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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Just the weather for fungi blooms
Twm Elias
Expert Twm Elias with some of the fungi
A warm summer followed by a damp September has resulted in a bumper year for fungi.

They are popping up all over the Welsh countryside - including one which is found at only three sites in Britain.

The bird's nest fungus thrives on marram grass and rabbit droppings.

"A warmish summer followed by a damp September provide ideal conditions for fungi," said expert Twm Elias, from the Snowdonia National Park study centre.

"This has been a very good year, because conditions have been better than usual."

As fungi usually live underground they can lie dormant for many years.

Magic

The mushrooms and toadstools we see are the 'fruits' of the plant.

Mr Elias, a lecturer at the Plas Tan y Bwlch centre near Maentwrog, added: "Imagine a big apple tree - if it was fungi the whole tree would live underground with just the apples showing above ground".

The "fly agaric" (Amanita muscaria), photo from Gareth Roberts
This fungus was associated with witches' legends

BBC News website reader Gareth Roberts from Bangor sent a picture of a poisonous "fly agaric" (Amanita muscaria) taken on Anglesey.

Striking fungi such as this have been connected with myths and magic for many years.

"They were originally called "flying agaric" because witches used them and the resulting 'high' made them feel like they were flying," said Twm Elias.

"The mushrooms had to be processed, and used, in a certain way for this effect however - eating them would make you violently ill," he added.

Other fungi used to have more domestic uses. On the side of the road near Treborth Bangor tall ink cap fungi can be seen.

These "auto digest" said Mr Elias, when the bottom of the cap gets increasingly wet 'dripping' spores onto the ground.

The resulting black liquid used to be collected for use as ink - the original ink used by cartographers.

Ink cap
The ink cap provided ink for cartographers

The birds' nest fungus can be found at the Ynyslas National Nature Reserve between Machynlleth and Aberystwyth.

This species looks like a miniature nest complete with 'eggs' - it thrives on a combination of marram grass and rabbit droppings and can be found at only three British sites.

Mike Bailey, the Countryside Council for Wales reserve manager, said there was another rarity on the dunes this year.

He said: "We've had a quite amazing visitor, the agroeca dentinegra, which is a centimetre high and coloured brown and yellow.

"Very little is known about its habit and its only been found in a small number of sites on the continent, mostly marshes with tall vegetation, similar to marram grass at Ynyslas."

Twm Elias will give an illustrated talk on fungi during the Beddgelert Food Fair organised by the National Trust on 24 and 25 October.


SEE ALSO:
Mushrooms seized under new powers
20 Jul 05 |  Scotland
Magic mushroom ban 'too strong'
18 Jul 05 |  Scotland


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