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The Search for the Beef Steak Fungus

As part of the programme of events at Stoke Park, I led a fungus walk. This was a walk with a difference; it was not a race around the park with baskets in hand to see how many edible species we could find to eat, but more about the secret world of fungi and looking at some of their uses.

As I pulled up to greet my guests I noticed there were lots of children, which was fantastic to see. They were all excited to show me their books on  mushrooms.


“Fantastic,” I said. “You can all help me identify some mushrooms as we go  around the park with your books – you can be my fungus detectives.”

That was greeted with a cheer of delight from them, so the group of more than  50 guests and I  set off into the park. I did my opening speech and welcomed  everybody to Stoke Park.

We then set off into the woods to see what we could find. In no time at all  the children spotted a red fungus poking out of an oak tree. They all looked  through their books to see who could identify it first. I asked if they could  tell me what they had found. Young Emma shouted “beefsteak”, which was  correct.

The beefsteak is also known as the ox tongue fungus, pictured, because  it  resembles the tongue of an ox. It is called  beefsteak because when you slice it  up it looks like sirloin beef steaks. It is an edible species.

As we continued through the woods the kids were so excited that they had  found the first fungus, and the race was on to locate the next one. But this  time they found something very different. A massive oak tree that is more than  260 years old had been toppled. This was caused by a fungus called the oak  bracket or weeping bracket. You do not see this fungus too often.

I explained that this species of fungus is very clever as it finds its way  into the heart of the tree, sucks out all the moisture,  and drops it through  its pores, hence the name weeping bracket. Once it has sucked all the water out  of the tree, the fungus will start to attack it and kill it. This is what had  happened to this tree.

Soon my fungus detectives gave a shriek.  “Found another.”

This was the yellow stag’s-horn fungus, a bright yellow one that looks like a  deer’s antler.

Well done, detectives.