Our Resort

Let’s go on a funghi hunt!

With the UK boasting around 15,000 types of
wild fungi – although only about 3000 of the different varieties are big enough
to see – it’s a great time to go mushroom spotting as it’s the now that the fruiting
part becomes visible, the bit we all recognise as toadstools or mushrooms,

This fruiting part, also known as the fruitbody,
has the important job of releasing spores, which is done in huge numbers with spores
being the fungi’s equivalent of plant seeds. These fruiting bodies can be seen
in large numbers and in many varieties at this time of year, the majority of
which feed on decomposing plant material or animals. Here at Feadon Farm we
regularly see the semi-transparent porcelain fungus on the beech trees along
with giant puff balls in our fields, with these large white fungi often growing
as large and the same shape as footballs. As well as native types there is also
alien species of fungi here in Cornwall such as the striking devils finger
fungus, which resembles bloody fingers and was introduced from Australia in the
early 1900’s.

My personal favourite to spot is the fly agaric
with its beautiful scarlet cap and white spots but as stunning as it is, this
iconic toadstool is both inedible and an hallucinogenic so this variety is definitely
one to look at but don’t touch. With so many types, there are so many
variations, with some harmful and used as poisons, but on the flip side there
are many fungi that help to cure diseases and are a vital ingredient in many
medicines.

It is vital to point out that some fungi are
extremely dangerous, so should always be observed and not touched unless you
are extremely sure of what you have in front of you. Of course, some fungi are edible
but identification should be certain before any are eaten as can be lethal.
There was the case of a woman in Somerset who picked what she thought was safe
fungi in her garden, made a soup with them then died the following day as in
fact she had used deaths head fungi.

I’ve just been reading about an amazing fungus
in a brilliant book called ‘The Wasp That Brainwashed The Caterpillar’. Strange
title I know, but it is a great read about tales of fascinating evolutionary
adaptations. This particular fungus in the book is found in the rain forest and
has resorted to turning ants into zombies to spread its spores. The spore attaches
itself to the ant, dissolving a hole through the ant’s exoskeleton where it
enters its body, growing for a few weeks. The fungus then forces the ant to
leave the colony, the ant then climbs a leaf over one of the colony’s trails where
it instructs the ant to bite into the underside of the leaf, lock its jaws where
the fungus then kills the ant, bursts out of the ants head and rains spores
down on the trail below. How cool is that? Bet your glad you aren’t an ant in
the rain forest but isn’t fungus amazing.

So now’s the time to get out there and see what
Cornwall has to offer in the form of fungi.

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