignon (Marasmius oreades)

Widespread and common in Britain, the Fairy Ring Champignon grows in rings in grassy areas. 

This fungus, sometimes referred to as the resurrection mushroom, can dry out completely on hot and sunny days, but then after rain, expand and regain shape.

Fairy ring champignon (Marasmius Oreades). Ring of brown mushrooms on a grass lawn.
Fairy ring champignon (Marasmius Oreades), Zoe Stewart © RBG Kew

Shaggy Parasol (Chlorophyllum rhacodes)

Last up is the Shaggy Parasol. This large fungus, often found in woodland, has a shaggy, scaly cap and smells sweetly aromatic.

Shaggy parasol (Chlorophyllum rhacodes). Large white mushroom with shaggy cap.
Shaggy parasol (Chlorophyllum rhacodes), Zoe Stewart © RBG Kew

At Kew, a whole range of fungi can be found at the log walk and surrounding wild areas.

Come to the gardens and see for yourself, but remember, don't pick. Leave them so other people can embark on a fungi quest of their own.

Palm House, RBG Kew / Thom Hudson

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