Candle-snuff Fungus and Soil Condition

The sad truth is fungi are under recorded in the garden, in no small part because of past gardening practices. The garden was dug over twice in ten years which isn’t great for fungi as it can destroy their hyphal networks.

Fungi can be difficult to identify further adding to a lack of confirmed species on the Garden species list. This we demonstrated recently when we tried to identify a rather drab brown mushroom found in the wetland area, click HERE to see how we got on. Thankfully we have over the last couple of years found a small handful of distinct species such as Jelly-ear, Turkey Tail and Green Elf Cap to at least make a start on a fungi list.

Today we recorded one of our favourite species, the Candle-snuff Fungus, so called because it looks reasonably like the smoke you get when extinguishing a candle (although our garden example isn’t the best).

It is a widespread and common species, but like all the above mentioned species it is very much associated with rotting wood. We are still clearly lacking grassland fungi and this we know hasn’t always been the case.

The latest thinking suggests a lack of grassland fungi can be symptomatic of poor soil condition, not just through digging but also compaction and the impact both these can have on other species such as earth worms. In Amy Stewarts brilliant book, The Earth Moved (Ref 15: Click HERE), Stewart explains how earth worms and their slimy tunnels help fungi spread beneath the ground. Healthy soils mean more earth worms, which in turn means more fungi and bacteria breaking down vegetable matter and adding organic materials to the soil structure. This in turn helps air and water to penetrate the soils further improving the soils natural ability to recycle plant nutrients.

A priority for the Garden is to now prevent any future damage to the soil structure and allow it to fully recover, hopefully it is already well and we are just waiting for the fungi to catch up. This will mean not walking excessively on it when wet (we’ve always tried to avoid this), avoiding adding nutrients and pesticides and adopting a no-dig approach wherever possible.

DC: 29.10.2022

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