Fungi play an important ecological role within our ecosystems, helping to recycle nutrients from dead or decaying organic matter as well as providing food and shelter for wildlife. This year has seen an abundance of many fabulous forms growing at Essex Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves. Here are some of the top sites to visit this autumn:
Thrift Wood, Bicknacre, CM3 4HW
Whilst walking around the circular paths of this ancient, semi-natural woodland you can spot a wide variety of fungi. If you’re not too distracted by the beautiful autumnal colours above you, this is the reserve where you can expect to see one of the classics; the Fly Agaric. This poisonous toadstool can be found growing beneath Birch trees, of which this reserve in the south-east of Chelmsford has no shortage. This iconic red and white spotted fungi is a truly magical sight amongst the decaying leaf litter.
Tiptree Heath, Tiptree, CO5 0PT
This reserve has it all, rife with an array of fungus ranging from dainty Lilac Bonnets and peculiar Jelly ear fungus to the Amethyst deceiver, a small purple fungus that can be found growing within the leaf litter during autumn.
Cockaynes Wood, Wivenhoe, CO7 9JX
Once used for sand and gravel extraction, this mosaic habitat now supports a whole array of amazing wildlife. As well as the brilliant Fly Agaric, you can also expect to see the fascinating Verdigris Agaric fungus at this reserve. This is a medium-sized, slimy, striking blue-green fungus that has been spotted here this autumn, so take a stroll around this 20-hectare reserve to see what you can spot.
Pound wood, Benfleet, SS7 2UW
Explore one of the largest remaining areas of ancient woodland in south-east Essex to see what autumnal treats you can discover. One special type of fungus that can be spotted here is the black and white spotted Magpie Inkcap. This shaggy, elongated toadstool is generally solitary but can also be found in small groups in deciduous woodlands.
Find an Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve to explore near you: essexwt.org.uk/nature-reserves