Fantastic Fungi

Fantastic Fungi

I thought in this blog I would talk about some of the vast array of fungi that emerge out of the leaf litter at this time of year.

Whilst not a big part of my role as a forester, the knowledge base of the fungi in our forests and their relationships with our trees and each other is growing rapidly, and unearthing some surprising revelations. It’s not unreasonable to think we may soon be harvesting mushrooms as a secondary product from our forests. Certainly, we could already be offering the foraging rights to those interested in training and experience days or just their own use.

Recent studies have shown that mushrooms with symbiotic relationships actually transfer nutrients from tree to tree via their expansive network of mycelium under the ground. One study in America even showed that tree species will even prioritise sending nutrients to their own young rather than others. 


birch bracket fungus (Fomitopsis betulina).

This is a birch bracket fungus (Fomitopsis betulina).

The bracket grows almost exclusively on birch trees and is very

common in my part of the country.

The mushroom has antiviral, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour,

antiseptic, antifungal and styptic properties.

It is also known as razor strop fungi as it can be used as a

fine strop to sharpen razors and knives.




The clustered bonnet (Mycena inclinata) or oak-stump bonnet cap due to its preference for growing on oak stumps.The mushroom is saprobic (digesting the deadwood for nutrients) and as the name suggests generally appears in groups rather than singularly. It has a rancid or spicy odour!

King Alfred’s cakes (Daldinia concentrica), cramp balls or coal fungus is commonplace in our woods. It grows predominantly, but not exclusively, on dead ash trees. I expect to see lots more in the coming years due to Chalara. This one’s most commonly known for its ability to hold an ember. There is evidence that our ancestors used this fungus to transport fire when moving camps. The name King Alfred’s cakes comes from a legend that says while King Alfred was hiding out in a homestead during a war, he was put in charge of removing baked goods from the oven. But after falling asleep his produce was somewhat blackened and more closely resembled this mushroom.


Probably the most commonly depicted mushroom in popular culture this is known as fly agaric or fly amanita (below) and is easily recognised with its bright red cap and white spots. It’s symbiotic with many deciduous and coniferous tree species. This means the mushroom will benefit the trees in return for a benefit to itself such as nutrients or protection.


This is honey fungus. Well known to arboriculturalists and foresters as it is a parasite as well as a saprophyte meaning it can feed on living and dead wood and therefore can be very damaging to its hosts. It is a member of the Armillaria genus of which some species are bioluminescent and can also be some of the largest living organisms in the world living as long as 2,400 years.



The olive oysterling (Sarcomyxa serotine) in the photo above are widespread but uncommon in Britain. It grows on hardwood and only occasionally coniferous species also. Once again, its saprophytic so feeds on dead and rotting wood.



For more info watch this TED talk.



Disclaimer; Many fungi can be extremely toxic and should never be consumed without proper identification. As a novice there is entirely likely to be errors in my identification so under no circumstances should this information be considered fact.

Alex MacKinnon
Forest Manager