Cabinet of Natural History Annual Fungus Hunt 2014

Cabinet of Natural History Annual Fungus Hunt 2014

By: Professor Nick Jardine

Our visit to Wangford Warren, near Brandon, was a great success.

Everywhere to be found were Macrolepiota procera (Parasol Mushrooms), distinctive with their large brown-scaly caps, white gills and stems with a brown snake-skin pattern. They are safe and delicious, and we shared them out for eating at the end of the hunt. There were also a few of the uncommon Macrolepiota konradii, very like the Parasol, but without the snake-skin pattern on the stem. Alas, we found only one of the best of all edibles, Boletus edulis (aka, Penny Bun, Porcini, Cep, Steinpilz), though there were remnants of others picked by rival hunters. We also found some Boletus badius (Bay Bolete), almost as delicious.

As usual, we found lots of inedible and poisonous ones. No Amanita phalloides (Death Cap), the most poisonous of all, but plenty of Amanita citrina (False Death Cap), yellower than the Death Cap and with a more robust sack at the base of the stem. It isn’t poisonous, merely disgusting, but we also found the uncommon Amanita gemmata, which looks like the False Death Cap, but is smaller and said to be deadly poisonous (it should be called the False False Deathcap!).

Another uncommon find was the beautiful Leucocoprinus brebissonii (Skullcap Dapperling), detected by Ruth Horry. It has long been common in greenhouses, but is now apparently spreading in woods, perhaps a symptom of global warming. On heaps of hay near a meadow we found lots of the rare Agaricus macrocarpus, rather like the common Horse Mushroom, but much larger, with a bulbous base to the stem, and with the cap staining yellow where rubbed (an alarming feature, since Agaricus xanthodermus, which we also found, and which also goes yellow where touched, is poisonous). Being unsure, and reluctant to upset Health and Safety by poisoning students, I took all of the macrocarpus to check — Marina Frasca-Spada then cooked them deliciously and we are still alive.

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