A Halloween fungi walk

On All Hallow’s Eve what better way to celebrate the cycle of death and renewal than go looking for fungi? They are nature’s great recyclers; many of them are saprophytes that feed on dying plants and animals, making their nutrients available for next generation of life.

L to R: Cavalier, with a floppy hat; mycena aka fairy bonnets; and the toxic wood pinkgill with a undulating edge

Last week I joined the autumn fungi walk led by by Micheal ‘Ziggy’ Senkans, Biodiversity Officer at Sheffield City Council around the fields and woodland of Waterthorpe Meadow in Beighton. Fungi are their most visible later in the year as herbaceous plants die back and deciduous trees lose their leaves.

Deceiver mushroom (Laccaria laccata)
Deceiver mushroom, older and paler
A deceiver has pale pink gills and consistent colour

As a whole different order of life from plants and trees, it has taken me years to develop an eye for identifying fungi. It is still a work in process but as my confidence grows I have been able to forage a few edible mushrooms this year, which feels like an achievement.

Immature meadow waxcap (Cuphophyllus pratensis)
Mature meadow waxcap, upturned gills (Cuphophyllus pratensis)
Candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)
Scarlet hood (Hygrocybe coccinea)

Caution is needed at all times. Start with the assumption that all fungi are poisonous. Especially if they are red, have a wavy collar or ‘skirt’ at the top of the stem or feature an egg sac at the base.

Agaricus spp, with a ‘skirt’ on the stem
Webcap (Cortinarius spp.) – poisonous
Wood pinkgill (Entoloma rhodopolium)- poisonous

All the fungi featured on this page have been identified by an expert. Please do not use this article as the sole means of identifying any fungi you may find, especially if you intend to eat them. People die each year after mistaking edible mushrooms for deadly ones. Be safe!

Jelly ear (Auricularia auricula-judae) – edible
Common funnel cap (Clitocybe gibba)