Autumn is a great time to see fungi. This is the time of year that it grows because fungi like damp conditions. Fungi are members of the vegetable family but unlike most other plants they don’t posses any chlorophyll which is the chemical which turns plants green. In the presence of sunlight, chlorophyll produces all the organic compounds green plants need to survive and grow, such as sugar and starch plus some others. Fungi, having no chlorophyll have to get their nourishment from somewhere else. They need to obtain their organic food from other sources just as animals do. Their method of doing this is to extract the necessary chemicals from dead matter be it plant or animal. If you watch wildlife programmes on TV you will probably have seen pictures of things like dead ants, moths or other insects with fungi growing from them. Some fungi specialise in attacking particular insects, some grow only on specific trees. They have all adapted to survive by using the recourses from other forms of life so they are said to be ‘saprophytic’ if they get their sustenance from dead objects, or ‘parasitic’ if the victims are alive.
In some cases the fungi and host live together with neither causing any harm to the other, in fact sometimes the combination which is called ‘symbiosis’ (living together) is of benefit to both parties, as in the case of the ‘fungus roots’ of some forest trees which are formed by many of the common woodland toadstools.
Unlike other plants, fungi do not produce seeds, but ‘spores’. These spores differ from seeds in that they often consist of just one cell, though some are made up of several, this means that compared to seeds they are absolutely minute, in fact so small they cannot be seen by the human eye. The spores are produced in ‘gills’ under the cap of the fungi and can be seen as a mist as they are ejected. They are so light in weight they can travel many miles on the wind and have been found at altitudes of many thousands of metres.
Recognising mushrooms and toadstools can be very difficult as they change appearance as they grow and open their caps, as you can see from the three pictures of the Fly Agaric. The gallery below shows some pictures I have taken at various locations in the UK but I am not an expert on fungi so I have named the ones I am sure of. It can be a little task for you to find out what the others are and let me know.