Fascination with fungi growing as Islanders connect with nature

Sandy Stiltball- Battarrea phalloides (keith) (36976415)

ISLANDERS’ growing interest in the “beauty and diversity” of wild mushrooms is boosting local efforts to preserve ecological data – with a fungi social media group seeing a 50% surge in activity recently.

The increased interest is attributed to people wanting to connect with nature, an “excellent” mushroom season, and better awareness of mushroom hunting as a result of media coverage and education efforts.

A Facebook group, “Jersey (CI) Wild Mushroom Hunting!”, dedicated to recording the many wild mushrooms found in Jersey has doubled its numbers from 650 members in early August to 1,200 in November, said Charlotte Shenkin, a local fungi enthusiast who is an admin of the Facebook group and member of the Société Jersiaise.

Fibrous Waxcap – Hygrocybe intermedia (charlotte) (36976419)

“The group has had a 50% increase in activity since the start of September,” she added.

Keith Norman, chair of the Société Jersiaise Mycology Section, which focuses on the academic study of fungi, agreed that mushrooms have been growing in popularity.

Mr Norman said that more people were seeking a connection with the natural world, especially in the light of climate change concerns.

He continued: “Going out into the woods, parks and other natural environments allows people to become mindful and they come across all the amazing life that is there, including mushrooms.”

Mrs Shenkin said the increased interest was an “excellent thing” that she hoped would foster a stronger connection to nature, and encourage people to get outdoors.

She added: “The more records people make the better our knowledge of fungi in Jersey and the better armed we are to try to protect species and environments.”

Islanders can help update the fungi database by contributing images and details to the Jersey Biodiversity Centre.

Lilac Bonnet – Mycena pura (charlotte) (36976421)

Mrs Shenkin suggested that media coverage had played a role in raising awareness, with her discovery of a rare mushroom in Trinity making local headlines in August.

“As a result, people are more interested in looking for and then sharing their finds,” she said.

Mr Norman added: “Another reason I feel mushrooms have been so popular in the public’s eye lately is because of the international news story about the Australian woman that has been charged with three murders due to mushroom poisoning by Death Cap mushrooms. I’ve had so many people ask me about this!”

Both agreed that social media, particularly Facebook, had contributed to spreading awareness of fungi.

Mr Norman said: “People seem to enjoy posting photos of their wonderful finds, with others getting involved to help identify them.

“It’s a fun way for people to engage with each other and it’s encouraging to see so many joining these Facebook groups. Especially when it seemed like so few of us fungi enthusiasts before.”

Mr Norman described this year as “extraordinary” owing to the warm and wet summer conditions, which created ideal circumstances for fungi to flourish – leading to “many species you wouldn’t expect to see popping up in summer”.

Mrs Shenkin said that it had been an “excellent year” for fungi enthusiasts, with a surge in sightings of different mushroom varieties.

“Since we hit summer there have been more than I can keep up with,” she said.

“There are just under 1,700 species of fungi recorded in Jersey so far and we know there must be many more.

“Part of the enjoyment for me is wondering if a mushroom I’ve found has ever been seen here before.”

With regards to climate change, Mrs Shenkin explained that fungi were resilient as their underground network did not depend on sunlight and seasonal patterns like plants. Fungi can wait for ideal conditions, responding when they arise, leading to multiple flushes across the year.