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Essex Field Club
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Sat 17th November 2012 17:02 by Graham Smith
The Fungi Season
Another Fungi foraying season has come and gone. It started promisingly in August, faltered in September, and disappointed in October despite plenty of the wet stuff by then. Some of the major groups of fungi - especially the Bolete, but also Russula and Lactarius - sulked underground all autumn and us foragers were left wondering just what it takes to produce a bumper crop of mushrooms nowadays. The Club forays were as enjoyable as ever, however, despite the dearth of some species, but we do seem to be a diminishing band and as most of us are of a 'certain age' there is a pressing need to appeal to a wider range of potential enthusiasts. What could be achieved was demonstrated by Chris Huggins, the Head Countryside Ranger for Basildon Council, who organised a foray at Norsey Wood, Billericay on October 27th. 20-25 very keen members of the public turned up and we had an enjoyable morning, the scarcity of fungi (here as elsewhere) and constant drizzle notwithstanding. We collected around 40 species in all - the average for forays this autumn - and set them out on trestle tables at the Visitor Centre afterwards so that everyone could see them and ask questions - "are they edible" inevitably being the most frequent. Perhaps we should try something similar on at least one Club foray each autumn. We would obviously need access to a building after the foray in order to set out our finds, especially if it was raining, and if tea and biscuits were available on site so much the better. Village halls spring to mind and if the foray was organised in conjunction with the relevant Parish Council and advertised locally costs could be negligible. Perhaps the Club as a whole needs to think in this way if we are going to survive another 130 years. Just a thought - from a humble ('ever so 'umble, Mr Copperfield/Harvey) foot soldier!

At my favourite foraying site - Fryerning Churchyard - the season followed a similar pattern to the above; or at least it did until late October when, in the space of no more than a few days, ten new fungi were added to a churchyard list that now stands at around 275 species. One of them was this Pholiota, growing out of a birch stump. When first found the glutinous cap surface suggested that it might be P.jahnii but unlike most species it was slow to mature and it was not until the Club Waxcap Foray on November 3rd that the caps had opened sufficiently to obtain a spore print. Tony was then able to identify it as P.adiposa which, according to the 'Checklist', is a rare species in Britain but which in Funga Nordica, is treated as being conspecific with the much commoner P. aurivella(us).

Pholiota adiposa Copyright: Graham Smith

The high species total at Fryerning is in large part due to the range of trees found there, several of which support an impressive array of microrrhizal fungi associates. This is particularly true of the Silver Birches and Scots Pines. Unfortunately, many of them seem to be suffering from stress - perhaps related to the string of exceptionally dry summers prior to this year's deluge - and several fine specimens have been lost in the last decade including an impressive Indian Cedar, probably planted in the Edwardian era. Now, one of the two remaining old Yews, which is probably in the region of 350 years old, appears to be succumbing - around one third of the canopy dying during the past two years - while the other sports a magnificent Chicken of the Woods each summer, the presence of which is likely to lead to its eventual demise. Several other trees are also under attack from parasitic fungi. One, a Scots Pine, had three species assaulting one side of it - causing all the branches on that side to fall off - leaving it very lopsided. This year a fourth species joined in - Phaeolus schweinitzii, otherwise known as Dyer's Mazegill. I doubt if the tree is long for this world, the only compensation (for me if not the pine) is that it was another new species for the churchyard!

Phaeolus schweinitzii Copyright: Graham Smith

The Waxcap foray produced 6-7 species at the Churchyard, since when a further three species have appeared but it has still been a poor year. Tony was best pleased with Chelmsford Crematorium, where there were no fewer than 13 species on display this year. There was no sign of the Glutinous Waxcap Hygrocybe glutinipes (pictured below) this autumn, one the churchyard's special species, but a recent visit to nearby Highwood Churchyard did produce a fine display of Persistent Waxcap H. persistens var. konradii. H. glutinipes lives up to its name as both cap and stem literally drip with 'gluten', although a little had worn off on the photographed specimens due to handling.

Hygrocybe glutinipes 1 Copyright: Graham Smith

Hygrocybe glutinipes 3 Copyright: Graham Smith

Hygrocybe persisten var. konradii Copyright: Graham Smith

Two colourful species that have fruited since the Waxcap foray have been Bearded Milkcap Lactarius torminosus, which loses its 'beard' and becomes a beautiful salmon pink colour with age and the equally stunning but much rarer Chalciporus (formerly Rubinoboletus) rubinus, which has appeared annually on nearby Fryerning Green in each of the past three years.

Lactarius torminosus Copyright: Graham Smith

Chalciporus (Rubinoboletus) rubinus Copyright: Graham Smith

Finally, a species which is both rare and edible, to whit, Agaricus cupreobrunneus. Rare but widespread is how Geoffrey Kibby describes it and it certainly appears to be latter along the seawalls of the South Blackwater and northern banks of the Crouch. It is best told from the closely related A. porphryrocephalus by the larger spores but the latter may also occur as you cannot take a spore print from every specimen you find!

Agaricus cupreobrunneus Copyright: Graham Smith



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