Fungi at Cothill Pitt
Written 2014 by Dr Judith A Webb
(Recorder, Fungus Survey of Oxfordshire)
This old ex-sand quarry that has been well vegetated since abandonment contains a range of habitats that have considerable potential for fungal interest.
One visit of 2 hours duration to this site revealed a total of 40 fungal species, not all of which could be identified to species. Such a total from a short visit indicates that the full fungal species number may run into the hundreds. From toadstools with either gills or pores, to puffballs to earth tongues and fairy clubs, the diversity is fascinating.
Common species of mycorrhizal fungi associated with the roots of trees (mainly the pines and larches) fringing the site are for example large toadstools like the bovine bolete Suillus bovinus and the milk caps saffron milk cap Lactarius deliciosus and false saffron milk cap Lactarius deterrimus. Colourful red Russula sp (brittlegills or crumble caps) are also to be found associated with pine roots.
Large numbers of dark grey toadstools near pine trees will be the grey knight Tricholoma terreum. Similar scaly topped grey toadstools near broad leaved trees will be the yellowing knight Tricholoma scalpuratum.
A fascinating small toadstool, the conifercone cap Baeospora myosura, specialises in growing only on rotting pine cones. Small round grey ‘balls’ seen bowling over the short turf may be the lead grey puffball Bovista plumbea. The puff balls detach from the soil and roll around the site, distributing spores as they go.
In the very short turf and bare sandy soil areas you may see leafy plates of green-grey dog lichen Peltigera lactucifolia with its orange fruiting bodies (lichens are part fungus and part alga). You might have to be on hands and knees to see the delicate white fairy clubs (look like beansprouts) or the yellow branched meadow coral Clavulinopsis corniculata or the black spoon shaped hairy earth tongues Trichoglossum hirsutum.
Whitish toadstools are common on the site and here care has to be taken. Whilst there are some edible field mushrooms occurring, the commonest whitish-pink species are not edible, being snowy waxcaps Hygrocybe virginea or ivory funnels Clitocybe dealbata. The ivory funnel is deadly poisonous. Rather non-descript cream-buff funnel caps turn out to be the flowery-scented fragrant funnel Clitocybe fragrans if you give them a sniff. The prize for the biggest colour change and slimiest toadstool goes to the parrot waxcap Hygrocybe psittacina which starts out blue green and then fades through orange to pale yellow.
Safety Note: please do not pick or eat fungi unless you are certain it is an edible species or are foraging with an expert.