Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Sunday, 31 October 2010


Two years ago, I found a rather charming Fly Agaric

Last week, I went back to look again and searched the spot. Nothing. But, about thirty feet away - this

Something which has been catching my interest a lot recently is how many plants grow wild in our towns and cities.

Look at this dandelion on a roundabout, almost under a flyover, close to the city centre in Reading.

A dandelion seed must have blown here from somewhere.

The history of the Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) I found last week may be more complicated. Although it is growing in a residential street where, by the look of them, the houses date from the 1960s or 70s, many of the trees in the area appear to be older than the buildings.

In this photo, taken the next day, you can see some of the houses.

Who lived here first? Humans or fungi?

The beauty of a Fly Agaric seems short lived, especially in rainy weather. Here it is on the third day. Rather dilapidated!

The next day, I came home. (This toadstool is a five hour journey away in Berkshire and, as interesting as they are, I hadn’t gone there specially to see them - so I’m not going back to find out what happened after that!)

The next bit, though, is even more exciting.

There’s a programme on BBC Radio 4 called ‘Saving Species’. I don’t specially like it but happened to turn on while they were describing a fungi foray in the New Forest (Hampshire).

For people unfamiliar with the New Forset - it’s old; pretty old. William the Conquerer set it up in 1079 to hunt in. (You know him - 1066 invasion.) If you want to know more, here’s a link.

We have family conections with the New Forest so I listened. Many readers will know how bloggers get to know each other through the internet (garden bloggers especially, it seems) and this group of fungus identifiers had met through a site called Ispot - a recording and identifying scheme set up by the Open University.

(Another digression and explanation for people unfamiliar with the Open University:-

Studying from home through the Open University is an established and well respected way to gain degrees and other qualifications. Like more conventional Universities, it organises learning events unconnected with degrees as well.)

The programme itself wasn’t very inspiring but there was a link from its own site to Ispot.

I’ve joined.

This is what it’s like.

You upload photos of things you see in the wild - insects, amphibians, birds, plants and so on . . . If you know what they are, you label them. If you don’t others tip in and help with the identification. The idea is to create a national record, to inspire people to take an interest in ‘nature’, to be a learning tool and to provide resources for the Open University itself. I think! I’ve only belonged for a few days and I’ve already discovered there’s a tension over what level of knowledge and expertise you need when you arrive. The introductory video makes it clear that you don’t need to know anything, either about what you are photographing or about your subject matter. Willingness and interest is what counts. This is exciting. (I find it exciting!) But I think it must be a bit frustrating too for people who have been members for a long time to have people turning up who press the wrong buttons and don’t provide the right angles on the subject matter. However, there is a lot of encouragement there too and I really would recommend those who live in Britain and Ireland to get involved. (And I’d encourage those of you who live elsewhere in the world to see if there’s a parallel scheme where you live.)

I’ve been uploading onto Ispot pictures of the toadstools I found amongst the urban trees of Berkshire. In some ways its been disappointing. I have what claims to be a pretty comprehensive fungi identification book (Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools). That such books exist suggests you can identify a fungus from its picture but I wasn’t managing very well. In fact, I wan’t getting anywhere at all! So I arrived at Ispot with great expectations that I’d be able to upload a picture and get a quick and accurate response. It turns out that even people who know a million things more than me can’t necessarily say what’s what and this is both disappointing and encouraging.  It’s disappointing to find there is no easy route to answers through pictures. On the other hand, I have gone back to being happy about making up my own names for things rather than risk misleading. One Ispot member said some fungi can only be truly identified, one from another, when spores are put under a microscope. You’ll find my  pasta and slug fungi keep their names for the present!

Here’s an example of a toadstool I reckoned I had quite a lot of information about. I supplied three angles.

Here they are.

Yet a decisive identification turns out not to be possible. Could it be an Amanita Pantherina? Or is it an Amanita Muscaria (a Fly Agaric) that is past its best? The solution may simply be to call it an Amanita and leave it at that. Beautifully vague!

