Ireland's Biodiversity Awareness Campaign

Mushrooms

Mushrooms and toadstools are the fruiting bodies of fungi. They appear in abundance in Autumn, their main aim being to release their spores (small fungi seeds) into the wind for further colonisation of areas. Mushrooms are important actors in the circle of life. As they get their food from digesting plant and animal material, they recycle nutrients converting them to a form that can be absorbed easily by other plants, such as trees and shrubs. Some species are associated with particular species of tree in a relationship of mutual dependency (called 'symbiosis'), their microscopic filaments invade the roots and help them to absorb nutrients.

Birch Polypore

Puffball Mushroom

Fly Agaric

 

Cap Mushroom, picture sent

in by Betty Gee

The humid, warm conditions of autumn are ideal for fungus growth, while excess water, cold and frost tends to rot fungi in the winter. Mushrooms spring up over night and are commonly found in forest and field settings. Next time you are out and about look closely but don’t touch!! Some mushrooms are very poisonous and can make you very sick by just touching them or inhaling their spores.  If you are considering eating wild mushrooms, you must be absolutely sure that you can identify them correctly. Even some of the non-lethal species can cause a reaction if you are prone to allergies or have sensitive digestion; others can make you very ill if consumed with alcohol. Some of the most highly developed edible species have “lookalies” that are not edible, follow the motto: ‘if in doubt leave it out’. Many types of fungi you see around are very delicate and very beautiful, you should keep a note book and or photos of the different types you see.

If you notice a particularly sickly-sweet smell in the woods at this time of the year it may come from a fungus known as the stinkhorn, which spreads its spores by attracting carrion flies to land on it.


©2007 Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government