fungi hunt

21 April 2014

Blake and Luna under the tree

Fallen trees, bark mulch, damp ground….the perfect habitat for fungi. At first it just looks like leaf litter and bark, but look a little closer and you’ll see ‘scrums’ of fungi, as Luna calls them.

brown fungi and leaves

Fungi are everywhere.

curling overlapped mushrooms

There were delicate toadstools inhabiting the edge between the grass and the wood chip, very fragile little things.

fine edge fungi

This was another species, small but a bit more robust than that above.

fine edge fungi 2

Some we know well, having discovered them another autumn, like the birds nest fungi.

three birds nest fungi

Birds nest fungi is certainly my favourite! As you can see with this one, they do look like they have tiny eggs in them (they are the spores).

three birds nest fungi up close

So unusual, the raised cup shape, and just so small, under 10mm across.

Luna digging up birds nest fungi

Luna removed some to bring home to study.

Luna holding birds nest fungi

We’ve learnt quite a lot about the relationship fungi has with the organic matter it lives off, and Luna is taking more care to excavate a decent amount of substrate when choosing specimens. I hope these ones last a while at home!

Angela pointing to tiny red fungi

These striking red toadstools were an exciting discovery in the rotting wood under bushes, and *ahem* it’s always nice when ones nail varnish matches the colour of an exquisite little toadstool.

tiny red fungi

Did I say how tiny these babies were? That’s Blake’s three year old thumb there, he really wanted to record this find.

Blake holding tiny red fungi

There were a few edible (looking) mushrooms on the lawn too, we just looked at them, I’m not quite game enough to cook up some foraged fungi yet. From what I’ve read, there is a poisonous variety that closely resembles an edible field mushroom, so will have to do some more research on that!

edible fungi on the lawn

There are a few distinguishing features, including the colour of the spore print, and interestingly there was a cap that had left a print on the grass, making a black spore print. How about that?

spore print

We had not planned to do a fungi hunt, but just stepped out between the heavy showers to explore, so this was very exciting. I am making sure we take notebooks and colour pencils with us these days, so it was great to take the time to do some documentation.

Luna at the table

Hooray for some table space at art school!

Luna sketching her mushrooms

Finding the correct browns…

Luna sketching her mushrooms birds next fungi

I like the two pencils in one hand technique!

Luna sketching her mushrooms two pencils

All in all, a very successful and unplanned expedition. Luna tells me she is a barkologist/biologist these days, good times! I was also very impressed with how Luna’s knowledge of fungi has deepened since last autumn, and her recall of what we did a year ago. I’m so glad we can dig deeper in these interests.

Luna sketching her mushrooms2

Blake was a bit more into the sound of beads dropping on the ground and moving around in the shoe box than doing any drawing…

Blake and the beads

There are a few things to keep in mind when you are learning about fungi. Especially as some varieties are poisonous, it’s best not to touch it, unless you are sure the specimen is harmless. Wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards, you don’t want any traces on your hands when you eat your lunch.

You don’t really need to bring anything, you can simply explore, or if you like to get a bit more involved, a container, sticks or a small trowel will be ideal for digging up any specimens you wish to take away to study. Make a note of where you find each species, and remember that the mushroom or toadstool is best described as the fruit, and so there may be a network of hidden ‘roots’ that you need to keep attached to the piece you wish to take away.

A camera is ideal for less intrusive documentation, as is a sketch book and pencils. A magnifying glass is also good to have on hand, and a small ruler or tape measure for size – this helps with identification later on.

Look out for some good fungi books at your local library, we have found the following to be good resources:

Pocket book:

A photographic guide to mushrooms and other fungi of NZ

Online:

Landcare research Fungal guide.

Fungal Network of New Zealand.

Naturewatch NZ.

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