Fungi play a critical role in the ecosystem, decomposing organic waste and recycling carbon and minerals. They are also essential for the health of trees, plants, and animals by breaking down toxins. They produce lots of spores that serve a similar purpose to seeds in the plant world. Fungal Spore Buddies are very small but can be seen when magnified by microscopes or simply viewed using the naked eye. A mushroom’s spore print is often an important identification feature.
In Autumn, look for Psilocybe semilanceata, the Liberty Cap, in grassland. This is a relatively common species that appears in autumn in England, Ireland, and Europe, although it’s much less frequent in Scotland and North America. It prefers grassland that hasn’t been fertilized.
Cultivating Mushrooms from Spores: A Step-by-Step Guide for UK Enthusiasts
The ‘Dung Roundhead’ is another fungus that can fool the unwary and this species, Panaeolus semiovatus, is responsible for most mushroom poisonings each year. It has a tan to brown cap with a pointed tip and spongy appearance but is more solid to the touch than other fungi such as Puffballs, and if cut in half will reveal a ring of purple or black. Its tough-warted skin, which also gives it the name Poison Pigskin Puffball, should also help to identify it.
Another of our favorites is the Sickener, which reaches a height of six to 14cm. It has a lilac cap with olive tints and pure white gills and stem and can be found in pine woods. It contains muscarine, which is deadly and should be avoided.