You can see lots of mushrooms and toadstools in Fineshade, particularly in autumn, and they come in all sorts of sizes, colours and shapes. But identifying them all is another matter entirely! It seems that fungi have not been well recorded here in recent times: when we asked Northants Biological Record Centre for a list of species recorded here they replied that they had only two validated records, both dating from 1980! These were the rare Foetid Parachute (Micromphale foetidum) and the much more common Dryad's Saddle (Polyporus squamosus).
Some mushrooms and toadstools are easy to identify whereas the species of others can only be determined by expert analysis with a microscope. On this page we list some of the ones where the identity is fairly certain - though we would be very pleased to be corrected if anyone spots any errors. We'd also be very pleased to welcome mycologists to Fineshade in order to help create a more complete list of the wood's fungi.
Latest additions are at the bottom of this page.
Treading in Berkeley's footsteps
Rev M.J.Berkeley, a Victorian clergyman, was one of the founding fathers of mycology, the study of fungi. He lived in King's Cliffe and studied the fungi in the local woods including here in Fineshade.
Magpie Inkcap (Coprinopsis picacea)
There is a small area of Fineshade where these appear regularly, usually between May and November, though the third picture was taken in January 2016. The very distinctive fungus is found throughout Europe but is infrequent in Britain.
The fruit bodies are particularly short-lived and disintegrate within a day or two. (More here)
Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)
This iconic fungus is not widespread, but there is a particular broad area south of Top Lodge where they can be seen most years.
It can cause hallucinations or intoxication but the common name refers to the way in which it was formally used as a fly killer. It was crumbled into milk and served to attract, and kill, insects. (More here and here)
Scarlet Elfcups (Sarcoscypha sp.)
This fungus can be seen in early spring, from January to April, and has only been recorded in one part of Fineshade so far.
The cups can tolerate frost, and their scarlet inner surface is shaped like a parabola and angled towards the south, so as to reflect the feeble heat of the winter sun towards the sporagia where the spores are located. (More here)
Shaggy Bracket (Inonotus hispidus)
A single specimen was found on the side of an Ash tree in Far Markham's Wood in September 2016.
The drops of liquid are one of the key features of this bracket species which has pipes running through the body. The fungus is quite rare and is said to be the most important cause of decay in standing Ash trees. (More here)
Stump Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme)
There are many types of puffball fungus, most of which grow on the ground, but this one grows in large clusters on rotting wood. The brown dust-like spores are usually released in clouds through the central orifice in response to impacts such as those of falling raindrops.
It is very common and widespread and apparently edible when young and white!
Penny Bun (Boletus edulis)
This fungus is highly prized by those who enjoy eating wild fungi and is also known as a cep or porcino. It is rare in Fineshade - this one was the only specimen found during an hour and a half's searching by an expert forager. They can occur anytime from June to November.
Like the other Boletes there are pores rather than gills on the underside.
Candlesnuff (Yylaria hypoxylon)
A fairly distinctive fungus which grows on dead logs, stumps and branches in the broadleaf parts of Fineshade. The slender black base with white tips is thought to look like the snuffed out wick of a candle.
It grows throughout the year and is a very common species in Britain.
Trooping Funnel (Clitocybe geotropa)
This is one of the species of fungus that tends to grow in large circles and appears quite frequently among the autumnal leaf litter in the broadleaved parts of Fineshade Wood.
Mushrooms that are in a close group, but not close enough to be called a cluster, are said to be in a troop. There are several other types of funnel fungus some of which, confusingly, also grow in circular troops.
Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)
When it first emerges this small species is really brightly coloured but it quickly fades and then it can be it very difficult to identify - hence the name 'deceiver'.
It is uniformly coloured with cap, gills and stem starting off a very deep purple colour.
Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare)
Another small common fungus that grows in prolific clusters on decaying stumps of broadleaved trees or conifers. It can be seen in Fineshade from April until November.
The cap is usually sulphurous yellow and darker towards the centre. The gills are also yellow, though becoming olive-green as the fungus ages.
Turkeytail (Trametes versicolor)
This is a type of bracket fungus that can be seen all year round. Its colour can vary (hence the name versicolor) but it always has a white outer edge.
It grows on dead deciduous trees and is very common across Britain and also here in Fineshade.
Honey Fungus (Armillaria)
Honey Fungus is the name given to a group of 10 species that attack the roots of many living trees and woody plants - it is therefore hated by gardeners and foresters alike. It has a very variable appearance but the fruiting bodies typically occur in tight clusters and only in autumn.
This clump was found on a tree stump in one of the recently widened rides in Westhay Wood.
