Fungi friend or foe? The jury is still out

I saw a little white creature under the oak tree, like a pale dove or a rabbit’s tail. I was cycling down our lane going past five old oak trees. They must have been there for years and now their bark is old and cracked and some of their branches fall in the wind. They bend over the electricity wires and each year grow nearer and nearer until, one day, I think they will snap the electricity off.

Today, I couldn’t help but notice, as I cycled, that the little white ‘creature’ was getting bigger. I got off my bike to investigate and saw that it is not an animal and not a plant. It is a fungus and is growing in a hole in the bark. Also, as I looked closely, I could see that it isn’t all white, it has a brown crusty cap. Every week it grows bigger.

It is a bracket fungus. I suppose it got its name from its shape, which is like the bracket you see holding up shelves. It is strong and seems as hard as the oak wood itself. This fungus takes food from the oak and may eventually destroy the age-old tree, which could fall and then sparks would fly.

What should I do? I am tempted to stamp on the bracket and knock it off the trunk. But I am too late. Unbeknown to me the fungus has been growing inside the tree for years, spreading its tiny feeding threads. In fact, it could, already, have rotted the heartwood in the centre of the oak. What I see now is the fruit of the fungus – it will shed spores into the air, and these could land on another oak tree and grow there, feeding on it for years.

Cycling back home, I see the ink cap fungus looking like a judge (without his jury), growing on the verge, and the red (for danger) fly agaric growing under the yew tree. Fungi are everywhere this autumn and I don’t always like them, until I remember that penicillin is also a fungus.

The ink cap

Fly agaric


Popular posts from this blog

The dangers of living in the country

Flying through the air in summer

Home from hospital (again)