Back to Blog

What To Look Out For - September 2017

  • Tue 19th Sep, 2017

Autumn is a great time to explore your local woodlands in search of strange shapes emerging from the ground overnight. Richard Baines of Yorkshire Coast Nature chooses three types of fungi of differing forms, to look out for in the coming weeks.

The recent damp weather has been a god-send for fungi. Rain releases tiny spores (seeds) from the fungi which explode into the air. Scientists have calculated that every year, 50 million tons of spores are released into the earth’s atmosphere. Enough to coat every square millimetre of the surface of the earth with 1,000 spores!

The world of mushrooms is also blessed with a fantastic array of imaginative species names. Chicken of the Woods rolls of the tongue and is well named, being one of our edible species. It is known as a bracket fungus due to its habit of growing at right angles to the trunk of a tree in a similar way to a bracket. Its favourite trees are beech, oak, chestnut and yew. Its sulphur yellow colour is given recognition in its scientific epithet sulphurous.

Chicken of the Woods © Dan LombardChicken of the Woods © Dan Lombard

Changing shape from bracket fungus to creepy horn like vertical shapes, next up is the radiantly coloured Yellow Stagshorn. This fungus can be commonly found in coniferous woodland; its amazing colour is so bright it can appear fluorescent in the dark. I photographed this specimen in the Forestry Commission’s Wykeham Forest in the North York Moors National Park in early September 2017. Look out for it on the woodland floor under trees where it grows on wood which may not be immediately visible as it often chooses to grow on small pieces of timber buried under the soil. The Latin named Genus Calocera of which Yellow Stagshorn belongs originates from the Greek for beautiful and waxy.

Yellow Stagshorn © Richard Baines Yellow Stagshorn © Richard Baines

Our third species also lurks in the undergrowth in similar habitat as the Stagshorn. The Common Earthball is scaly brown in colour (becoming darker with age) often looking similar in colour and texture to a potato. Earthballs can look similar to a Common Puffball but unlike the Puffball, Earthballs are poisonous. The spores can be seen as dark dust dislodged by rain droplets as the fungi grows old and its covering skin breaks up. The Latin name for the genus Scleroderma originates from scler- meaning hard, and -derma meaning skin.

Common Earthball © Richard Baines Common Earthball © Richard Baines

The importance of fungi for healthy ecosystems has been long recognised by scientists. This may be even greater than once imagined as a potential feedback loop has recently been discovered between the spores and rain. As the spores are released by rain and transported on the wind, tiny droplets of moisture settle within their structure and create opportunities for rain to be created by the existence of the spores themselves! For more on this exciting research click here 

Richard Baines

Yorkshire Coast Nature