Copied from an article by Tom Maxwell in issue 26 of the Review.
None of the fungi mentioned should be eaten unless positively identified by an expert.
Toadstools are not well represented in the Park. Although there are in the region of 2,000 species in Britain, only a handful appear here in the autumn. This is typical of other wcll-trodden areas in central London. Having said that, it is curious that of the 24 species mentioned bv Johnson in his 1910 book Battersea Park as a Centre for Nature Study, half of them can still be found!
Parasol mushrooms are tall (9″), buff coloured fungi with broad caps. They are a highly prized edible species which Johnson noted in `grassy enclosures.’ Last year, ten or more appeared in the Wilderness, although only two or three were noted this year.
The Oyster mushroom which is also edible was recorded near the bandstand in 1909, and is still around today. The Fairy Ring mushroom (Marasmius oreades) is famous for producing large rings of mushrooms with associated rings of dark, tall grass. Rings in the region of six feet in diameter can be seen on the grassy slopes at the edge of the Zoo.
Another prized, edible species noted for its perfume is the bright blue Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda). This was found last year in the Wilderness near another very famous mushroom, the Giant Puffball. The latter can grow to the size and shape of a football, but suffers, as do so many other fungi, from being kicked over.
The ordinary field mushrooms we are all accustomed to (Agaricus campestris) was recorded on the woodland walk in 1908. This has not been rediscovered, but similar species have. There was a possible sighting of the Prince (Agaricus augustus) in the heather garden a few years ago, and this year there were several specimens of small agarics on the grass near the athletics track. Agarics are rather difficult to identify. Their smell and what colour they bruise or what colour they go when cut are all clues to their identity.
To illustrate the danger of eating unidentified funghi, one species, Coprinus astramentarius, if eaten with or followed by alcohol causes flushing in the face and neck, tingling in the fingers and toes, and occasionally nausea. (It has been used to help alcoholics quit the habit.) To my knowledge, it has not been recorded in the Park since the turn of the century, although it is common enough nearby. Rather more sensitive species such as the brittlegills (Russula Spp.) and the milkcaps (Lacterius Spp.), which were noted in the past, have not been seen recently. Since the creation of the Nature Reserve there has been an undoubted increase in the abundance and number of species. This lends weight to the theory that there are several fungi in the spore bank of, the soil just waiting to reappear when the correct conditions return. Let us hope they do.