I haven’t had much to post about this autumn, having taken the year off running fungi foraging events because I have just moved to Ceredigion in Wales, and I’ve spent most of my time since then getting our smallholding up and running, and restoring a neglected system of 3 wildlife ponds. Which meant I didn’t even bother checking what was going on in the field beyond our top field, and didn’t realise there was a bonanza on offer. Until today the only Agaricus species I’ve seen growing in our new vicinity was moelleri (aka “Inky Mushroom”) — a relatively small species that smells of TCP and gives people headaches and stomach aches. But today, on a hunch, I decided to go in a direction I hadn’t been for weeks, and I was treated to the biggest mass-fruiting I have ever seen of the biggest Agaricus of them all – the Macro Mushroom (Agaricus macrosporus syn. urinascens).
Agaricus is a relatively tricky genus. None of the 30-odd British species are seriously poisonous, but working out which species you’ve found is frequently rather difficult, since they all look like relatives of cultivated mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus, in all its domesticated forms). A handful are easier to be sure of, and this is one of them — it is one of the few fungi that can be distinguished from its many otherwise-lookalikes by size alone. The largest fruit bodies can reach 30cm in diameter. See 50p for scale in the last photo. This species is a very close relative of the much more common (and smaller) Horse Mushroom (Agaricus arvensis) and has the same mild aniseed aroma. Found in grassland throughout the British Isles, often in rings (in this case about 20). My freezer is now full of perfect, grub-free specimens, and there are several large mushrooms lodged in the branches of trees on the other (upwind) side of our property, in the hope that this species will colonise our fields.
I also have some good news regarding events for next year. I have found a great location to run fungi foraging events — a 420 acre sheep farm near the village of Talley in Carmarthenshire. There is plenty of woodland, both deciduous and coniferous, and a grassland ridge that was covered in waxcaps when I visited in late October. Dates and booking information here.