They’re not plants and they’re not animals but you can find them living all over the world in a multitude of shapes, sizes, colours and smells. Some are tasty but be careful, as others can be poisonous!
More than 12,000 species of fungi are found in Scotland, some of which have only ever been recorded here. Fungi play a vital role in our natural environment and many plants and animals, including us, depend on them.
Different types of fungi provide a variety of services in our natural environment. Bog beacon (Mitrula paludosa), for example, is a saprotrophic, or recycler fungus. It is found growing on dead plants, mosses and algae and plays a vital role helping to break down these remains, releasing nutrients back into its habitat. Bog beacon, as its name suggests, likes areas of seeping water and is usually found near ditches, loch sides, streams and patches of sphagnum moss.
No more than 5cm tall, bog beacon’s pale stem is capped with a yellow or orange head. This colourful fruit body contains the spores which it will eventually shoot out to be spread by the air currents.
Keep an eye out for bog beacon over the next few weeks or so. In Scotland it starts to appear in spring and peaks in May and June. By mid September, its work done, the bog beacon fruitbody disappears but the fungus is still busy recycling below ground.
If you spot bog beacon whilst out and about you can record your sighting on the Scottish Fungi website. This website is maintained by fungi lovers and is also a great place to start if you’d like to become more involved, get help with identifying fungi, share photos or join one of the regional Scottish fungus groups.
Our Naturally Scottish – Fungi booklet is available to download for free and is also available in Gaelic.