Mushrooms are having a moment. There is more to the fungus than meets the eye, as we see in the depictions of it by SeanaGavin and Sheldrake. Modern medicine is seeing trials into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin.
Local mushrooms are flourishing after one of the wettest summers in memory. A bumper year has resulted in a 76% increase in reports from the public to the Royal Horticultural Society.
We should be happy with this new perspective. There are many reasons to pay more attention to the Fungi, but they are ignored by global efforts, disdained by fungophobes who fear they are all poisonous, and taught little in school and earth sciences. The world of fungi is mind-changing and enchanting. Just outside your door, it is available.
The mushrooms we see are the fruiting bodies of unseen and underground fungal networks that break down soil and connect tree roots across long distances. They are abundant in Britain and Ireland. It's easy to pick up mushrooms. When you can see one or two animals, you tend to see mushrooms in groups. Anna Tsing says they are always too many. Sylvia Plath said so many of us.
Mushroom-spotting is fun because you never know what you will see. Every species has to have the right conditions in order for puhpowee to happen. Each pops up at different times in the season. The moment of discovery is even sweeter because of their ephemerality.
Mushrooms are more than just stalks and caps. There are many shapes and structures. There are berets, berets, berets, berets, berets, berets, berets, berets, berets, berets, berets, be There are umbrellas, parasols, troops and tufts. A stinkhorn cap has a crackle-brittle pattern, the exterior of a parrot wax cap is slimy, and the umbonate tips of an ink cap are oozing away.
Do you want a color? There is candyfloss pink, turquoise, and violet. Poetic names? Candlesnuff, witch's butter, earthstar, lemon disco, sulphur knight, and destroying angel. What do you think about the smells? There are aromas of apricot, almond, fish, and cheese.
I like the weird stuff. I look out for the dark brown-red beefsteak fungus that drips a blood-like substance when cut and bioluminescent fungi that glow in the dark.
Hunting with children is very effective. Children can see things that are invisible to the adult eye. There can be a sense of intrigue or kinship if you watch a cloud of spores erupt from a puffball, take a specimen home to make prints, or try to identify a mushroom.
In the UK, we have an amazing diversity of mushrooms, but also barriers that make it hard for people to find them, as is the case in France, Germany and other European countries. Sheldrake says that laws of trespass and disconnection have led to ecophobia and "fungus blindness", which have separated us from our fungal relatives.
We might benefit from a new relationship with the fungi. We have awe in abundance through mushrooms, which is good for our health, even though we don't have grand canyons or huge mountain ranges.
As we learn more about how the woodwide web is influenced by fungi, they may have important lessons for the planetary crisis. The brio of mushrooms may help us imagine new futures. The possibility of transformation and the fundamental reality of ecological interconnectedness are represented by mushrooms.
The organic compounds they produce bind up carbon. They can break through paving stones. Their process is invisible until it is. It seems like a good way to imagine a different world.
It would be pointless to write about mushrooms without paying tribute to RogerPhillips, who died last month. His books are the definitive guides to other species in our living world, and his presence on social media in his final years was a source of knowledge, passion and wonder.
A guide byPhillips is a good place to start. Your local nature organisation or nature trust can run walks. The British Mycological Society holds events. Chicken of the Woods is a type of fungi that can be found on dead wood, around tree and stump trunks, and up. Resupinate fungi look like spills of paint on bark and can be seen with a loupe or hand lens. Rain will bring a lot of mushrooms. The bottom of the ditches and hedgerows will make your knees muddy.
Quick! Most of the leaves are put to bed before the leaves fall. There is still time.
Lucy Jones is a journalist and the author of two books.