Mushroom mysteries

The garden is looking rather grim, with plants bashed down by rain and wind and most things well past their best. We’ve started tidying up and clearing, raking the leaves of the stipa and trying to remove crocosmia from everywhere (this isn’t possible, but at least it helps control it a bit). The greenhouse is full of logs and geraniums; the veg beds are only inhabited by kale and the windbreaks have come down. But one thing is flourishing in the meadow:

mushroom trail

There are mushrooms everywhere.

We cut the meadow about six weeks ago, a little later than usual. I’ve had the odd mushroom before, but this year I am amazed by the quantity. I’m also a little bemused: why this year? Where did they come from? Why haven’t I seen anything like this before?

And what the heck are they?

There are, essentially, three different ones, and I’m not confident in my identification of any of them, so here goes. The first ones are those in the photo above, big and brown. I think these might be Brown Roll-Rims, Paxillus involutus, which I’ve had before – but only one or two.  It’s difficult to tell as they are spending a lot of their time gleaming in the rain,

mystery mushroom 1

which makes them look almost as glossy as a conker. They are gilled, and the gills of the mature ones are dark russet – smaller ones are paler – and their stalks are also russet. I tried to do a spore print, but they were too wet. And they’re large – the older ones open out and then the biggest are about 15cm across. They’re tall as well, standing proud of the grass.

Then there are a lot of small whites:

mystery mushroom 2

which tend to form rings, rough rings, but they’re not Fairy Ring Champignons. I thought they might be baby Horse Mushrooms at first, but I’ve picked those before and these aren’t the same. They’ve not got much bigger, for one thing, and there’s no ring on the stems. Their gills are a pretty colour – um, mushroom, I guess:

mystery mushroom 2a

Oh, and they’re definitely not yellow stainers. All the other mushrooms which they resemble are described as ‘rare’ and these are most definitely not. I’ve got shedloads.

The third type of mushrooms are more distinctive. These have very dark gills, almost black, and are also big and fat, much rounder than mystery mushroom #1 when young but not quite as big when fully mature. They’re not growing in the open meadow, but at the back of the garden near the wall and the log-chopping patch, under the Western Red Cedar, a viburnum and an ash.

Mystery mushroom 3

The gills are dark, and are almost black by the time they reach this stage:

mystery mushroom 3a

I did wonder about the Blackening Russula (Russula nigricans), but that mushroom ‘reddens when cut or broken’, and this does not. They’re not overgrown Shaggy Parasols, either. Or at least I don’t think they are.

So, ideas, anyone? I’ve been through all my mushroom books repeatedly; I’ve spent far too long on Google. I don’t want to eat them (probably just as well – I do have a few mushrooms I’ll happily and confidently forage, but I’m wary and like to be absolutely certain), but I’d love to know what they are.

And in the meanwhile, they continue to flourish. There is a distinct river effect – I try to create that occasionally with deliberate planting of things like Alchemilla mollis but it never works for me – which follows the dip of a long-covered and partly diverted stream. This isn’t flowing any more, and hasn’t for decades, but I imagine its old route is a bit damper than the rest of the meadow. You can see, here, the extent of the dip by the fact that the grass is longer where the mower has skimmed over the top. It’s not huge.

mystery mushrooms 1a

However, the mushrooms are in all sorts of other places as well. They are generally confined to the areas which are covered by grasses and wild flowers in the summer rather than the mown paths, but not exclusively, and they’re not associated with any particular trees, except for #3 which doesn’t seem to like the more open areas. Number 1 (above) adores them. And they are all confined to the meadow; they’re not in the other parts of the garden.

Now what I want is a similar display, but in April and of St George’s Mushrooms. The place I used to gather them in great big (free) basket loads has been ploughed up. Sigh.

Extra, extra: a couple of pics of the gills of 1 and 3, for ID. as you can see, the gills of 3 are only black when they’re really big and going over. Oops…

gills, mystery 1mystery 3, gills


14 Comments Add yours

  1. I’ve no idea when it comes to mushroom id and hope someone can help you.

    1. kate says:

      I think it’s probably just a mystery… like how on earth they grew here in such quantities. Presumably I’ve got them for ever now (I’m not complaining)…

  2. Cathy says:

    I am sure there will be bloggers who can help you with identification – I myself am very wary of all wild mushrooms after being shouted at by a friends’ parents when I was a child for picking pretty red and white spotted ‘mushrooms’. I certainly don’t think I would choose to eat wild mushrooms even if I was reliably told they were definitely edible…. Fascinating to see them – and an intriguing puzzle as to why they have just appeared.

