Britain is brimming with fungi as recent wet weather causes mushroom explosion

Fungi are being spotted all over Britain this week as the damp summer followed by the wet autumn weather has created perfect conditions for them to ‘fruit’.  Gardeners at the RHS Gardens and Partner Gardens up and down the country are reporting unusual species, giant specimens and proliferations of fairy rings and the red and white-spotted toadstools or fly agaric (Amanita muscaria), beloved of fairy tales.

Earthstars, which release a puff of spores when pressed, are flourishing at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey as well as different varieties of a fungus that resembles tiny egg-filled bird's nests. A puffball mushroom bigger than a human head was found there recently as well as the black and spooky Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha).

Last week the rare Devil’s fingertips or Octopus Stinkhorn (Clathus archeri) was spotted at RHS Garden Rosemoor, North Devon. While this specimen has died, gardeners are waiting on tenterhooks as another is expected to appear at any moment.  RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Harrogate, held a funghi foray at the weekend, spotting unusual kinds including Scarlet Caterpillarclub and Orange Peel funghi.

RHS Hyde Hall in Essex has the striking shiny green mushroom Verdigris Agaric (Stropharia aeruginosa) and the delicate Magpie Incap (Coprinopsis picacea).

Robert Brett, Curator, RHS Garden Hyde Hall, said: “We are seeing a lot more fungi here this year than previous years and it is definitely due to all the wet weather. We are in one of the driest areas of the country so it’s proof that mushrooms love the rain!”

Michael Jordan, Chair of The Fungus Conservation Trust, recently led a fungi foray at RHS Partner Garden, Hestercombe House and Gardens in Somerset, where they recorded an unprecedented 102 species in two hours.

He said: “Fungi usually start ‘fruiting’ from late July, peak through September and October, and end in early December.  We are seeing a significant flush emerging right now, brought on by the ideal summer and autumn weather.”

 Other RHS Partner Gardens are also reporting increased fungi sightings, including the ones below:

  • Birkshead Gardens and Nursery, Newcastle, has had shelves of bracket fungi growing out of logs and old trees, puffballs bigger than footballs and a common stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus) that looked so rude, it offended a visitor.
  • Attadale Gardens, Wester Ross has lots of Heath Waxcaps (Hygrocybe laeta)
  • East Lambrook Manor Gardens, Somerset, has an abundance of fungi including giant puffballs, a Plums and Custard mushroom (Tricholomopsis rutilans) and a Powder Puff bracket fungus (Postia ptychogaster).
  • Burrow Farm Gardens and Stone Lane Gardens, Devon, and Normanby Hall Country Park, North Lincolnshire all have beautiful specimens of fly agaric
  • Stowe, Buckinghamshire has a beautiful fairy ring around one of its trees.
  • Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum, Essex has a sea of field mushrooms as well as fly agaric, puff balls and shaggy ink caps
  • Sherborne Castle, Dorset has a slime mould known as Dog Vomit (Mucilago crustacean)
  • Minterne Gardens, Dorset has various mushrooms sprouting through their beautiful lawn

Guy Barter, Chief Horticulturist, Royal Horticultural Society, said: “We have a visual feast of funghi across our gardens at the moment. Fairy rings are annoying on lawns, but for the most part fungi are beneficial to gardeners. They break down organic matter in the soil and elsewhere, turning it into plant food.  They also feed a host of microbes which are important for biodiversity. Some are associated with plant roots and in exchange for sugars with which to grow, can protect roots from attack by harmful organisms and may supply the roots with water and nutrients in times of shortage.”

However not all fungi are positive news. As well as those that are poisonous, honey fungus Armillaria mellea is the bane of gardeners as it attacks and kills the roots of many plants and is very hard to eradicate. RHS plant scientists are working to combat its threat, recently releasing research on plants which are resistant to it. Meripilus giganteus is another harmful kind, which causes a white rot in the roots of various types of broadleaved trees, chiefly beech.

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