Updated: Jan 29

Hello and welcome again to our blog.


Last March during lockdown we decided to post weekly tree identification videos of trees you can find in Linn Park. We loved researching trees and sharing our findings with you so we thought we'd do it again but with fungus this time. We tend to associate mushrooms or the fruit of the fungus with Autumn but they can be found all year round if you look carefully.


What we see is the 'fruit' of the fungus. The main body of the fungus is made up of fine threads (hyphae) that group together to make a mycelium. Most of the time the mycelium is hidden from view because it is growing through the soil or under fallen logs or decaying plant and animal remains. The fungus breaks down the dead remains and releases simple food products that it can absorb through the hyphae that make up its mycelium. This is how the fungus gets food for growth.


The fruit bodies are the fruits of the fungus - just like pears are the fruit on a pear tree.

Fruit bodies come in lots of different shapes, colours and sizes. The fruit of the Tinder fungus looks a little bit like a horse's hoof with a very hard shell and soft underside.




Tinder fungus can also be known as Horses Hoof fungus and it's Latin name is Fomes Fomentarius which means 'used for tinder'. Tinder fungus is found on birch trees in Scotland and occasionally beech trees in the south of the UK.


Tinder fungus belongs to the Polyporaceae family. It's a bracket fungus which means it grows out of trees that are dead, standing or lying on the ground. Tinder fungus fruiting bodies only appear once the tree it is growing on has died. Its incredible woody, tough fungi can grow up to 40cm wide and 20ch deep. Each curved line on the top of the fungus represents a year of its life, they can live up to the age of 22! The fungus will die when it has broken down the deadwood and removed all the nutrients it can from it.



As I mentioned we've used this fungus during our Forest School sessions. It was very tough and tricky to cut open so we ended up having to use a Billhook to split it open to have a closer look inside. Once inside you can see all the tiny tubes through which the spores will travel. The 'tinder' or Amadou is the fluffy looking part that's coincidentally shaped like a mushroom, we gave lighting it with a flint and steel a go but it was much more difficult than we thought. I've later learned that it needs to be prepared in a certain way, hopefully we can try it again when we get back into the woods.

The use of Tinder fungus to light fire dates back to over 5000 years ago. The body of the 'Iceman' found preserved in a glacier in the Alps in 1991, was accompanied by a pouch containing flint and a piece of dried tinder fungus, indicating that it played an important role then in people's use of fire.


The fungus has also long been known to have important healing properties, and in 400 BC Hippocrates referred to it as being used as an anti-inflammatory. Recent studies have found that it has strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, thereby confirming its age-old use.


Happy fungus finding


Until next week,


W.I.L.D.



Referenced with thanks

https://treesforlife.org.uk/

https://www.britmycolsoc.org.uk/mycokids


  • wildwoodlandlearning

Forest School is a continuous process. An opportunity to adapt to the environment around you as it moves through time. We learn through the changing seasons, adapt to fluctuating temperatures, rain, wind, snow, sunshine and now darkness.

We thrive on delivering sessions that work with and get the best out of seasonal changes, finding alternatives, making do with and improving what we have to work with. At W.I.L.D. we are extremely fortunate to use an incredible woodland brimming with flora and fauna. One thing our site doesn’t have is any lighting.


Bat detecting on Ha'Penny Bridge

Setting up the site safely in the dark was something we had to think long and hard about. Working with children in a public park in the dark is not something to take lightly and so the risk assessing and planning began in early October. Every forest school site we use is risk assessed, seasonally, monthly and daily taking into consideration every aspect of the woodland from the canopy to the forest floor. Now we’ve added in every additional risk darkness brings which means reducing the size of the site, lighting boundary lines and bringing in an additional member of staff (among many other things).


Fire creates warmth and focus for everyone

Once we had a plan, a dry run was the next stage. We visited the site in the dark loaded with various torches and lights to find out how it all worked in situ. We needed bright welcoming lighting for children and parents arriving at site as well as lanterns to light up the main areas of play, basecamp and the fire area. We wanted to create a warm, welcoming space as playing in the dark could be a little scary or least disorientating for some.



We are delighted to have Chloe join us for the remainder of the dark nights sessions. Chloe is also a Level 3 Forest School Leader and has tonnes of experience we can all learn from. Having an additional member of staff with us enables us to continue with activities like having a fire, crafts and tool work. So far we've been bat detecting, whittling, sawing tree cookies and lots of cooking on the fire.

These sessions work because we know the children and tailor the sessions to work in the dark. We meet the children in advance of the session, put on head torches and a high viz vest then walk to our Forest School Site. The same rules apply throughout the session, we practice 1,2,3 basecamp and they all understand the importance of coming to basecamp when called. They've all transitioned to the dark nights well, and mud play... whether you love it or loath it, has become a magnetic force few can resist...




  • wildwoodlandlearning

Updated: Feb 15

For our final blog of this series we are going to have a look at a real superpower of the woodland. Which is Deadwood trees. A deadwood is a tree that is partly or fully dead, it can be still standing or it could have fallen over onto the ground.


Deadwood is incredibly important to the biodiversity and overall health of a woodland! A deadwood tree can take decades to decay and decompose, and during this time it provides food and habitat to a wealth of plants and wildlife.



Why is Deadwood so important ?

  • 40% of woodland life is dependent on deadwood to survive.

  • A third of all birds nest in standing deadwood or deadwood holes in trees.

  • It provides micro-habitats for organisms such as fungi, lichens, insects, and mosses.

  • Deadwood slowly decays and releases essential nutrients and nitrogen back into the soil boosting the health of the woodland.

  • Trees store up carbon during their lifetime and then release this safely back into the earth when they die. Preventing its release into our atmosphere, through this action the tree helps reduce global warming.

  • At forest school – deadwood provides wonderful insects, fungi and mosses to look at. A moss sit spot to relax in. A bridge to jump from. A pirate ship to play in… a cauldron to mix in…. the list is endless…

Decomposers

A deadwood tree can take up to 40 years to decompose. It has help from decomposers which are organisms, fungi or invertebrates that decompose of organic material ie – our Deadwood tree. During the early stages decomposers that help are fungi and beetles, feeding on the tree and making their home in it. Fungi have enzymes that digest compounds in wood. It’s spectacular to see the various shapes colours and sizes of different fungi working away decomposing the deadwoods. Then as gaps and tunnels appear in the wood, spiders and wasps, hoverflies, millipede, woodlice and mites can move in to assist. They are all helping the tree decay but ultimately they are decomposing it purely be able to survive themselves.


Once there is space small mammals like mice, & voles, hedgehogs can use the deadwood. Some deadwood later evolves into burrows with foxes, rabbits and deer using them.



Activity

Can you spot any habitats in a deadwood tree the next time you are out in the woods? A habitat is somewhere that a plant, animal or organism lives. What do you think lives there?

Can you turn over a small piece of deadwood on the ground to look for insects? (remember to put it back gently).



Is there any indication of bigger mammals using the site too? Like their tracks or droppings? Can you see any holes high up on a standing deadwood made by birds as these are ideal roosting spots for Owls or Great Spotted Woodpecker. Can you see any birds coming and going? Standing deadwoods could also be used by bats so look out for them too around dusk.

So the next time you are out in the woods keep an eye out for the deadwood and see what wonderful micro-habitats you can spot on them.


It’s great to see all the new growth on our forest school sites and as we have said before…good things will return…nature proves that!


Hope to see you all soon at WILD!

Love from WILD

PS: This is our last blog in the series, we hope to get back out doing WILD forest School Sessions very soon! Stay WILD Folks!