• wildwoodlandlearning

Let's start at the very beginning with this one.

Over 1.3 billion years ago, fungi were the first multi-cell organisms to live on the land of planet Earth. They proceeded to break down geological rock into a life supporting habitat for the plants to grow. The process to create this habitat took around 700 million years, when plants and trees started to appear on earth. I'm finding it quite tricky to imagine a planet without trees, only fungus! Here are some ideas to feed the imagination:

1. scientificillustration.tumblr.com

2. Cover of "Journey to the Centre of the Earth"

3. bizleyart.com

Fungi has thrived for all this time and is an incredibly important part of our ecosystem. In this blog post I want to attempt to explain what fungi is and how it contributes to the ecosystem. Mycelium is the main part of the fungus that lives in the wood or soil. The word mycelium literally means “more than one”. This refers to the tiny filaments that make up mycelium, they're called hyphae. The hyphae are branching filaments that transport decomposing enzymes, a mass of hyphae is called mycelium.

Mycelium is everywhere as are the minuscule spores that mushrooms send out in to the air. The fruiting body of the fungus sends out these spores to reproduce, when they land on a host (log) they germinate, make more hyphae, mycelium and fruiting bodies, completing the cycle of reproduction. Just like an apple on a tree the mushroom is a fruit of these reproducing fungi. We're not aware but we breath in fungal spores with every breath we take, the fungal spores happily live inside humans too!

As we breathe in fungal spores we walk over miles and miles of mycelium under the ground everyday! For every 1m of tree root there is 1km of mycelium, 30% of soil is made up of fungal mass. These magical connectors can sense changes in their environment and make 'decisions' on their most successful pathways to survival. Does fungus have feelings? Our knowledge of fungus and the extent of its capabilities has a long way to go.

Here you can see mycelium growing in the trunk of a birch tree that has turkey tail growing on it. The tree was recently snapped by strong winds revealing the mycelium inside.

Some species of fungi form symbiotic relationships with plants. Mycorrhizal fungi are associated with plant roots. This relationship is mutually beneficial because mycelium facilitate the transfer of nutrients from the soil into plant roots, and in turn receive carbon from the plant. Carbon is stored by fungi in the soil and therefore is not released as carbon dioxide. It was once thought that plants were the only source of carbon for mycorrhizal fungi. However, research reveals that mycorrhizal fungi can actively decompose organic carbon.

As I mentioned, mycelium can be found on the carcasses of animals as well as trees. This fox has been decomposing for almost 10 weeks and has had vary amounts of mycelium working on it. These photos were taken 3 weeks apart, you can see the mycelium, the white substance around the tummy area.

Fungus has not just survived but thrived over billions of years and has brought many benefits to humans including penicillin (mould) and yeast which provides us with bread and alcohol. It decomposes all the dead wood and animal matter, keeping our woods pleasant and accessible. It provides plants and animals with nutrients to grow. It provides humans food, medicine and joy from the study of mycology. Fungus may also be the answer to the environmental problems facing the planet, we humans should listen to it.

Stop, observe and learn from mother nature, for she has an answer to everything.

Take care,


Referenced with thanks:




If you want to find out more about Fungi, here are a few suggestions:

Entangled Life - Sheldrake

Mycelium Running - Paul Stamets

Fantastic Fungi (film) - Paul Stamets (he also has lots of great YouTube vids and Ted Talks)

  • wildwoodlandlearning

It’s such a boost of positive energy to get out in the woods for a walk just now. This week on a wander I stumbled upon several gorgeous Turkeytail fungi’s so thought it would be a good one to share with you. It is very common and abundant all year round. But is especially visible just now as the broadleaf trees are bare and a lot of ground growth has died back so it’s really out there on show!

The shape, colours and patterns of Turkeytail as I’m sure you can imagine - resemble a Turkeys fan like tail feathers! Also in China it is known as the Cloud Fungus!

It is Saprobic so that’s a wood rotting fungus which colonizes its host, gaining and distributing nutrients and decomposing of the rotting wood. It is a Bracket Fungi so we’ll find it on standing or fallen down deadwoods, tree stumps or damaged trees. It’s a Polypore Bracket so has lots of tiny pore holes on its underside.

It’s wonderful scientific name is ‘Trametes versicolor’ - meaning ‘thin in sections’ and ‘of several colours’ which makes sense. It comes in a stunning array of coloured layers which can be red, yellow, green, blue, brown, grey or black or a mixture of these colours. It is also known as Coriolus versicolor and Polyporus versicolor, and it even used to be known as the Many Zoned Polypore!

Check out this week’s video to see one of the Turkeytails I found in Linn Park and have a look at the identification traits below for tips on spotting it. It may be common and easy to see but you will need to use your detective skills to confirm if it is definitely a true Turkeytail or a beautiful lookalike!

Identification Traits

· Grows in tiered semi-circular discs that are only about 1-3mm thick and up to 10cm wide. · · · They may overlap each other to form much larger fruiting areas.

· The outside edge is always a pale white/cream.

