Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
6:45 PM 30th October 2021

Frightening Fungi On Your Doorstep This Halloween

There are around 15,000 species of mushroom in the UK, but none more spook-tacular than the beefsteak mushroom Photo credit: Rachel Harries/WTML
There are around 15,000 species of mushroom in the UK, but none more spook-tacular than the beefsteak mushroom Photo credit: Rachel Harries/WTML
This frightening fungi is living proof that nature can outdo anything a human could fashion this Halloween.

Ghoulish and blood-red, the mushroom may look like a horror-film prop, but it is just one of the spectacular sights you can find growing in the UK’s precious woodlands.

The beefsteak mushroom is a wonderful and surprisingly common feature in our woods. It is sticky and gruesome, with a disconcerting appearance of a raw cut of meat and even oozes a blood-like substance when cut.

But if we are to ensure the spectacular example pictured growing on an oak tree will be there for generations of trick-or-treaters to come, it is vital we protect and restore our UK woods.

Fungi fanatic and Woodland Trust engagement and communication officer Rachel Harries, who took the picture, said it was a “beautiful specimen”.

“I have seen a few but that was the most impressive,” she added.

“A lot of fungi is incredible so the beefsteak mushroom is far from alone. But that fresh and jammy look is spectacular.

“Beefsteak fungus are one of the exciting examples of the broad range of biodiversity we find in ancient woodland, and particularly oak trees. Native broadleaf trees provide so many different microhabitats and we need to continue to value them and ensure they are not lost.”

Most of England’s ancient woodland has already been destroyed - it now covers just 2.8% of the country. Around half of what remains needs urgent management to remove non-native trees and plants that prevent native wildlife from thriving.

This fresh beefsteak fungus (fistulina hepatica) was spotted growing on an oak tree in a conifer plantation on what was once ancient woodland in Cornwall. Ancient woods urgently need restoration if they are to survive and that’s why the Woodland Trust is working with landowners to help bring them back to life.

“We are working with the woodland owner to restore ancient woodland like this. This oak is what we call a ‘pre-plantation oak’, it has been there for many years before the surrounding conifers were planted” Harries explained.

“The work includes halo thinning – selectively felling some of the conifer trees that are shading out this oak tree to allow it flourish. Oaks that remain in plantations like this hold the capacity to help regenerate the woodland. They provide biological continuity as a connection to the wood’s past and if we want to continue to see fantastic fungi like this, we need to continue to restore ancient woodland.”

The Woodland Trust is working with the landowner to protect the remnant features of the ancient wood to restore the woodland and its wildlife as part of a project funded by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ (Defra) Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

Find your nearest wood at Find A Wood - Visiting Woods - Woodland Trust

The UK is home to around 15,000 species of fungi. Here’s a handy guide to some of the types that can be found Types Of UK Mushrooms: Identification Guide - Woodland Trust