Where to find fungi (mushrooms & toadstools)

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Mushroom & toadstool patterns of growth

Mushrooms and toadstools tend to follow specific growth formations. The five formations are called:

  • Ring Marasmius “Fairy ring”
  • Group Amanita
  • Trooping Mycena
  • Tufted Galerina
  • Solitary Agaric.

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Ring Marasmius (Fairy rings)

Fairy ring © Ita McCobb

This often seen group of mushrooms forming a circle is sadly not caused by some magical fairy-like event but is caused by a fungus mycelium – a fungal structure growing, often deep below the surface, which is made up of a myriad of mycelium laments branching out from a central point. Because it eventually dies off from the centre outwards, the living mycelium form a ring shape and the grass in the centre of the ring becomes quite lush thanks to the nitrogen released by the mycelium as it dies. While many mushroom species form fairy rings, the most frequently seen is the Fairy-ring mushroom Marasmius oreades.

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Group Amanita

Coprinellus congregatus © Ita McCobb

This occurs when several individual mushrooms of the same species, seemingly unattached, form close by each other in a higgledy-piggledy formation. A typical example is Panthercap Amanita pantherina.

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Trooping Mycena

Fairy inkcap/Trooping crumble cap Coprinus disseminatus © Ita McCobb

Not surprisingly this formation occurs when mushroom species, seemingly unattached, form in a line similar to a row of marching soldiers. A typical example is Angel’s bonnet Mycena arcangeliana.

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Tufted Galerina

This formation occurs when several mushrooms of the same species branch out from one single point in the ground. A typical example is the Bog bell Galerina paludosa.

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Solitary Agaric

Field mushroom Agaricus campestris © Jennifer Hope-Morley

This formation occurs when one mushroom forms from a single point in the ground. Other examples of the same species can often be found growing some short distance away. A typical example is the Field mushroom Agaricus campestris.

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Where to find fungi/mushroom & toadstool

Fungi species can be found in most places around the world – even extreme environments. This said, many species prefer specific environments, such as:

  • Burned ground
  • Grassland
  • Heath, moor & mountain
  • Sand dune & salt-marsh
  • Urban environments
  • Water meadows & wetland
  • Woodland

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Burned ground fungi

Common birds nest Crucibulum laeve © Ita McCobb

While fire is generally considered a destroyer of plant life, there are those plants, trees and fungi whose seed- and spore-germination are stimulated by fire. These plants, trees and fungi also benefit from having the soil in the burned ground free from any competing microorganisms. Typical of burned ground-loving fungi are: Bonfire scalycap Philiota highlandensis and Anthracobia macrocystis.

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Grassland fungi

Giant puffball Calvatia gigantea © Wildfood UK

There are two types of grassland – long-established grassland/parkland and farmed grassland. Since more recently farmed grasslands are subject to constant ploughing, crop rotation and regular chemical, fertilizer and pesticide applications, you rarely find fungi growing on these lands.

On long-established grassland and parkland in relatively undisturbed areas you find a profusion of mushrooms and toadstools. Given the nature of grassland, these fungi do not rely on mycorrhizal relationships (see Fungi & Ecosystems). Typical grassland-loving fungi are: the Horse mushroom Agricus arvensis and the Common funnel Clitocybe gibba.

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Heath, moor & mountain fungi

Heath and moorland is predominantly home to species of Heather Ericacea and other acid-soil-loving plants. While this acidity is not necessarily the preferred environment for fungi, heath and moorland tend to be high in available moisture and provide a stable undisturbed environment for fungi – particularly the Horsehair parachute Marasmius androsaceus that loves dead heather. Typical of heath and moorland- loving fungi are: Heath navel Lichenomphalia umbellifera and Scarlet waxcap Hygrocybe coccinea.

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Sand dune & salt-marsh fungi

A small group of fungi species prefers the dry, ?sandy, constantly moving environments of sand dunes and salt marshes – although they tend to choose the more stable sectors of these environments. Some are difficult to see as their caps hardly peak above the surface, others have very long stems, which allow them easier access to any available moisture, either above or below ground. Typical of sand dune and salt marsh-loving fungi are the Dune waxcap Hygrocybe conicoides and the Dune conecap Concybe dunensis.

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Urban fungi

Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus © Birger Fricke

While gardens often suffer the same fate as arable farmland (from the chemical point of view), there are a few fungi that can be found growing roadside, under shrubberies, in garden mulch, greenhouses and abandoned compost heaps, and even on rotting skirting boards in buildings. Typically urban fungi are found: in garden shrubberies and borders – the Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus, growing roadside (or directly in the tarmac) the Pavement mushroom Agaricus bitorquis, growing in garden mulch the Redleaf roundhead Leratiomyces ceres, growing on compost heaps the Coprinellus, and in buildings, the Dry rot fungus Serpula lacrymans.

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Water meadows & wetland fungi

There are many tree species that have a preference for the rich soil of water meadows and consequently there are many species of fungi that can be found there. Wetland areas, where moss grows profusely, also attracts mushrooms and toadstools, more specifically those that like lots of moisture and that have long stems that can pierce through and grow above the moss. Typical water meadow and wetland fungi are: in water meadows the Macro mushroom Agaricus urinascens, in wetland the Hairy-leg bell Galerina vittiformis and among rushes Arrhenia lobata (possibly a rare aquatic fungi).

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Woodland fungi

Bracket fungus Rigidoporus ulmarius © Ita McCobb

Woodlands offer the perfect environment for the majority of fungi – they provide a rich source of nutrients, a soil that is fairly moist year round, which maintains a steady temperature. They offer a variety of habitats from a choice of living trees to dead and dying organisms (not just trees) and a variety of environments from shade to bright woodland edges to pools of water within the wood.

Some typical woodland fungi/tree symbiotic relationships are: the Larch bolete Suillus grevillei partnered with Larch trees (Larix), the Gypsy toadstool Cortinarius caperatus partnered with various conifers, the Geranium-scented russula Russula fellea partnered with Beech trees (Fagus), the Brown birch bolet Leccinum scabrum partnered with Birch trees (Betula), the Ochre aldercap Naucori escharioides partnered with Alders (Alnus), and the Bracket fungus Rigidoporus ulmarius with Elm trees (Ulmus).

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References: The British Mycological Society; Guides for the Amateur Mycologist – No.4, Guide for the Kitchen Collector:Preservation and Cooking of Fungi, Shelley Evans, BMS, 1994; Identifying Mushrooms, Peninsula Mycological Circle; How to tell if a mushroom is friend or foe, Jo Kessel, Daily Telegraph, 26 Oct 2010; Champignons vénéneux, E. Garnweidner, Mini guide Nanthan tout terrain 1991; Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press; Champignons, toxiques & comestibles, Institut Klorane; Collins Fungi Guide, Stefan Buczacki, Collins; Mushrooms, Roger Phillips, MacMillan.