In case you haven’t guessed, this post is pointing a finger at all those golden-brown masses swarming around tree bases and dead and buried roots at the moment! Although I will add, that I originally started this post last week and on this very day (today!!) the fungi I am specifically talking about have all become smush now 🙂 They are doing their job and taking nutrients back into the soil and thus doing their bit for the precious ecosytem we all rely on.
I am enjoying learning about the different fungi that grow here in the U.K. and especially locally to me. I don’t have the luxury of long forays or disappearing miles away in search of fungi as much as that would be lovely, it’s not practical for me at this time. However, that won’t stop me enjoying fungi-hunting!
So when I saw these Armillaria mellea (Honey Fungus) growing around this Poplar here in the gardens at Kew, I had to photograph it. Oscar pointed (from a distance I would like to add- that boy’s smart!) and exclaimed ‘gungi’! (He has learned to see and say ‘fungi’ now to my delight!) The white spores that have fallen on the soil and the surrounding fungi look like a dusting of icing sugar! The fruitbodies often like to overlap so are usually seen in big clusters like this growing on tree roots.
A. mellea has a signature identification factor of black ‘bootlace’ rhizomorphs that it feeds out, and they can be seen beneath the bark layer of an affected tree. It uses these bootlaces to spread throughout its host and from tree to tree. You can use a search engine on the internet to find many better images, but mine below shows one of the rhizomorphs I saw under some bark on this Poplar. The bark can eventually fall away as the tree dies of course, and this bit was certainly quite soggy.
Honey Fungus is parasitic. Bad news for the host then. But it also exists as a saprobe on old stumps and dead roots. And I have learned it is not only restricted to trees! (Every day’s a school day). So it’s a gardeners enemy. But in this world of fungi, by the time you see a fruiting body, the damage has, and already is, being done. It always causes me slight despair when I see that someone has torn off a fruiting body to try and save the tree. (Of course it won’t, the fruiting body is simply the reproductive organ of the fungus and the real work is happening all around us and out of our sight). It all happens underneath the soil and bark and hidden away! In the soil, these rhizomorphs can find a new host tree some metres away. Which, personally, I find rather incredible.
Another big ID factor is the yellow-white ring on the stipe. See above. A. mellea always has these. And it has weakly decurrent gills (gills running down the stem). The cap is of a honey-gold/brown and is a bit darker in the middle. Flesh is white. And it doesn’t taste like honey either from what I have learned. So for those interested in eating mushrooms, it is NOT a good idea to eat this one despite its enticing name!
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it for myself, but this fungus is bioluminescent 🙂 I think you’d need a very dark place to see it glow in the dark I guess.
Fungi never cease to amaze me in all their forms! Is here more info you can add to this post in order to learn more about this fungus? Let me know!