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Countryside Rangers ‘fungi forays’ show healthy Autumn ecosystems in Easter Ross

The first fungi foray group pose for a photo on Tuesday 5th September before finding a combined 18 species.

The vast majority of fungi emerge between late summer and early winter, but each year is different, and their behaviour is hard to predict.

As Autumn rainfall arrives, and the average temperature steadily drops, this time of year becomes the ideal conditions for exploring and foraging.

In recognition of UK Fungus Day, a nationwide celebration of the many faces of fungi which took place on Saturday 7th October, the Countryside Rangers hosted a series of ‘fungi foray’ events throughout the month.

Marcia O’Hara, High Life Highland’s Countryside Ranger for Easter Ross who led each of these events, said: “I did five forays in Easter Ross and Sutherland, four focusing on woodland species and the last one focusing on grassland fungi, in particular waxcaps.

“These species have had their habitat of unimproved grassland reduced by 90% in recent decades, so they are not as easy to find as they used to be.

“We were lucky to find seven different species of waxcap at Little Ferry in Golspie. ‘Plantlife’ are currently encouraging people to record waxcaps so they can get a better understanding of the remaining distribution of these species.”

“Overall, 45 people from the local community joined me on the events, and we managed to identify 77 different species of fungi altogether.”

The first fungi foray session took place on Tuesday 5th September, then Thursday 14th September, Wednesday 20th September, Wednesday 4th October, and finally, Tuesday 24th October.

An average of 20 species of fungi were found per session by Marcia and attendees.

Marcia continued: “Highlights included the Scarlet Caterpillar Club (Cordyceps Militaris) – which grows on the decomposing remains of moth or butterfly larvae buried under the soil – and Prunes and Custard (Tricholomopsis Decora), a rare find in most of Britain and Ireland.

“Although, it is recorded more frequently in parts of Scotland and is also found in many northern countries of mainland Europe.”

While the series of fungi foray events have come to a close, High Life Highland’s Senior Countryside Ranger for North Highlands, Andy Summers, will be offering a ‘beginners guide to fungi’ talk on Thursday 11th January 2024: https://hlh.scot/3QqSgpQ

The upcoming talk and all of the fungi foray sessions were offered free of charge; however, High Life Highland Countryside Rangers benefit greatly from donations. There is a suggested minimum donation of £5 to help with covering costs.