As the season shifts in Autumn, what better time than to get out and check out the fungi that is starting to pop up around us. This Saturday, as one of our Grow Wild events, Rich Wright, of Fungi Course led 24 of us on a fungi walk around Cathays Cemetery.
Roger, of the Friends of Cathays Cemetery introduced us to the location. Established in 1859, apparently Cathays Cemetery is one of the largest Victorian cemeteries in England and Wales. As we kicked off the walk, Rich led us to the first spotting - the Milky cone cup mushroom, one of the 'Little Brown Jobs'.
We then walked only a little further to a spot where Rich identified one of the Agaric species. Turns out fungi are all around us if you know where to look! Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi. As Rich explained, there are endophitic, mycorrhizal and saprophytic fungi. The Agaric species are mycorrhizal (meaning that they form associations with plant roots).
We then reached a large decomposing trunk which was surrounded by the fruiting body of the saprophytic fungi Giant polypore (Meripilus giganteus). Saprophytes feed on dead and decomposing matter. Interestingly, one of the friends of the cemetery affirmed that the trunk surrounded by the Giant polypore was a Holm Oak (Quercus ilex) and in fact one of the largest in the cemetery. It started decaying after a windy storm when several of the branches were damaged.
Rich then pointed out a Sepia Bolete (Xerocomellus porospous) which can turn blue cut.
We were then led further into the cemetery to a darker spot under the canopy of a Beech. Here Rich pointed the Grey coral (a clavarioid) usually found growing in woodland leaf litter or in mossy grassland and thought to be mycorrhizal.
Under the canopy, Rich also highlighted the Deceivers (Laccaria laccata), also mycorrhizal and the weird old form group, Stomach Fungi, which includes Puffballs and Earthballs as well as other fungi that form their spores internally. Rich also gave us a brief account of the incredible world of lichen - symbiotic associations between fungus, algae and/or cyanobacteria. Unlike plants and fungi, lichens have been found to survive in outer space.
Rich then gave us a whistlestop tour into the weird, slightly macabre and outright surreal. From ergotism and the witch trials to the effects of a parasitic fungus cordyceps, a fungi that can infiltrate the bodies and minds of jungle ants and cause them to do very weird things. If you want to find out more, watch this snippet from Planet Earth ...
Wow. The fungi kingdom is pretty incredible. 150 years ago, fungi were thought to be 'mineral'. 50 years ago they were thought to be 'lower plants'. And now, we are only just beginning to learn about how important they are both for humans and ecosystems. A healthy woodland soil is thought to consist of 30% fungi. Global Gardens are excited to continue to delve deeper into the incredible world of fungi in the coming months, we hope you are too.
Many thanks to Grow Wild and Friend of Cathays Cemetery for making this walk possible. Please note that none of these fungi are recommended for eating and we do not recommend foraging for edible fungi in cemeteries!