The secret world of fungi: Scotland’s hidden biodiversity


Biodiversity is all around you – sometimes it is hidden right beneath your feet.

The fungal kingdom is one such example, existing for most of the year as fine mycelial threads in the soil, in compost or leaf litter or in the wood of decaying or living trees. In the autumn the fruiting bodies appear as mushrooms and toadstools and various other fungal forms. Over 3000 species of larger fungi occur in Britain, and Scotland hosts an amazing variety of rare species that can be found in pinewoods, on moorland and up mountains. However, you don’t have to hike up a Munro to see something interesting. All around us a rich fungal flora can be spotted if you just look at the right time.

In the autumn of 2014 one of our ecologists, Myles O’Reilly, recorded over 50 species on lunchtime forays around the our offices in Edinburgh and at the Angus Smith Building. We asked Myles to tell us more about what he found:

“The fungi can be found on the grassy verges or around nearby trees and included some beautifully coloured Waxcaps, brilliant Boletes, incredible Inkcaps, cool Club Fungi, tasty Blewits, and amazing little Bird’s Nest Fungi growing on woodchips just outside the office door.

“Many of the more conspicuous or edible fungi have traditional names. Around the SEPA offices we have Candlesnuff, Lawyer’s Wig, Parrot Waxcap, Crimson Waxcap, Elfin Saddle, Bearded Milkcap, Slippery Jack Bolete, Golden Spindles, Sulphur Tuft and Velvet Shank.

“However, mycologists (those who study fungi) are very imaginative people have invented interesting names for all but the tiniest species. Even some of the duller grey and brown mushrooms around the our offices have been given great names: Grey Knight, Brown Rollrim, Pleated Parasol, Buttercap, Turkeytail, Weeping Widow, Poisonpie (don’t eat this one!), Cavaliers and Roundheads to name just a few.”

If you want learn more about the fascinating world of fungi and help record the species in your own area why not join one of the Scottish local fungi groups. Find out more:


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