Shaggy Inkcap (Copinus Comatus)
This species is one of the easiest to find in Fineshade as it often occurs on the verges of the main walking tracks. When it is young it has an egg-shaped, elongated cap covered with shaggy white scales. The cap and gills blacken with age and eventally dissolve to leave only the stalk visible.
An alternative common name for this fungus is Lawyer's Wig.
Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus sp.)
Pleurotus is another tricky group of species with gills and often with no stem, like those shown here which were growing on an old deciduous tree trunk in one of Fineshade's remaining conifer plantations. They vary greatly in size, colour and shape.
One species, Pleurotus ostreatus, is now cultivated and sold in supermarkets.
Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus)
This is a type of bracket fungus that grows exclusively on birch trees and can often be found killing Silver Birch trees. There were 18 fruit bodies on the trunk of the tree shown here.
It is also known as Razor Strop Fungus, so it was presumably used to sharpen cut-throat razors. It has long been known to have a variety of medicinal uses. (See some fascinating accounts here)
KIng Alfred's cakes (Daldinia concentrica)
Otherwise known as Cramp Balls, because they were used to cure cramp, these black fungi have a crusty surface. When cut open there are concentric layers, each one representing a season of growth. This fungus will attack various hardwood trees though it seems particularly partial to Ash trees in Fineshade. Just like the royal burnt cakes it resembles this fungus is inedible.
Oysterling (Crepidotus sp.)
Tiny and perfect, these little jewels were growing on the underside of a dead twig of a Field Maple. None were more than 5mm wide. They are attached to the twig by the cap, rather than having a stem.
They may well be the Variable Oysterling but without a microscope it's impossible to separate some of the crepidotus species.
Yellow Porecrust (Antrodia xantha)
What appeared at first sight to be a large iced cake puzzled many in the mycological world in December 2017. A specimen was sent to Andy Overall and he identified this very unusual fungus which was confirmed by experts at Kew Gardens. It is believed to be the first county record.
It was covering a pine stump a short distance from the main bridleway at Top Lodge.
Smokey Bracket (Bjerkandera adusta)
Another pine stump - another fungus but this time a lot more widespread. Again this was identified by Andy Overall.
It was found in Far Markham's Wood on the last day of 2017. It is usually found on dead hardwood trees rather than on conifers
Hoof Fungus (Fomes fomentarius)
The aptly-named Hoof Fungus is fairly widespread in Fineshade though we are pretty much at the southern edge of its range.
This bracket fungus grows on the side of various species of tree, but particularly favours Birch, which it infects through broken bark, causing rot. The species typically continues to live on trees long after they have died.
Yellow Brain (Tremella mesenterica)
Also called Witch's Butter, this jelly-like mass of lobes stands out clearly on the forest floor in winter.
This fungus does not directly parasitise wood but grows on another crust fungus that has broken down the wood first. The one shown on the right was attached to a tiny oak twig with a small patch of the crust fungus under the yellow jelly.
Bleach cup (Disciotis venosa)
The common name of this fungus refers to the smell of the flesh when crushed. It's supposed be be immediately obvious but we had to sniff very deeply to detect the chlorine smell.
Unusually this species fruits in the spring and this large specimen (20 cm diameter) was found amidst the fresh growth on the forest floor in April 2018. It is thought to be only the third county record.
Rosy Bonnet (Mycena rosea)
The is most attractive pink fungus was found near Top Lodge by Linda Pierce. There seem to be very few records of this species in this part of the country.
Rosy Bonnet was once considered edible but is now known to contain the dangerous toxin, muscaribe
Green Elfcup (Chlorociboria aeruginascens)
Tiny green-blue fungi found by Jo Newcombe and family during a bug-hunting trip to Fineshade in August 2019. The ones on the left were on the underside of a wet log, while the others were at a different location on the upper surface of a tree stump
Slimy Spike (Gomphidius glutinosus)
This fungus is rare in the south of the UK and there are very few records in the East Midlands. It fruits at the base of trees in conifer-dominated woodland and that is where several were found by Tony Vials on 7 September 2020. A second emergence of at least 12 spikes were found in October
White Webcap (Leucocortinarius bulbiger)
This species is really rare in the UK with only 28 previous records on the NBN Atlas, most of them in the Cairngorms. Tony Vials photographed them in 2018 but was unable to complete the identification until they re-emerged in 2020. They are growing in one of the conifer plantations. Perhaps some of their white spores were transferred here when the trees were planted decades ago?
A parasol species (Leucoagaricus nympharum)
Another rarity (first for Northants) was identified by Tony Vials 2020 but first photograohed in the spruce plantation near Top Lodge in October 2019
Bileous Bolete (Rubroboletus legaliae)
This is another rarity found and photographed in 2018 in Mill Wood, again by Tony Vials. This poisonous species has few UK records, all further south (as shown) but is thought to be spreading north as the climate warms.