As you know, I’ve recently been on two fungal forays, and I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled ever since.
I’ve scouted my local woods (one measly puffball), hiked over the dale to Hamsterley forest (chockablock, but quite a slog getting there), and scanned the local fields (nada).
Then while exploring some new local footpaths, I hit gold.
Let me introduce you to the Golden Bootleg. It has a lovely latin name too: phaeolepiota aurea. Aurea means gold or golden, but I don’t know what phaeolepiota means. Any of you lot know?
At first I didn’t know I’d found something special. While exploring some new routes around Wolsingham I came across what I’ve decided to call My Secret Wood. You have to cross two streams and climb a short bank to get to it, and it is a place you can imagine the fairies living in. In fact, I bet fairies do live there. As I turned the corner at the top of the bank I found myself staring at a large fairy ring of bright turmeric yellow fungi.
If it wasn’t for my fungal forays I probably would have just walked on past, but with my renewed enthusiasm for fungi ID I collected a sample and carried it home. I was confident that with such a striking colour and shape I would have no trouble putting a name to it.
Two hours later, after going through every page of every fungi book in my house, I admitted defeat. Nothing seemed to quite fit. I took a spore print and posted my photos and a description on ispot, a website for sharing flora and fauna sightings. Then I went back to the books and drew up a shortlist of what it could be.
There was one ID that almost seemed to fit, but it was a rarity. I wanted to get it right. So I emailed my ispot page to Patrick Harding, fungi expert and leader of one of the fungal forays I’d been on. Patrick confirmed: I’d found a fairy ring of Golden Bootleg, and these guys are so rarely recorded that Patrick himself has never seen any.
After jumping up and down for a bit, I contacted WildWatch North Pennines and they got their fungi expert Andy McLay to view my photos. Andy agreed with Patrick, and even thought my sighting was a first record for County Durham. Cue further jumping up and down.
While searching for an ID confirmation I have got to know the Golden Bootleg rather well. It’s so rarely recorded that even fungi experts may never have seen it, and it took centre stage at the Mushroom Exhibition 2000. Golden in colour, powdery all over, and wearing a thick sock up its stem, it’s easy to see how the Golden Bootleg got its name.
Considered edible by some, it has high levels of the toxin hydrocyanic acid, and is also good at absorbing heavy metals such as cadmium. So if you are lucky enough to come across this golden beauty, don’t eat it. Oh, and it is also fond of growing in nettle patches.
My wonderful fairy ring is starting to look past its best now. I wonder how many years it has been appearing, and how many dog walkers have walked past, oblivious to this glorious rarity at their feet? I will definitely be looking out for it again next year.
Refs and thanks
Thanks to @bo_novak on twitter who was first to suggest Golden Bootleg as an ID and sent me some really good links. One of these was to Mushroom, the journal of wild mushrooming which has a brilliant article on the Golden Bootleg.
Here is My ispot page where I’ve posted ID photos and a description. Sadly ispot thinks it is a honey fungus, but we know better.
Here is The Encyclopaedia of Life Golden Bootleg page.