Sulphur tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) growing on dead wood in the copse between Sleepers and Sheep Field.

Sulphur tuft is a wood-rotting fungus, a saprophage. Wood-rotting fungi have evolved to produce the enzymes needed to break down the chemically complex substances found in wood. Sulphur tuft is not a fussy feeder and enjoys deciduous woods as well as conifers. Basically any wood that is decaying, sulphur tufts will find a way to feed on it and thrive.

These pictures are of the fungus’s fruiting bodies; the main part of this fungus is the mycelium, the threads of hyphae that grow through the wood and produce the enzymes that break it down. The fruiting bodies, the bright sulphur-yellow caps for which the fungus is named, produce the spores; they are the fungal equivalent of a flower.

They are usually found in tightly packed colonies, with barely enough space between the caps for each to open; they will grow on a decaying tree stump and sometimes cover it completely. If the caps appear to be out in the open, nowhere near a rotting tree stump, it is because there are tree roots rotting beneath the ground. Sulphur tufts will hang around a dead tree for a number of seasons, until the wood has decayed to the point where there are no more nutrients for the fungus to feed on.

This is a poisonous species. It tastes very bitter and unpleasant and is therefore not easily confused with an edible species but its bitterness can be disguised if it is cooked in a medley of other fungi – so be careful.

As ever, we recommend that nobody eats the fungi they find in the park unless that have the advice of an expert.

This post was first published in October 2019

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