Expert David Warwick lead a 2-hour guided fungi walk around Sydenham Hill Wood to share his knowledge of mushrooms. It takes years just to learn the basic facts about mushrooms but this guided fungi walk was a great introduction to the fascinating world of fungi.
We learned that there are about 50,000 types of fungi just in the UK and each species has its own characteristics: some are symbiotic with trees, exchanging nutrients, while others are parasitic and eventually cause trees to die. However, in nature things will transform into a different life form. 90% of trees in Northern Europe are symbiotic with fungi.
We were lucky with the weather, as it had been raining, which meant we spotted a large number of different types of mushrooms, and on the day it mercifully didn’t rain.
Centuries ago people believed that mushrooms had some kind of magic power, as they seemed to appear overnight. Some believed they were the work of the devil, as some fungi grow in circles and it wasn’t clear how that happened. Fungi thrive on soil that is rich on specific nutrients, and mushrooms that grow in circle are simply eating up resources and expanding their circle once all the food is gone. The main aim of mushrooms is to disperse their spores as quickly and as widely as possible, which is why their growth cycle is so fast (only a few days).
To give you some examples, bonnets tend to grow on oak (which sometimes also helps to identify dead tree trunks) and jelly ear fungi tend to grow on elder wood.
Birch polypores and honey mushrooms (the latter are delicious, so they are worth eating, with caution) tend to kill the host tree; honey fungi tend to be more damaging to cultivated trees.
Sydenham Hill Wood
Sydenham Hill is a managed wild woodland, which was very fashionable during the time of the Great Exhibition at Cristal Palace (remnants of the old railway can still be seen).
Foraging in Sydenham Hill is not recommended, as the park is very busy with people walking their dogs (estimated 100,000 visitors a year) and is located near a main road. For studying purposes, though, a relatively small piece of land offers plenty of opportunities to learn about fungi. David showed us about 20 different types of mushrooms, some edible and some inedible, explaining about their habitat.
List of Fungi
This is a list of the mushrooms we saw during the walk:
- Trooping funnel
- Bitter oysterling
- Hairy curtain crust
- Jelly ear
- Purple jelly cups
- Turkey tail
- Sulfur tuft
- Clouded funnel or clitocybe nebularis (toxic and, unfortunately, very similar to the trooping funnel we saw at the beginning of the walk)
- Glistening ink cap
- Mycena inclinata
- Oak maze gill bracket fungus
- Cobalt blue crust
- Birch polypore
- Conical brittlestem
- Dead man’s fingers
- Honey fungus
It was great to see that our group (about 15 people) was very keen on learning more about fungi, trees and the local ecosystem. It is a positive step to keep London’s green spaces alive and vibrant.
The Organisers: London Wildlife Trust
The organisers suggested a voluntary donation of £2 to support the London Wildlife Trust, which aims to protect local wildlife.
Thanks to the organisers, Sydenham Hill Wood coordinators and the volunteers.
Picture credits: Paola Bassanese