Tag Archives: larch bolete

The mysterious case of the missing mushrooms, and other news…

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com
Phone: 07964 569715

19/09/2016

Larch Bolete (19/09/2015, south-east Sussex)

Larch Bolete (19/09/2015, south-east Sussex)

Given the length of time that mycologists and foragers have been watching fungi, you might think we would have a pretty good idea if there’s going to be a good year or a bad year and be able to predict what they are going to do. If so, you’d be wrong. This is actually part II of the mysterious case of the missing mushrooms – part I was the second half of last autumn. In that case what happened was an extended dry spell from mid-September to late October. That this led to a lack of fungi isn’t remotely mysterious; fungi need moisture or they cannot produce fruit bodies. The mystery was their total failure to recover when the rains finally came. I expected November 2015 to make up for the disappointing October, but the situation actually got worse, and by the end of November there was nothing to be found, even though the usual season-ending hard frost hadn’t happened. My most successful outing of last autumn was exactly one year ago: September 19th 2015. Today I returned to the precise locations I visted that day and I found sweet fanny adams. And it is not just some species that are missing; it’s almost everything apart from a few wood-consuming bracket fungi like Giant Polypore and Beefsteak Fungus. This is particularly strange, since last year’s poor showing might have been expected to be followed by a bumper harvest this year. A further element of strangeness is a geographical inconsistency – in the northern half of Britain there is a completely different story unfolding. Judging by the photos and the words of mouth, the start to the mushroom season in Scotland and northern England is at least average and in some places very good indeed.

Fly Agaric (19/09/2015, south-east Sussex)

Fly Agaric (19/09/2015, south-east Sussex)

I won’t pretend that I know what is going on, but my best guess is that it is a combination of temperature and soil moisture. We’ve just had the highest September temperatures for over a century, and my home territory lies just on the border of what botanists call “hardiness zone 9”. Most of the UK is in the colder zone 8, but the south west and the areas immediately adjacent to the south and west coasts of Britain are warmer. This is due to the sea acting as a temperature buffer: daytime highs are slightly lower and nighttime lows are slighty higher. The result is that while the average lows further north have fallen below the level that triggers most of the autumn fungi to fruit, in the far south the fungi still think it is summer. Although it is more complicated than that, because what I’ve been seeing over the past two weeks is one fruit body here and there – one Deathcap, one Blusher, or as today, one Scarletina Bolete (spotted from the car, growing by the side of a road). This suggests that soil moisture content is also playing a part, even though we have had a reasonable amount of rain recently. I won’t pretend that I know what is going to happen next either, but my best guess is that it is just taking a while for the fungi to respond to recent temperature falls and heavy rain, and that within a week or two there will be fungi all over the place. I certainly hope so, because I have got a busy October ahead of me.

Penny Bun / Cep (19/09/2015, south-east Sussex)

Penny Bun / Cep (19/09/2015, south-east Sussex)

Speaking of which, it is probably worth reminding people of some important dates and events which still have free spaces.

Firstly, I have just added another extra date to my fungi foraging sessions in Hemsted Forest (west Kent), due to the others being booked up. This will be on Saturday November 5th (see fungi foraging link at the top of the page).

There are still places available on the fungi foraging workshops on Sat/Sun 8th/9th of October at Bay Tree Cottage in Northamptonshire, and the fungi foraging day and chef-prepared meal on Sun 16th of October at Catthorpe Manor in Leicestershire.

There will be a book launch event (free) on Sat Oct 22nd at Bookbuster, Queen’s Road, Hastings. This will include talks at 6pm and 7.15pm, and signed copies of the new book will be on sale.

There will be another launch event on Fri Nov 4th at The Garden House in Brighton, East Sussex. The launch event will include a display of a wide variety of fungi, signed copies of the book will be available, and it is followed by a talk, a tasting session and a meal (see their website for details).

Late autumn messes with the mushrooms

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com
Phone: 07964 569715

29/10/2014

I have been putting off blogging, waiting for the autumn that still hasn’t come. We are now two days away from November, and I am still walking around in not much more than a T-shirt. And it has been a weird year for fungi.

