Fungus Foray: Crawley Down

Field meeting reports

Meeting date: 28 September 2002

(Leader: Peter Russell)

The final field meeting of the year was a departure from the norm; in the past we have had bryophyte study days but his year we tried a Fungus Foray. Perhaps it would be better if we called it a ‘Fungus Fun-day’ led by our own fun guy Peter Russell.

Peter led us through the Monastery Wood at Crawley Down, which he said with 330 species recorded was one of the best fungal floras in East Sussex. It was not long before we were finding these odd growths in a variety of forms and colours. A few, we were told, were quite edible and tasty, while others you could eat only once. We were invited to try a little taste – some were tempted while others were not so sure. Judy Wilson was keen to try a specimen to see if it was hot and then told to spit it out. Her eyes lit up, I’m not sure whether it was the fungus working or not but this was to set the scene for the day as she and one or two others seemed very keen to try almost anything Peter had to offer. Most of the specimens in his collecting basket had pieces nibbled out of them. A beef steak fungus was carved up and looked like a prime cut both in appearance and texture but was not sampled. One specimen was first found by scent and then by sight so it was no surprise to find Phallus impudicus (Common Stinkhorn). A prime photographic subject for those with their cameras.

Peter tells me that during the foray we recorded 44 species, which given the previous dry conditions was much more than he was hoping for. We even managed to add four new records during the foray. Suillus luteus (Slippery Jack) was found for the first time growing under one of the few pine trees. Of particular interest was the new record for Xerocomus parasiticus growing on Scleroderma citrinum (Dirt Balls) in some abundance. I was informed that it has certainly been the year for this species as it has been found it on several other forays.

Apart from new records I think perhaps the interesting part was trying to match the smells with their description.  You need to have a vocabulary like a wine taster when it comes to fungi.  I remember the  ‘freshly cut potatoes’ – Amanita citrina (False Death Cap); ‘school pencils’ – Russula lepida; ‘old gas fires’ – Tricholoma sulphureum (Gasworks Tricholoma).