Fungi - a Moving Feast?

Monday 2nd October 2017

Recent research has indicated both how much more beneficial fungi can be and how fungi previously classified as ‘edible’ can be deadly poisonous. Come to an event this autumn to find out more!

Did you know that most plants benefit from an association with fungi? The fungi can extract important components from its surroundings and pass them to the plant and in return receives nutrients obtained from photosynthesis – a vital mechanism, particularly for orchids and upland plants such as heathers and bilberry. The Death Cap, for example, may be deadly poisonous but forms a mutually beneficial relationship with oaks and pines.

Recent DNA studies have found that reclassification of many fungi are necessary, since superficial resemblance does not mean close relationship. Furthermore, such studies have discovered that fungi previously thought to be many different examples of the same species are, in fact, one large organism. A honey fungus in the USA now can be claimed to be the largest organism ever found, since it occupies 10 square kilometres! It may also be the oldest living object; at perhaps over 8000 years old.

These studies (and painful experiences) have also shown that edibility of fungi are not always as was thought. The angel’s wings fungus was considered a fine edible species before killing 17 people in Japan. All 17 had kidney problems, which meant they were unable to remove a previously unknown amino acid precursor which led to the toxic element being able to cross the blood brain barrier and cause irreversible brain damage. Vegetarians should avoid consuming oyster mushrooms, since they have been found to catch and digest various worms. The aptly named funeral bell has been found to be even more toxic than death caps, combined with being almost indistinguishable from the edible sheathed woodtuft …

Want to learn how to separate your funeral bells from sheathed woodtufts? Join North Wales Wildlife Trusts’s series of fungi-related events this month – as well as celebrating National Fungus Day on 8 October – and enjoy a fungus foray to learn more about these fascinating organisms!