Mushrooms, or rather fungi, more than make up for the cold days and long nights of autumn. Here are my favourite photos so far this autumn…
The Fly Agaric
The most famous of our ‘toadstools’, the fly agaric is not actually that poisonous (but will still make you a bit ill) and has been enjoyed through the centuries for its hallucinogenic properties. It is normally unmistakable, although I’ve noticed that woodland critters – presumably slugs – like to nibble the white spots off. It is related to some of our deadliest fungi, including the well-named death cap and destroying angel. If you see a brown fly agaric you’ve actually come across a panther cap. The panther cap contains the same chemicals as the fly agaric but in much higher doses, so don’t even think about taking a nibble!
The russulas, or brittlegills, are easy to spot but identification at the species level can be tricky. They all have white stems and gills, but the cap colour can vary from pale fawn through yellow and green to bright purples and reds. Brittlegills have, as the name implies, brittle gills. There is one exception to this rule: the charcoal burner has flexible rather than brittle gills. It is edible, but comes in almost the full range of russula colours so is hard to spot. Some brittlegills are mildly poisonous, but these all taste very hot so are easily avoided. My local pine wood is currently full of these purple and red russulas. Roger Phillips’ book Mushrooms lists nine red and over twenty purple russulas, so what these two are I have no idea!