Fungi and Oak Trees – Their Important Relationship

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The natural landscape and the eco-system in British woodlands is reliant on many species working together. One of the most intriguing relationships are those between fungi and the trees – particularly oak trees.

Oak trees are instantly recognisable to most people and have long been a symbol of strength – they are also favoured for their wood which is excellent for building things like these oak framed extensions as it is durable and long lasting.

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Fungi are less well known and often people are a little disgusted by them! Associated with decay, they certainly are not revered as highly as the oak tree by most people! But they play a hugely important part in the healthy functioning of the woodland and have a mutually beneficial relationship with the trees themselves.

The trees provide the fungi with a place to live and the nutrients that they need and in return the fungi provide the tree with more nutrients which they have been able to gather through the network of fungi that goes beyond the tree’s roots. It is a fascinating example of how interconnected our woodlands are and how each plant and creature plays a part in the healthy functioning of the woodland itself.

If you want to go out and see some of these for yourself, autumn is the ideal time of the year for spotting fungi. There are certain species which you will find around an oak tree – and some that exclusively live on oak trees and no other tree! Here are some that you are likely to find lurking around the roots of the oak trees…

Penny Bun – These get their name as the top looks very much like a crusty bread roll! These are also edible, and many people like to add them to soups, as they are both delicious and high in antioxidants so perfect as an addition to winter foods! They can be as large as 25cm across the top and the underside of them have white gills and small pores. They can get very large indeed and one on the Isle of Skye was really big – weighing in at a whopping 3.2kg!

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Oakbug Milkcap – This mushroom is certainly not a stunner to look at or to smell! The smell is said to be similar to the smell of bedbugs! It is exclusively reliant on oak trees, and it is important to them too. Despite its gruesome smell and lacklustre appearance, it is actually not a poisonous mushroom and is edible if you do want to have a taste of it! When eaten raw it has a bitter taste to it, but this disappears when cooked.

Yellowdrop Milkcap – This is another mushroom that has formed an exclusive relationship with the oak tree. You may have to look hard for it in the autumn as it blends in well with the brown autumn leaves that have fallen at the base of the tree. Unlike the Oakbug Milkcap this is a poisonous mushroom, so don’t be tempted to have a taste!

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