The Fungi are a large group of plants which include the familiar mushrooms and toadstools as well as a host of lesser known forms-more than 50,000 species in all. The fungi are totally without chlorophyll and cannot, therefore, make their own food in the way that other plants do. In fact some botanists do not consider the fungi to be plants at all. Most species live as saprophytes, obtaining food from dead and decaying matter-especially dead leaves on the forest floor. There are also quite a number of parasitic species which attack living plants and animals. Examples include Rust Fungi which attack cereals and the fungi that cause “Athletes foot” in humans.
In this Gallery I have got a collection of Fungi, I have had trouble identifying a lot of species so they are labelled as such. Any help would be appreciated.
I cannot stress enough about being careful about poisoning; if in any doubt Do Not eat the Mushroom!
Symptoms: Stomach cramps, sweating, hot flushes, vomiting, and diarrhoea. High fever, high pulse, irregular heartbeat, lowering of blood pressure, headache, weakness, dizziness, faintness, blurred vision, constriction of the pupils, breathing and chest problems, lassitude, excessive thirst. Loss of coordination, hallucinations, vertigo, confusion, delirium, convulsions, coma.
Some of the worst mushroom poisons cause liver or kidney damage, which can be identified by the onset of jaundice. This, however, may take some time to be apparent but it is among the most serious of symptoms and must be treated with extreme urgency as the liver and/or kidneys may cease to function altogether, which may result in death.
Take immediate action if any poisoning symptoms are observed
Remission and secondary symptoms: After the first onset of symptoms there may be a period of remission (one or two days) and thus expectation of full recovery but this must be ignored. Treatment must still be sought, as symptoms may return and after this period liver and/or kidney failure may occur.
This remission period may occur in poisoning by some of the most deadly mushrooms: Amanita phalloides, Amanita virosa and other Amanitas. This delayed secondary onset of severe symptoms may also occur in Cortinarius and Galerina poisoning.
Action (do not delay) Immediate action must be taken. Telephone or visit your doctor and/or the local hospital. They may pass you on to a poison centre or another hospital that specialises in mushroom poisoning
If you can, get in touch with a mycologist to aid in identification of the species ingested. Although the hospital will start to treat the symptoms straight away, even before they know what toxins are involved, knowing which species of mushroom and thus what toxins are involved will make treatment far more effective?
Actions to assist treatment Firstly make sure that you record the time from ingestion and the first evidence of symptoms. This is vital because symptoms of the most poisonous and deadly mushrooms may take a long time to develop. The time interval from eating the mushroom to noticing the symptoms may be as long as one to two days or even longer.
Secondly, keep a fresh specimen of any wild mushroom you collect and eat. Often more than one species of mushroom may be used in dish, in which case keep a specimen of each of the different species ingested. Make sure that the specimens are seen by the hospital or poison centre and mycologist.
Alternatively, if you have failed to keep specimens, make detailed notes about the specimens that have been eaten: habitat, size, and colour, type of stem and stem base, gilled or other forms of mushroom, morels, brackets, truffles. The more detailed the notes the better chance a mycologist will have of identifying the species that have caused the problems.
Finally, around the time of eating the mushrooms had you drunk any alcohol? That day? The day before? Or the day after? Alcohol in conjunction with Coprinus atramentarius may cause a severe allergic reaction.
What is a Mushroom?
Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies produced by some fungi. Not all fruit bodies are true mushrooms. Puffballs and morels are edible fruit bodies that are sometimes called "mushrooms". The function of this visible part of some fungi is to produce and disperse the largest possible number of spores in the shortest possible time. Spores create new individuals after being carried away on the wind and landing in a good place for growth.
True mushrooms typically look like umbrellas. They consist of a stalk topped by a flat or cup-shaped cap. Their spores are produced on special cells called basidia, located on the underside of the cap. The class of fungi whose spores are produced by basidia are called Basidiomycetes.
The terms "mushroom" and "toadstool" go back centuries and were never precisely defined, nor was there consensus on application. The term "toadstool" was often, but not exclusively, applied to poisonous mushrooms or to those that have the classic umbrella-like cap-and-stem form.
The term "mushroom" and its variations may have been derived from the French word mousseron in reference to moss (mousse). The toadstool's connection to toads may be direct, in reference to some species of poisonous toad, or may just be a case of phono-semantic matching from the German word. However, there is no clear-cut delineation between edible and poisonous fungi, so that a "mushroom" may be edible, poisonous, or unpalatable. The term "toadstool" is nowadays used in storytelling when referring to poisonous or suspect mushrooms. The classic example of a toadstool is Amanita muscaria.
While mushrooms may seem to sprout overnight, it actually takes days or weeks for one to develop. Most of the growth of a fungus goes unnoticed because it occurs underground. The underground body of a fungus, called the mycelium, is made of moist thread-like filaments called hyphae. When growing conditions are good, little knots of hyphae called primordia are formed. As individual primordia grow larger, the hyphae within them organize into two parts. One part will become a mushroom’s cap, and the other, its stem.
When the primordium gets large enough, the stem elongates and pushes the cap up above the ground. As the stem elongates, the cap expands, a little like an umbrella unfolding. In some mushrooms, the expanding cap breaks a veil-like membrane extending from the cap to the stem, leaving a ring. Some growing mushrooms may also break a second membrane that covers it completely, and dried bits of this broken veil form scales on the cap.
On the underside of the cap, the spore-producing basidia are found in several different structures. Basidia may cover the surface of tissue-thin hanging plates called gills, or line the inside of tubes, or cover "teeth".
Basidia produce four spores at the end of microscopic spines called sterigma. When the spores are ready, they are discharged a short distance into the space between the gills or teeth, or into the center of the tube. The spores then fall out of the cap and are carried away in the wind. Most spores land within three feet (1 m) of the mushroom that produced them, but they can be carried much further. If the spore lands in a good spot, it germinates, producing the mycelium of a new fungus individual.
The puffballs are relatives of mushrooms whose basidia and spores are enclosed in a sac instead of covering gills, or in tubes. Coral fungi are also mushroom relatives. They produce branched fruiting bodies that resemble coral or broccoli.
Despite producing large mushroom-like fruiting bodies, morels and false morels are not closely related to mushrooms. These fungi are related to the cup fungi, in the class Ascomycetes. Their spores are produced inside a special cell called the ascus, instead of on the outside of basidia. The spores of morels and false morels are explosively discharged into the air as a fine white cloud.
Mushrooms and other fungi grow almost everywhere, on every natural material imaginable. Where you look depends on the mushroom you are trying to find. Some fungi grow only in association with certain trees. Others grow on large logs. Mushrooms are also found in soil, on decomposing leaves, and in dung, mulch and compost.
Knowing when to look is also important. Mushrooms are not formed until temperature and moisture conditions are right for them. Some mushrooms are produced during only one season of the year. During mild or warm weather, they often appear 7 to 10 days after a good rain.
Mushrooms with Pores
Mushrooms with Gills
Puffballs and Stinkhorns
Crust and Bracket Fungi
Some pictures of fungi found around the UK
© Simon Thurgood 2017
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