Fungi Foray in Bialowieza Forest, Poland
I am very surprised at the lack of interest in foreign fungus forays. Large numbers of people go abroad on bird, plant and whale trips, and I am aware that full-time working people have difficulty fitting fungi forays into their holidays, but pensioners should have less problems. I went on the above foray with three members of the North-East Fungus Study Group (NEFSG) and thoroughly enjoyed the trip, because it was educational, it included a fare amount of culture and, above all, it was a great fun.
Looking back at my list of fungi for this trip, I have picked out some of the more interesting finds. White to yellow brackets of Climacocystis borealis, about 7cm wide, clothed many conifer logs (Climacocystis means imbr Lactarius vellereus icate, like tiles or a staircase, and borealis means northern). The beautiful reddish-pink brackets of Fomitopsis rosea, about 5cm wide, does not get a mention in many European books so it must be rare elsewhere, but common in the famous strict nature reserve in the Bialowieża Forest. The poisonous Galerina marginata was common and could be compared with another common fungus Kuehneromyces mutabilis. When I saw Gloeophyllum odoratum on old conifer stumps, I realised that I had not missed it in England whilst recording G. sepiarium. The former gives off a strong smell of aniseed and the brackets are thicker and more undulating than the latter. I thought I was finding Lactarius vellereus on many occasions, but a closer look revealed that it was Lactarius acerrimus, which has tinges of yellow and cracks on the top of the cap. I was brave enough to taste the milk which is mild whereas the former’s milk is very hot. A black button of Leucagaricus badhamii took a long time to identify, but Tom and Otto’s (other participants) persistence paid off with an approved determination. Ossicaulis lignatilis looked like a pale pink Hygrophorus growing on rotting wood. The attractive, hairy, orange brackets of Phyllotopsis nidulans growing on rotten wood, took a while to sort out. There were ample opportunities to compare Pholiota species such as P. alnicola, P. aurivella and P. squarroides, with its slimy cap. Pluteus umbrosus with its cobweb veined cap was seen frequently. I seldom see Ramaria species so, I was pleased to see good specimens of Ramaria stricta. One old log was clothed in the beautiful pink Rhodotus palmatus so, cameras were in full use. Otto put me out of my misery when he identified an orange crust fungus with a white rim as Steccherinum ochraceum, This cooperation was a great advantage when people from other European countries attend a foray, because the species might be common in their homeland and seldom seen in other people’s home patches. Another very common species was Stereum subtomentosum, which appeared to be attached to the wood by one point only, resembling the Plicatura crispa method of attachment.
One afternoon we went to see a tremendous display of about 300 fungi collected at the Bialowieza Forest and labelled: red for poisonous, orange for dubious and green for edible at the annual fungi exhibition held at the Education Centre of the Bialowieża National Park. I would have liked to have spent much time at the large ‘whitewash fungi’ display.
I learn a lot about new fungi species and local variations when visiting other countries. I am sure that the other three participants learned a lot too. Our thanks must go to the two patient guides, Karol and Arek, who enjoyed discussing fungi with us.
But, this is not all. We all saw a number of interesting wildlife species, including a magnificent bull European Bison. I dare not tell him that we had steaks from one of his relatives for one meal. We were also taken to a place where European Beavers had formed a dam by felling trees up to 30cm in diameter. Many trees left within the dam had died on their feet providing a habitat for fungi, woodpeckers, etc. Some of us saw the Black and White-backed Woodpeckers and we all got a fright of our lives when a female Wild Boar with five piglets crossed our path in the forest!
The food was excellent, particularly in a nearby restaurant, which was comparable to any gourmet meals. The costs of our feasts were included in the tour price. We also had meals in a family run guest house, where after the evening dinners, we sampled many Polish alcoholic drinks (an amazing variety!), also included in the price of the tour. Luckily we had a Polish driver who abstained.
I hope this article encourages you to take part in fungus forays abroad. You are missing once in a lifetime chance of this form of education.