Penny Bun, Larch Bolete and masses of The Miller, bucking the general trend for this autumn.

Penny Bun, Larch Bolete and masses of The Miller, bucking the general trend for this autumn.

The end of August and start of September were superb – plenty of boletes around, including some rare ones, as well as russulas and amanitas and all manner of late summer and early autumn species. Then it all went wrong. After the driest September on record, by early October there was very little in the way of fungi to be found, and I was praying for rain. But the rains, when they finally came at the start of October, did not bring a glut of fungi. In fact for two weeks it seemed to make no difference at all – still no mushrooms, just a bit more mud. Then finally, a couple of weeks ago, there was some sort of recovery, although it is incredibly patchy, both in terms of locations and selection of species. This photo of one small area where several species were fruiting in abundance was the exception to the rule, and may have been partly caused by the fact the nearby larch trees were dying – apparently sometimes symbiotic fungi go a bit crazy if they their partner trees are dying.  (Although The Miller (Clitopilus prunulus) is one of the few species that has been doing better than normal.)  Anyway, as things stand, with temperatures still considerably higher than normal for this time of year, there are still great swathes of woodland where there are almost no fungi at all. In some other locations there is quite a lot of stuff to be found, but even in those places there are all sorts of things that are still missing, or doing very badly indeed.

Macrolepiota konradii, fruiting abundantly in October 2014

Macrolepiota konradii, fruiting abundantly in October 2014

One group that is doing very well indeed are the parasols – all of them. There has been a second flush of “normal” parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera), including some very large specimens, the shaggy parasols (Chlorophyllum rhacodes) are doing well, and their more obscure relatives such as Macrolepiota konradii, with its distinctive star-patterned cap, are all having their best year in a long time. Other exceptions to the general malaise are the Suillus species, especially the Larch Bolete (S. grevellei).

Only in the last two days have I begun to see a more general improvement, although I say these words with trepidation and wouldn’t be remotely surprised if it’s just another blip. I have, however, seen winter chanterelles (Craterellus tubaeformis) and Jersey Cow Boletes (Suillus bovinus) starting to come through in some places. These are later-season fruiters.

What is going to happen next? I wish I knew. I’m hoping that once the temperature drops – as it must surely do some time very soon – we are going to have a massive glut of fungi, as loads of species that have been waiting for their moment all go for it at the same time. But since predicting what the fungi are going to do is a mug’s game, I’m not going to predict that. 2014 might yet just turn out to be a poor year for fungi. We will see. Soon, hopefully…

Autumn arrives in Britain – It’s Mushroomtime…

07/09/2013

As anyone in rural areas of the north will not need to be told, yesterday autumn arrived in Britain, with a splash. The temperature dropped by about ten degrees in most places, and nearly everywhere had a very welcome downpour. We’ve just had the best summer since 2006, but it does now look as if it’s over. Hopefully (from my point of view anyway) there will be no repeats of the misplaced October heatwave we were subjected to in 2011.

7th September 2013, Sussex.

7th September 2013, Sussex.

It’s also perfect timing in terms of fungi. The first big flush of autumn species had just started poking their heads above ground in the last few days, and the change in the weather means they won’t get dried out and with a bit of luck they will start fruiting in abundance. Today was my first (advertised as) peak session with a group of foraging students, and it produced my first decent basketful of English wild mushrooms of 2013 (we are about 3 or 4 weeks behind northern Scotland down here on the south coast).

We found in excess of forty species altogether, and if I include a couple I found before the session officially started, the list of edible species found today is as follows:

Parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera), ruby bolete (Xerocomus rubellus), larch bolete (Suillus grevellei), bay bolete (Boletus badius), the blusher (Amanita rubescens), tawny grisette (Amanita fulva), brown birch bolete (Leccinum scabrum), blackening russula (Russula nigricans), rooting shank (Oudemansiella radicata), orange oak bolete (Leccinum aurantiacum), velvet russula (Russula violiepes), the miller (Clitopilus prunulus), blushing wood mushroom (Agaricus silvaticus), honey fungus (Armillaria mellea) and chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus).

Now is the time to book if you want to go mushrooming with an expert this autumn! 🙂

Geoff