Less vague than me though. I’d call it a Toadstool with  Iced-gem spikes. (Do you know those little biscuits?)

All very difficult!

See this?

It may be a Laccaria Laccata in an early stage.

And this may be a Laccaria Laccata at a later stage.

To my, untrained, eye they look very different and, until I uploaded the photos I had no idea they could be the same kind of plant. (I’m still not clear if I should even be calling them plants!)

And here’s another exciting thing. Through joining Ispot I found this site of nature photographs - it belongs to a very helpful Ispot expert.

And look at these fungi photos there!

So, all in all, a happy and interesting fortnight!


Pat Tillett said...

Nice photos and very interesting information! Also, I LOVE your new header photo....

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

So glad to see more on the amanita--and thanks for the info about Ispot. I've decided to follow them on Twitter, even though I'm in Canada rather than Britain. There are always commonalities.
Lucy, are you on Facebook? I know a woman, Dinamarca Lorenzen, who is one of the Lorenzen family of potters here in Nova Scotia. They did an incredible collection of ceramic mushrooms, which reside in private collections as well as at the museum of Natural History in Halifax and Dalhousie University. Dinamarca could probably identify on sight. Here's a bit about the family business: http://biotype.biology.dal.ca/museum/CeramMushHist/cerMushNoFrame.html

catharine Howard said...

I loved this and will wander over to Ispot when I can - meanwhile your images are great and the seaweed too!

Rosie@leavesnbloom said...

I think I am going to join up - normally if I am stuck on ID of something in the wild I put a photo on the wild about Britain site. I tried to ID some fungi from your visual fungi link last week and still found it hard - so you might see some of my photos on that new site next week.

I took some photos aswell of the agaric a few weeks ago and someone has just told me that our local bluebell wood had lots of them a few weeks ago.

I hope those photos load up for you later - typical UK broadband at the weekends is so slow.

Thanks again Lucy for those links.

Lucy said...

Thanks Pat.

Jodi - I'm not on Facebook but took a look at your link. I realise I've seen this page before but can't remember why! I doubt the illustrations there do justice to their detailed work.

Thanks for mentioning Twitter too because that sent me to catch up on the Ispot tweets - which included a link to an identifying-fungi page. This is the link


Catherine - when you have visited Ispot - do let me know what you think.

Rosie - one of the interesting things about the Visual Fungi site is that it documents in detail the area where its owners live. I find that fascinating - and, hopefully, useful too when there are overlaps. However, you are a long way from their Sussex base so I imagine some of the fungi you are seeing won't be illustrated. Ispot, having a wider geographical base may help in that. It will be interesting to know your experience when you join.

And, as I mentioned in reply to Jodi - Ispot links to a help with ID page


I can't help but enjoy seeing the photos even though I find identification hard!


easygardener said...

Which just goes to show that identifying fungi is very difficult. No wonder we are not all rushing out to gather wild mushrooms.
Perhaps going on an outdoor teaching course would be the best answer. At least you could get a handle on the very dangerous and the easy to identify + edible. The ones in between would have to remain a mystery :-)

Rosey said...

These photos are magnificent!
The difficulty with identifying mushrooms is why I won't eat one in the wild. You can never be too sure.
I love the look of this blog.

fer said...

Beautiful photo! is so cool that you got to find another nice mushroom

Anna said...

I enjoyed your post Lucy and will visit Ispot soon - thanks for the link. I am fascinated by how plants appear in the most unlikely places like that brave little Reading dandelion :)

Lucy said...

Easy Gardener - I think a ramble with a garden expert would be very interesting. I'm always surprised how many toadstools and mushrooms there are. I recently bought a Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. It is about an inch thick and there are roughly six entries per page with facing photos. Lots and lots and lots of them - and many of them with weird and wonderful shapes.

Rosey - so glad you like the look of Loose and Leafy. Agreed about eating wild mushrooms. Awful risks.

Thanks Fer. I'm glad you like the photos on the urban toadstools post.

Anna, have you visited Ispot yet? If so, what did you make of it?


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