A land of mushrooms
The British Isles is home to a staggering 15,000 species of wild mushrooms or fungus. These organisms live almost everywhere in the UK but tend to grow more abundantly in woodland and grassland. Interestingly, only around 3,000 species are big enough to see with the naked eye!
Fungi are found on land, in the water, in the air and even in and on plants and animals. They vary widely in size and form, from the microscopically small to the largest organisms on Earth (at several square miles across).
The most substantial part of the fungus grows underground, known as the mycelium and is made up of a whole network of thin white threads. Mushrooms (or toadstools) are the names given to the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting bodies that certain fungi produce. Spores are like tiny seeds and will blow away in the wind and grow into new fungi!
In the autumn, Fly Agaric can be found in our woodland areas, particularly near silver birch trees. With its scarlet cap covered in white, wart-like spots, it's one of our most well-known toadstools.
Traditionally used as an insecticide, the cap was broken up and sprinkled into saucers of milk to keep the flies at bay. Fly agaric is now known to contain ibotenic acid, which both attracts and kills flies.
Please be aware that many of our fungi are poisonous (like the fly agaric), some of them deadly, so never eat mushrooms you've gathered unless under the supervision of an expert.