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We are the 'champignons'!

Perfect weather and good numbers of fungi - what more could you look for in a ‘fungal foray’?

Perhaps an expert guide to open your eyes, not to mention your sense of taste and smell, to the wide variety of mushrooms and toadstools in Portmoak Moss.

We were lucky to have all those things on Sunday 28th August when Dr Tony Lyon, from Kishorn, led 36 members of the public on a guided walk in the Moss. The event was organised by Portmoak Community Woodland Group whose chair, Jeff Gunnell, promised exquisite knowledge and understanding from our guide and an exquisite experience for the rest of us. He wasn’t wrong.

Members of the group had been praying for rain in the weeks beforehand - to encourage the fungi to produce their fruiting bodies - the visible parts, like the mushrooms you see in the supermarket. Some well-timed downpours did the trick and there were fungi to be found everywhere, growing on the woodland floor, as well as on fallen trunks and live trees.

Dr Lyon, who lectured on mycology at Sheffield University, for 35 years, before moving to Scotland, quickly led us to delicate fungi smelling of chlorine, others tasting as hot as chilli and one, called Sulphur Tuft, with the flavour of strong quinine. Not advised for your gin and tonic - as it’s mildly poisonous.

Others had evocative common names - like Turkey Tails, Horsehair and the Hoof fungus, which especially like growing on birch. He discovered a Stinkhorn emerging from the forest floor at the base of a tree. It looked like a large egg but when he cut it in half you could clearly seen its component parts - green jelly and all. When it ‘fruits’ it smells like rotting drains so we weren’t sorry to catch it young.

Some of discoveries were made by the group - like the Bay Bolete - which is both safe and good to eat. Others Tony described as safe to eat but not worth trying, as their taste or texture were pretty disgusting.  By the end of the two hours we knew a great deal more than when we started - not only about the different species but also their function in the environment, from helping trees, by supplying them with minerals, to rotting down dead or dying wood. 

In fact, when you come to think of it, without fungi to help decompose the fallen leaves and branches we’d never have been able to get into the Moss at all!rsz 1rsz img 4261




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Portmoak Moss - Woodland Trust

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