    1. kate says:

      Ah yes, the fly agarics which look like something out of Disney… lots grew in woods near us in Scotland, so I was warned off very early on. I’m happy with chanterlles (lots grew there too and nobody except us ever picked them) and a couple of others, but that’s it.

      Right, I’m promising myself that next autumn I will treat myself to one of the fungi forays organised by the National Park. There have to some advantages to living in a Park, after all.

  3. croftgarden says:

    What lovely photographs.
    I have consulted my in-house expert and with the proviso that you can’t really be 100% certain without a specimen he has made the following suggestions:
    1. Brown roll-rim looks a distinct possibility especially as it is associated with Birch (see
    2. Looks very much like a field mushroom
    3. This is probably a Parasol or Shaggy Parasol.
    The fungi are there all the time, growing below ground normally in association with plant roots or on decaying organic matter. What you see are the fruiting bodies which are produced when the environmental conditions are right (usually cool and wet). The majority as beneficial and you should treasure them.

    1. kate says:

      Thank you so much, I was hoping you’d see this post!

      The wet roll-rims don’t look like the illustrations of brown roll-rims in anything, but dry they really do – it’s stopped raining – plus I’ve had them before – tentatively ID’ed by me, but glad to have it confirmed (given the proviso of not having seen the thing itself). I’m going to examine 2 again, now that the sun is shining, but that certainly fits the habitat. The slugs and snails have been feasting on them, but there are still plenty left; if they are indeed field mushrooms, then I could start a business, I’ve got so many… And I’d not thought of plain Parasols for 3, but I think that may well be the answer, going by Roger Phillips… I don’t know, I am being so feeble; my grandfather and father would have identified all of them in a flash, and we’d have been eating anything edible for the past week. How skills diminish!

      I love having them as temporary guests – it seems to complete the meadow, somehow. I’m just hoping they’ll come back year after year…

      1. croftgarden says:

        Pleased to be able to help. If they’re there provided you don’t do anything nasty with chemicals or fertilisers (not they you would) they will stay with you, although the numbers may vary from year to year.
        A little tip from Himself – please photograph the underside to show the gills. the arrangement of the gills is an important id aid.

        1. kate says:

          Hopefully they’ll be here for ever, activities of demented dogs and easily distracted lawnmower-keen helpers notwithstanding. I’ve popped a couple of pics of the gills of 1 and 3 in at the end of the blog, 2 is in there already…

  4. Pauline says:

    We have quite a few toadstools on our lawn and I think they are following the roots of our dead oak. I tend to call them toadstools, not mushrooms so that I won’t be tempted to eat them!

    1. kate says:

      Hah – that’s a good trick!

  5. Anna says:

    Fascinating fungii Kate. I’m sorry that I’ve no knowledge of mushrooms at all so can’t offer any help with id. Occasionally we see a few growing in the garden here but have not noticed any as yet. I wonder if their prolific numbers might be a consequence of the very wet winter and a particularly warm September.

    1. kate says:

      My garden was just like yours – with just a few, and not every year either. And then this sudden population explosion… I’m sure you’re right and it’s weather-related. They seem to be going over a bit now, and for once there aren’t any babies coming on, so that may be it. Possibly until next autumn – I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this happens again!

  6. Oooh, fun! I am always rather spooked by the idea that fu GI spread underground huge distances and the visible mushrooms are but small extensions. I felt much the same when someone explained the futility of cutting off the visible mould from bread, cheese etc since the stuff has already spread throughout, you just can’t see it. Down right sneaky.

    1. kate says:

      I know what you mean, it’s like something out of SF. Ooooooo – and I’ve discovered different ones in the bottom garden, too. Fascinating but a little bit odd.

      I’m a great believer in the ‘you’ve got to eat a peck of dirt before you die’ thing; sometimes I think we can be too clean. I know someone who spends ages disinfecting everything around her kids, and they are three of the most frequently sniffling ones. The farm kids, on the other hand, flourish. But I wouldn’t eat mouldy bread, mind.

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