Fascinating fungi

Take an autumn walk in the countryside and you are almost certain to spot some spectacular fungi. Often brightly coloured, these life forms are neither plant nor animal, and come in a fantastic array of different shapes.

We recommend the following nature reserves for fungi spotting: Arger Fen & Spouse's ValeBradfield Woods, Combs Wood, Dunwich ForestGroton Wood, Lackford LakesKnettishall HeathReydon WoodSizewell Belts and Sutton & Hollesley Commons.

Jelly ear fungus

So named because it has a fleshy, velvety feel and similar shape to the human ear!

Grows on elder all year round.

Historic uses were as a remedy for sore throats, sore eyes and jaundice.

Beef steak fungus

Found on oak trees. This fungus changes colour with age from pink through to red then brown with red juice.

When new the pinkish fungus can look like a tongue, and then when fully developed it resembles a raw beef steak, thus the name.

Beef steak fungus is edible, but bitter, not like steak!

Oyster mushroom

Usually found growing on deciduous, not coniferous, trees.

Common and edible.

Fly agaric

Distinctive looking red fungus with white warty spots.

Poisonous and hallucinogenic.

Historically used as an insecticide, thus the name.

Mosaic puffball

Grows on grassland and sandy heath.

New fruits are edible.

Historically used as an antibiotic.


Dryad's saddle fungus

Grows on dead stumps or logs.

Usually seen in spring but sometimes autumn.


A tall, white fungus with a slimy, dark olive colored conical head.

Has a foul smell, like rotting flesh, which attracts insects which distribute the spores.

Despite the stink it is not poisonous.

Found near rotting wood in summer to late autumn.

Shaggy inkcap

Usually found on grassland.

When they first emerge they are cylindrical, and then the bell-shaped caps open out. 

Gills underneath can secrete a black liquid, thus their name. The mushroom also turns black and dissolves shortly after picking.

Wax cap

Brightly coloured, often shiny, fungi. Colours can vary with species including red, yellow, pink, green, brown, white and orange.

Usually found on short, unimproved grassland.

Amethyst deceiver

Found in both deciduous and coniferous forests.

New specimens appear lavender in colour thus the name, but the colour soon fades making them harder to identify.


Chicken of the woods

Tastes like chicken, thus the name.

Forms large brackets - some as large as 45 kg.

Most commonly found on oak, but can also grow on eucalyptus, yew, sweet chestnut, and willow.

Causes brown rot on the host tree.


Birch bolette

As the name suggests, this mushroom is associated with birch trees.

It is edible and appears from June to october.

Earth star

When young the fungus resembles a puffball, but then the outer layer splits to form a characeristic star shape. This reveals the darker spore sac in the centre.

Usually found under deciduous trees in late summer and autumn.