Fungi Summer Fun

Ceriporus (Polyporus) squamosus (Dryad’s Saddle)

 

Midsummer is not the best time of year for fungi, especially when the weather has been so hot and dry. Fungi either dry up or do not fruit

There are still species to look out for in the shadier areas of woods and parks.

Pleurotus ostreatus (Oyster Mushroom)

Very common growing on dead wood on trees, standing or fallen, sometimes in large groups. The colour varies from off white, grey to dark brown. They have gills. They are quite soft and smooth to the touch but they tend to dry up in hot weather. It was first cultivated as a subsistence crop by Germany during the First World War. It is now a widely grown commercially and available in shops. I do not encourage picking fungi for food but if you must, wild oyster mushrooms often contain slivers of wood so beware. They are carnivorous. They produce a toxin that kills and dissolves nematode worms which are ingested to obtain protein. Tasty.

 

Pleurotus ostreatus (Oyster Mushroom)
Pleurotus ostreatus
(Oyster Mushroom)

 

Fistulina hepatica (Beefsteak Fungus)

That is what it looks like. When young and fresh it even oozes ‘blood’. Fairly common on large pieces of dead oak wood, often hidden in hollow trunks and gaps. It stains the oak wood and is popular with cabinet makers. It is said to be edible but a bit sour and metallic. It never looks attractive to eat. I once had one growing on an old climbing rose in my garden. Very unusual. Kew Fungarium requested my specimen with a piece of the wood. In cutting the wood out I managed to finish off the rose.

 

Fistulina hepatica (Beefsteak Fungus)
Fistulina hepatica
(Beefsteak Fungus)

 

Pholiota squarrosa (Shaggy Parasol)

Very common at the base of trees and stumps, being a parasite of dead wood. It grows mainly on deciduous trees of many varieties. I most often see it in large compact groups with beech trees. It is a gilled fungus. There are a number of less common family members that look similar. It was once regarded as an edible fungus but is now recognised as poisonous especially if eaten with alcohol.

 

Pholiota squarrosa (Shaggy Parasol).
Pholiota squarrosa
Shaggy Parasol)

 

Schizophyllum commune (Split Gill)

Common on sick trees and fallen wood, especially the large fallen trunks of beech in parks, this is a small ordinary looking fan shaped white bracket that grows in rows. It is the curled and split gill on the underside that gives it the name. It dehydrates and rehydrates easily so is long-lasting where it grows. It is said not be poisonous but tougher than the wood it lives on.

 

Schizophyllum commune (Split Gill)
Schizophyllum commune
(Split Gill)

 

Ceriporus (Polyporus) squamosus (Dryad’s Saddle)

A plate shaped pored fungus that can grow very large, up to 50cms across, often in layers on dead trees and stumps. Very common and not unduly affected by hot weather. Often has a black stem. It prefers elm but as this tree is disappearing, locally it seems to have moved to ash. Other trees are sometimes hosts. The largest number I have seen locally is in the lower level of The Eric Hardy Reserve in Liverpool.

 

Ceriporus (Polyporus) squamosus (Dryad’s Saddle)
Ceriporus (Polyporus) squamosus (Dryad’s Saddle)

 

Laetiporus sulphurous (Chicken of the Woods)

This large and colourful fungus is usually found in large tiers on oak but also on other trees. When young it is said to taste like chicken and used as ‘vegetarian meat’ in stews. But some people have an allergic reaction to it and it must be thoroughly cooked. As it ages it develops into a tough acidic bracket. I have seen it locally on trees growing on roadside verges. A renowned mycologist held a lunch to launch his new fungal identification book. A dish of wild mushrooms was served that included Chicken of the Woods. But it had been picked from a yew tree. Yew is poisonous and it affected the fungus. Guests ended up in hospital. A specimen grows on yew at Allerton Manor Golf Club. I have tried it. It is not to my taste.

 

Laetiporus sulphurous (Chicken of the Woods)
Laetiporus sulphurous (Chicken of the Woods)
Laetiporus sulphurous (Chicken of the Woods)
Laetiporus sulphurous (Chicken of the Woods)

 

Concerning edible fungi, I do not support foraging for the table. There are too many hurdles for the inexperienced...

Have you identified the fungus? Have you identified the plant? Many parks are built on old contaminated industrial sites that affect fungi. Fungi contain complex chemicals which may adversely interact with prescription drugs. Fungi believed to be edible are now considered poisonous.

Why take the risk?

 

By Tony Carter