When I lived in Bonn, the highlight of a walk into the Kottenforst — the extensive forest that began just a few steps from the house— was finding fungi. Now that I live in a forest — or more accurately — one of a number of farms carved out of mixed forests of holm oak, carob, and pine, I am finding all manner of fungi right in my backyard, especially after rain. Since mid-September, we’ve had quite a lot of rain. And for the past two weeks, the amount of rain that has fallen on the southern part of Valencia province has been setting a new record — 170 liters per square meter in 24 hours!
These, which I believe (but am not entirely sure) are Marasmius oreades, came up with the very first rains over two months ago. They’re quite small and form groups roughly in an arc –not a complete ring– though in time I expect they will, into what is known fancifully as a fairy ring. They appeared just beyond the canopy of some pines.
These puffballs were among the earliest fungi to appear after the first rains. They were in a more open situation away from the trees, among the wild thyme in a drier part of the garden.
These I believe are Suillus granulatus (though not with 100% conviction). A local nature website mentions this as a common Suillus species in this part of Spain. What’s unusual about these two is that they sprung from a leaf- and soil-filled cavity in a rock. I had assumed that these mycorrhizal fungi would need to be in contact with the roots of their host trees. There are pine trees in the vicinity, but I doubt that their roots could have penetrated the rock from below.
The red-capped fungus below appeared with the most recent extended rains. I’m speculating this colourful mushroom to be either a Lactarius or a Russula — both genera are habitually found under pines. If anyone can offer a more accurate identification, I’d be really grateful.
The oddest fungi to appear in my garden have got to be the stinkhorns. And they are indeed aptly named as your nose alerts you to their presence from far off. The stench of carrion is supposed to attract flies to disseminate their spores. Those below are Phallus impudicus. I haven’t seen any flies on the greenish-black slime though — perhaps even the flies are repelled. There’s a massive group of them under pine, lentisk, and carob trees.
The unusual basket-like fungus below is known as Witches Vomit, Guitra de Bruixa, in Catalan/Valenciano. I find it attractive, but it is classified among the stinkhorns because of its stench meant to attract spore-dispensing flies. There were two that appeared near the olive trees in the summer, so it was a surprise to see one again this autumn, just a few meters from where the previous ones had been.
I’ve relied on Roger Phillip’s lavishly illustrated Mushrooms and Other Fungi of Great Britain and Europe (Macmillan, London:1981) for help with identification. The internet has greatly expanded amateur mycologist’s resources, and none more helpful than Michael Kuo’s Mushroom Expert, although his focus is on American fungi. And Roger Phillips now has his own website, Roger’s Mushrooms, as well. As a beginning fungus enthusiast, I would be grateful for any corrections to those I’ve identified above.
Now that I’ve had half a year of observing what has been coming up in my garden, what I find truly fascinating, over and above these marvelous fungi in themselves, is the symbiosis among the trees, the terrestrial orchids, and the other wild flowers in my garden. Without the delicate balancing act of their interaction, such a wondrous biodiversity that I experience daily would not exist.