Yesterday I joined in a Bioblitz being run by truffle hunter, Melissa Waddingham. Bioblitz is a nationally run scheme to survey and monitor the biodiversity in various areas. It’s not just mushrooms, anything ‘natural’ can form part of a bioblitz – birds, grasses, toads… It was an opportunity to get my head around fungi and to learn from some experts (as well as Melissa there was an expert from Sussex Fungi Group. Sussex has a fungi group! Imagine that!)
I’ve written about this before, but it took me a while to realise that, with foraging, you can’t really just identify the edible species. If you don’t know what other members of a species look like, how can you be sure that you have the right one? Becoming an amateur botanist (and a mycologist) is really the only way to do it in my book. Luckily, identifying stuff is fascinating. I could spend an hour looking at the plants in one square metre of grass. Actually, I have spent an hour looking at the plants in one square meter of grass.
Though I love plants I have a special place in my heart for fungi. Plants are kinda everywhere. Walk out of your door and there’s a fair chance you’ll see some plant matter within a minute or two (if you don’t, poor you..!). But fungi (not counting mould) are mysterious. They hide in the ground until they’re ready and then enormous constructions like this come up overnight. You can almost hear a little POP as another one appears. They only really appear after rain and they have such a short season – everything conspires to make them elusive. Finding something good really feels like opening your eyes on Christmas morning and finding presents at the end of your bed.
I took my Roger Phillips book out with me and tried to identify what I found before I asked an expert. I got a few very nearly right – I almost identified this ganoderma for example, but then didn’t quite.
Fungi identification seems to be the perfect opportunity to design from patterns to details. I think I would have a much easier time of it if I sat down and learnt, properly, the identifying characteristics of each family. I’m alright on boletes (they’re kind of easy) and I reckon I’d do ok with the stinkhorn family (family name Phallaceae – do I need to explain what their identifying characteristic is?). So, next step – learn fungi families. I could make a fungi Guess Who game! (I probably won’t).