01 October 2018


A fairly wet August following an exceptionally hot and dry July created ideal conditions for mushrooms and toadstools. Sure enough, by the end of August many people were reporting all manner of fungi in woods and fields. The first half of September, with its almost monsoonal rains, saw a continuation of good conditions for autumn fungi with boletes and brittlegills appearing everywhere. A number of Cep (Boletus edulis) foragers took advantage of the exceptional year for this most edible of toadstools in our local woodlands and large numbers appeared in the Neath Valley this year.

The Penny Bun Fungus, or Cep (Boletus edulis), in a Neath Valley beechwood

But I have been particularly impressed by the abundance of Brittlegills (Russula species) in the last month or so. Local beech woods have had spectacular amounts of Blackening Brittlegill (Russula nigricans) and Geranium Brittlegill (Russula fellea). The latter could be confused with Ochre Brittlegill (Russula fellea), which is probably the most common brittlegill in our area, but it is more honey yellow than ochre yellow, it has a faint smell of Pelargonium and it is only found in beechwoods.

Geranium Brittlegill (Russula fellea) in Briton Ferry Woods

Other brittlegills that have been conspicuous include the very common Charcoal Burner (Russula cyanoxantha), Purple Brittlegill (Russula atropurpurea) and Bitter Almond Brittlegill (Russula laurocerasi). The latter is a large, chunky brittlegill with a distinctive smell of bitter almond or marzipan.

Charcoal Burner (Russula cyanoxantha),  beechwood in Glyncastle Forest

Purple Brittlegill (Russula atropurpurea) Briton Ferry Woods

                            Bitter Almond Brittlegill (Russula laurocerasi), Gnoll Park beechwoods

Yellowing Brittlegill (Russula puellaris) has been abundant in some mixed deciduous woodlands this autumn. Perhaps its most obvious feature is its tendency to discolour to yellow, particularly in its stem and gills.

Yellowing Brittlegill (Russula puellaris), mixed woodland near Resolven

Birch Brittlegill (Russula betularum) has certainly been one of the most common fungi in birchwoods this year. It is fairly small and fragile with a pale pink cap. A useful identification feature is that the skin on the cap (the cuticle) will peel almost entirely - most brittlegills have a cuticle that peels from quarter to halfway across the cap.

Birch Brittlegill (Russula betularum), birchwood near Resolven

Two rather similar brittlegills, Russula amoenolens and Russula praetervisa appeared in fairly large numbers in a scrubby oakwood near Jersey Marine in early September. They are both rather similar brownish fungi which require careful microscopic examination and chemical tests for accurate identification. Russula amoenolens has an incredibly peppery taste that Geoffrey Kibby describes as painful - and he's not wrong!

Russula amoenolens, oak wood near Jersey Marine

A birch and willow woodland near Jersey Marine had a very large population of Russula persicina, this year. It is not a common species, but it seems to like growing with willows in coastal habitats in south Wales. Notably, it can also be found growing with Creeping Willow (Salix repens) on Kenfig Burrows.

Russula persicina, with Grey Willows near Jersey Marine

In the Corsican Pine plantations of Pembrey, Whiteford and Margam, there have been good crops of Crab Brittlegill (Russula xerampelina). The strong, fishy smell of crab is a good identification feature. Another good id feature is very dark green reaction on the stem when it is rubbed with iron salts (see photo below).

Crab Bittergill (Russula xerampelina), Corsican Pine plantation, Margam Moors - note the very dark  green stain on the stem after rubbing with ferrous sulphate crystals

And finally, a nationally rare species, Russula torulosa, which is usually associated with coastal plantations of Corsican Pine, was found growing with Lodgepole Pine on a coal tip near Banwen. It is a beautiful brittlegill with a striking, pink stem. It could be confused with Russula fuscorubroides which is also found locally, but that species grows with spruce (usually Sitka Spruce) and not pine.

Russula torulosa with Lodgepole Pine on coal tip near Banwen


Barry Stewart said...

Sumptuous images and wonderful detail Charles, making me frustrated that I've not found more time this autumn to get out and discover more about these incredible organisms. Must ensure that I put iron salts on the shopping list too!

Tadoba said...

Wow, The Penny Bun Fungus looks pretty big

Pench Safari said...

I have never seen such a big mashroom