Know Your Mushrooms – 5 Fungi Protected by UK Law

July 23rd, 2015

Mushrooms play a bigger part in ecology than many people initially give them credit for. Aside from being nature’s great decomposer, fungi have helped produce a world of medicines over the years, and have a large list of commercial applications. Mushrooms occasionally even form a key component as part of a Sunday fry-up.

However, despite the fact that not all mushrooms are edible, all of them are of importance to British ecology. Here are 5 species of mushroom which are both found in England and are particularly interesting. Sadly, all 5 of these species are also classed as threatened species and are protected under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) as a result. If you need any help in identifying any of these fungal species, don’t hesitate to contact Southern Ecological Solutions today.

Marsh Honey Fungus, Armillaria ectypa

The Marsh Honey Fungus is generally found growing in sphagnum bogs with mosses, and is immediately recognisable by the classic shape of the fruit body. Believe it or not, we don’t really know much about this mushroom – we don’t even know what it lives on – just where it prefers to grow, and that it is an endangered species, both here in the UK and abroad.

Oak Polypore, Piptoporus quercinus

This bracket fungi will immediately bring childhood classics like The Jungle Book to mind due to the iconic and intriguing way they stack on one another. Mushrooms like this almost always seem to feature as Disney’s version of nature’s drum kit. This mushroom seems to live almost exclusively on old oak heartwood, and while it is widespread throughout South East and Central England’s forests, nowhere is it considered to be common. Like the Marsh Honey Fungus, despite the iconic shape of this mushroom there is relatively little we know about this fungus.

Scaley-Stalked Puffball, Battarrea phalloides

Also known as the sandy siltball or the desert stalked puffball, it is a rather tall mushroom which can grow to an impressive 40cm in height. It has popped up in several dry, sandy locations around the world, though it retains its protected status here in the UK. B. phalloides is usually described as having “unknown edibility”, though the immature egg-form of the fruit body is eaten in Cyprus.

Red-Capped Butter Bolete, Butyriboletus regius

Also known as the royal bolete, this mushroom is identifiable by the red cap on the fruit body which starts out convex and flattens as the mushroom matures. These bright yellow and red mushrooms grow to an impressive size when fully mature, with a cap diameter of up to 20cm. Unfortunately for this mushroom, it is considered a choice mushroom by gourmands of the world, meaning that despite its protected status, they are still susceptible to theft from their natural habitat.

Devil’s Tooth, Hydnellum peckii

Like the devil himself, this fascinating mushroom also goes by many names. Strawberries and cream, the bleeding Hydnellum, the bleeding tooth fungus and the red-juice tooth, these names all have one thing in common – the fact that the mushroom appears to be bleeding. Young fruit bodies “bleed” a bright red fluid which acts as an anticoagulant (like heparin) and antibacterial coating as a self defence mechanism.

Despite the colloquial names comparing it to food, we don’t recommend you try eating devil’s tooth – while Hydnellum spp. are generally not considered poisonous, this mushroom is extremely bitter. It does have its uses though, both commercial and decorative. Mycologists and mushroom driers prize this intriguing mushroom, and according to a Swedish field study, devil’s tooth can bioaccumulate caesium-137. This mushroom can therefore be used to help cycle the caesium in heavy metal rich soil.

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