Saturday 28 January 2017


Over the last couple of months, I have been hunting for fungi in Milton Country Park, with more success than I had expected. Fungi are neither numerous nor prominent in the park and I have only ever seen the odd one or two in the years I have been visiting there. But a fairly determined search during December and January revealed quite a few specimens, mostly small and mostly growing on trees or rotting wood. The restricted habitat in which I found the fungi may simply reflect the time of year, and there may well be more mushrooms and toadstools in the park at other times of year, which I have simply overlooked.

Close up of a clump of Jelly Ear Fungus
Jelly Ear Fungus - 18 December 2016
This fungus is said to be the tormented spirit of Judas Iscariot trying to escape

I feel I should attempt to identify my findings. However, I am no mycologist, and a quick trawl through the relevant sites on the net quickly persuaded me that any names I put to the fungi were unlikely to be accurate. So, instead, I have used vernacular and generic terms, which may still be wrong, but, because of their imprecision, are unlikely to seriously mislead anyone.

Bracket Fungus - 13 January 2017

Fungi occupy a shadowy in between position in the natural world, neither plant nor animal. Many, including myself, may see them more as plants without chlorophyll; but, there are larger differences which dictate they are classified in a separate kingdom.

Moss growing on the top of a clump of bracket fungus
Bracket Fungus - 13 January 2017
Old bracket fungus now providing a suitable surface for moss to grow on

In some ways, they occupy a similar position in mythology and folklore: of this world, but part of the unseen world of fairies, gnomes and goblins. There are plenty of general, unspecific, references to the importance of fungi in folklore, without any details being given. The one exception, are fairy rings, which I have not seen in Milton Country Park.

Large plates of bracket fungus attached to log floating on water
Bracket Fungus on Floating Log - 22 January 2017
The largest fungus I found in the Country Park
Like trees, fungi add growth rings each growing season
On that basis, I reckon these specimens are over ten years old.

I did find one fungus in the park that has folklore attached: the Jelly Ear fungus. The Bible relates that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an elder tree in shame after betraying Jesus. This ear-like fungus, which is found on elder, was thought to be the tormented spirit of Judas trying to escape. It was originally name Judas's Ear, which was later shortened to Jew's Ear - a name that has now fallen of favour because of its anti-semitic overtones.

Clumps of stags horn fungus growing on a moss covered tree stump.
Stag's Horn Fungus - 22 January 2017
Also known as the Candlesnuff Fungus because it glows in the dark
However, its bioluminescence is so feeble, in these days of light pollution, an image intensifier is needed to see it

Most of the fungi that I found were bracket fungi, a group of fungi of many different genera that grow on trees and are of a similar shape. There are both saprophytic and parasitic members in the group, the latter of which will prove fatal for the host tree. Bracket fungi are long lived and specimens at least twenty years old and weighing up to three hundred pounds have been reported.

Mass of toadstools pushing way up out of ground.
Toadstools - 10 April 2016

I have found three types of fungus which are not bracket fungus: one - the stag's horn fungus  which was growing on a rotten tree stump; while the other two appeared to be free living.

In April last year, I had come across a clump of toadstools breaking through the soil.  Two derivations are suggested for the name 'toadstool': one from the German 'tod' - death, and 'stuhl' - stool; the other based on a belief in the Middle Ages that, as they were poisonous, they were associated with toads.

Small delicate translucent white toadstool growing in leaf litter.
Among the Leaf Mould - 22 December 2016

Finally, I found this tiny toadstool growing among the rotting leaves. My first reaction was that it was immature, but clearly its fruiting body is fully developed, and this must be its final size.

Mites Eggs


Small spherical eggs attached to leaf by a stalk.
Mites Eggs - 22 January 2017

While photographing some fungi on a fallen twig, I noticed small white dots on a nearby fallen leaf. I assumed that this was some form of fungi. The photograph reveals that each white dot, about the size of a pinhead, is attached to the leaf by a very slender stalk. After further research, I have concluded that these are in fact mites' eggs. I went back two days later to try to get a better photograph, but by then wind, rain, and passing animals had disturbed the leaves, and the affected leaf was lost.

Further Reading

Fungi Families/Types Identity Parade
The Fungus Amongst Us  
Polypore - Wikipedia
Why This Weird Looking Mushroom is Called “Jew’s Ear” 
Tree Bracket Fungus 
Xylaria hypoxylon (L.) Grev. - Candlesnuff Fungus  

Next: Ivy 



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