· Texture of cap surface – Fuzzy and velvety to the touch with fine hairs you can see with a magnifying glass. The texture changes as colour changes.

· Underside is white/crème/grey and is covered in lots of tiny shallow pores – this is where the fungi’s spores are produced and will drop down from. Use a magnifying glass to see them!

· Where – found on dead/damaged hardwood deciduous trees like Oak or Beech.

Question - is it a true Turkey Tail or a false Turkey tail?

There are lots of other bracket fungi species that are similar to Turkeytail. There are also Crust Fungi that look like it too! Use this test to check if true turkey tail is what you’ve found!

? Can you see several distinctly different colour zones in the layers on the cap?

? Does the top surface feel fuzzy/velvety and change texture between the coloured layers?

? Are the new mushrooms thin and flexible?

? Is it on a hardwood broadleaf tree (one that loses its leaves) and not a conifer (which are mostly evergreens)?

? THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION - is the underneath white/grey with lots of tiny pore holes when seen magnified? (3-8 pore holes per mm). Bring a magnifying glass to check!

If the answers are yes to these questions then you have found true Turkeytail! – and if not it’s an equally interesting lookie-likie!


A similar bracket fungi I see is Purplepore Bracket Fungus. See the photos below for a comparison. This one is on its favoured deadwood - a conifer tree. The cap feels bumpy to the touch, the colours are paler and more similar to each other and when I looked underneath it had tooth like pores. When this fungi was younger it would have been more purple, now it’s stained green with Algae. Still another beautiful fungi to have a look out for!

I also keep finding all different kinds of Crust Fungi which at certain stages in their development look really like Turkey Tail, whilst at other times they are nothing like it! Some crust fungi have even been called False Turkey Tails. Looking underneath the fungi is the key way to check if it’s Turkey tail or not. For example on these fungi below I could see that the underneath was smooth and shiny and an orange colour so not Turkey Tail!

Value to Wildlife

Bracket Fungi tend to last longer than others – Turkey Tail can last a year plus. It can often survive the winter season as its tough and flexible, due to this many invertebrates make use of it. Fly or moth larvae burrow and mine into it for shelter, some beetles and slugs get a meal from it – and some insects and birds will eat the other insects living in the fungi! Deers may even have a nibble on the fungi too!

Other Uses

Turkey Tail has been researched and used medicinally for its apparent immune system boosting benefits. Also as it is so colourful people used to use it to decorate their hats or as table decorations!

As with all fungi – I’m always respectful of it, not damaging or having any need to remove it. It has such an important job to do in the woodland. Turkey tail is safe for most of us to touch but if I am touching any fungi I make sure to wash my hands after (we are experts at doing this anyway just now right?).

I bet you can think of lots of different times in the year when you have seen Turkey Tail. Good luck in finding it or comparing it to one of its lookalikes this week and perhaps you might even see some invertebrates making use of it! We look forward to hearing all about what you’ve found.

Take Care all!

Love W.I.L.D.


For reference with thanks:


Books: Collins Fungi Guide.

  • wildwoodlandlearning

This week's fungus is the beautiful and delicate scarlet elf cup, it's a real delight to find in the depths of winter. It's the fungus of faeries and folklore, used in ancient medicine for its healing properties. We'll have look at how, where and when to find this winter beauty.

Scarlet elf cup looks exactly as it sounds, a deep hollow bowl shape from which elves can drink morning dew or faeries can bathe. The inner surface of the bowl is deep red and the outer surface is orange. It has a close relative called the ruby elf cup fungus which is very similar, perhaps a little darker in colour. The red surface is where the spores are released from. Scarlet elf cup is an 'ascomycota' fungus which means it actively shoots its spores into the air. You can see this happening on a YouTube video here

Scarlet elf cups offer one of the best opportunities to observe this spore explosion: by blowing on them (ideally in March or April) you can trigger them to shoot clouds of spores which can be seen with the naked eye. This is not the movement of your breath raising a cloud, but the slight change in temperature that it brings triggering many thousands of spores into being expelled from the inner surface of the cup by a pump action. I'm looking forward to giving this a go in spring time, it also helps disperse the spores to enable more scarlet elf cup to grow.

We've talked about 'decomposer fungus' or saprophytes which eat dead wood and recycle it into nutrients which are released back into the earth to support new plant life. Scarlet elf cup is a saprophyte which lives on dead branches of deciduous trees such as hazel or sycamore which are decaying and normally covered in moss. It likes to grow in damp places, especially on the forest floor where it can attach itself to leaf litter or nestle into rotting mossy branches. You'll find it in shady, damp ditches and near river beds. Scarlet elf cup is found all over the UK, more often in areas with high rainfall, making Scotland a perfect home for it.

Many foragers use this fungus as it presents beautifully on the plate. Some say the fungus is inedible whilst others say it has an 'earthy' taste with a hint of beetroot! We encourage you to leave the elf cups where you see them, in their natural environment, doing their job for everyone to admire.

Until next week,

Happy fungi finding,