Another Kingdom (Fungal Foray 27 August 2011)
Expert mycologist Liz Holden of the Grampian Fungus Group was our guide to the fascinating underworld of fungi - so important that they are allocated an entire kindom in the pantheon of life. No sooner had we taken a couple of steps away from the Bennachie Centre than we had our first mushroom to study: a brown roll rim to you or me but paxillus involutus to the experts. So far, so good, but while the next one sounds quite nice to the experts: cortinarius rubellus, wait for the common name: the deadly webcap. Yup, apparently that's one to keep out of the omelette. First rule: only consider eating what you are absolutely sure you have identified correctly. Second rule: only eat a small amount the first time and put the majority in a marg tub to show to the A&E dept in case you got it wrong! We learned that these fruiting bodies are only the reproducing part of the fungus and the majority of the organism is an unseen web-like network of filaments in the sub-soil called "mycelium". One particular sub-group of fungi intertwine their mycelium with trees roots and live in symbiosis with the trees - and some trees may not be able to live without this. Another sub-group rots away old timber and enable the nutrients in the timber to be recycled for other organisms to use. But this is now getting too complicated for a quick 'news' item and I'm off to read more about this wonderful kingdom, where they live quite happily without us but we are heavily dependent on them.