Amazing autumn and fabulous fungi in Hertfordshire

PUBLISHED: 08:33 15 October 2010 | UPDATED: 17:57 20 February 2013

Autumn stream (Steve Waterhouse)

Autumn stream (Steve Waterhouse)

Catch the gorgeous colours of the turning leaves on a woodland walk this month and you might come across something a little unusual too

OCTOBER is a great month for spotting fungi, particularly if the weather is damp and warm. There are thousands of species in the UK. Some are too small for us even to see. Many have weird and wonderful shapes and habits. We are all familiar with the picture book toadstools with red caps and white spots but take a look at some of these more unusual specimens.

Hats off!
The miraculous Pilobolus crystallinus is only around 3mm high but manages to disperse its spores by building up pressure of around 80lbs per square inch (three times the pressure in a car tyre) before throwing its spore packet or hat as much as two metres in the air!

Found on dead elder, the gelatinous outer surface of the ear fungus is a reddish-brown but the inner is grey and wrinkled. They look and feel like ears.

Cramp balls
King Alfreds Cakes are hard black lumps of fungus which grow on dead wood. Carrying the balls in your pocket was thought to safeguard against cramp.

Did you know?

  • Orchids cannot germinate without the help of fungi.

  • Mushrooms can release up to 2.7 billion spores a day.

Places to walk

Try your local nature reserve for a woodland walk and you could do a fungi hunt at the same time.

North Herts
Fox Covert and
Therfield Heath, Royston

Beech woodland is fantastic in the autumn for the displays of leaves turning from green to yellow, orange and gold.

Purwell Ninesprings, Hitchin
A wet woodland which makes an ideal habitat for fungi. You might also spot a water vole or a kingfisher.

Pryors Wood, Stevenage
A fantastic mixed woodland of oak, hornbeam, ash, hazel, field maple and wild cherry.

Mid Herts
Balls Wood, Hertford Heath
A mixed woodland of mature coppiced hornbeam adjacent to Hertford Heath. There are great crested newts, dragonflies and toads in the numerous ponds. The wood is also home to grass snakes and slow worms.

Fir and Pond Woods, Potters Bar
The best remaining part of ancient Enfield Chase, with wetlands, meadow and diverse woodland.

Gobions Wood, Potters Bar
A very varied woodland with wonderful examples of giant sequoia and elm. 558 species of fungi have been found here.

Danemead, Hoddesdon
One of only two outstanding places in the UK for oak hornbeam forest. The attractive Spital Brook runs through the reserve.

To find directions to your
local woodland reserve visit and click on Nature Reserves.

Latest from the Hertfordshire Life