Broadland Country Park, 17 November 2021

This local Honeyguide event was a return to Broadland Country Park, between Horsford and Felthorpe – we also had a small group here in September – as this splendid mix of heath and woodland remains new to many people.

It was too late in the year for many flowers; a few herb Roberts, gorse (low and unscented, so probably western gorse) and some last-lingering blooms of bell heather. So it was mostly a chance to see how our fungi knowledge was developing, or being retained, not least from the recent Foxley Wood walk, which all of us were on.

Clouded funnel.
The start was immediately challenging: a large white fungus, high on a dead tree … more of that later. That was followed by a patch of clouded funnels, which we did know, and several strange white masses. At the time our best guess was a slime mould species, but having shown photos to James Emerson, they were powderpuff bracket (Postia ptychogaster). This species isn’t in Sterry & Hughes, the field guide I use.

Powderpuff bracket Postia ptychogaster, collage.

We started by overlooking the fenced heath from the picnic benches, and talking in general about what the very new Broadland Country Park has to offer before taking an anti-clockwise circuit around the country park. It was good to see the lorry and digger on site both improving the path and enhancing ditches and wetland areas.

Broadland Country Park: work in progress today to improve paths and enhance wetland areas.

Under Scots pines and bracken there were scores of common earthball fungi, at their prime on the previous walk in September and still looking good. However now they were ready to burst, sending out clouds of smoky spores. Here we also found amethyst deceivers.

Amethyst deceivers; common earthballs.

Once on the wide trackway we were among birches and sweet chestnuts. We paused to look at a fallen downy birch in a damp patch. A good find a little farther along from here was a fallen birch with many examples of crimped gill (Plicatura crispa) – another fungus that isn’t in the book. I’d seen this previously on Mousehold Heath. An online check (the National Biodiversity Network, here) suggests crimped gill isn’t yet found in Norfolk, but that database is lagging behind actual recording; a map James sent shows several recent records in Norfolk.

Crimped gill (Plicatura crispa), with distribution in Norfolk at end of 2019.

Here we also stopped to watch birds as a goldcrest was moving through a berried holly tree. Long-tailed tits then appeared, as did blue and coal tits. Other birds today were the chipping call of a great spotted woodpecker and flight calls of siskins, plus the perhaps expected blackbird, robin and jays, then jackdaws and woodpigeons on fields next to the wood.

Another fallen birch stump had around 65 hoof (or tinder) fungi. This fungus starts as parasitic, then continues to grow on dead trees.On a few of these were the cocoons of the fungus gnat Sciophila rufa. This is the species found earlier this year – including by our September group – on a different birch stump with hoof fungi at Broadland Country Park, then the third record for England and a second for Norfolk. As we’d also found this at Foxley Wood, we are still wondering if it is becoming quite widespread.

Hoof fungi on a fallen birch. On the left fungus, which is clearly layered, the bottom layer is the youngest; hoof fungi can live for up to 30 years. Top right includes a fungus gnat cocoon.

We looked up a yellowish brittlegill under dry birch trees and concluded it was ochre brittlegill. Jon read in the book that it has a ‘hot taste’, so he tasted it and confirmed exactly that!

Ochre brittlegill.

Another species near here was brown rollrim. The photo shows characteristic brown bruising on the gills, as well as a rolled rim.

Brown rollrim.

A clump of fungi may well have been burgundydrop bonnet; the name is because it exudes a dark red latex when the stem is broken. Somehow, I’ve missed this splendidly named fungus before– perhaps as there are five pages of bonnet species.

Perhaps burgundydrop bonnet.

Other fungi species today were candlesnuff, turkeytail, honey fungus, common rustgill, sulphur tuft and birch polypore. There were various fungi we couldn’t identify with confidence, including a lovely red Russula (brittlegill): bloody brittlegill is the likely species.

A Russula (brittlegill), probably bloody brittlegill.

Birches at Broadland Country Park.
The sun was still shining as we walked through the rest of the birch wood, across the small heathland of St Faiths Common and back to the car park. This reminded us to take a photo of the white bracket-like fungus on a dead beech, far out of reach. James advises that it is veiled oyster, despite not looking anything like an oyster fungus, and that it was seen on a fungus foray earlier in November. Sterry & Hughes says for this species, ‘becoming flatter and bracket-like’ and describes it as ‘occasional in England’.

Now we know ... veiled oyster.
As we went the few yards to eat picnics on the handily provided picnic benches by the heath, we saw a fresh and bright peacock butterfly sunning itself on a log, its ‘eyes’ flashing purple. It was too quick (or I was too slow) for a photo.

Chris Durdin


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