The Basidiomycota include many familiar species of mushroom, such as Agaricus bisporus which is ubiquitous throughout supermarkets and food stalls across the globe, as well as puff balls, stink horns, jelly ears, rusts and smuts.
The Basidiomycota are characterised by the presence of a basidium, a specialised structure which bears the sexually-derived basidiospores. The spores are typically held at the end of a prong, or horn, called a sterigma which forcibly discharges the spores once they reach maturity. The Basidiomycota also possess complex dolipore septa which regulate the passage of cellular components.
Agaricus bisporus basidium (x400)
Agaricus bisporus is the common button mushroom ubiquitous throughout supermarkets and food-stalls across the globe. The basidium is the microscopic spore bearing structure located on the hymenophore of the basidiomycota.
Also known as 'Jew's ear,' this jelly fungus is distinctly ear-shaped and can be found throughout the year on dead elder wood or elm. This fungus is popular in Asian cooking.
Also known as the fly agaric - because it was used as an insecticide left out in milk - Amanita muscaria is a poisonous and psychoactive fungus. Much contention surrounds the extent of the influence of A. muscaria on world religions. It is known to still have a religious significance for its entheogenic properties to the peoples of Siberia.
The 'death cap' is a common, and highly poisonous, fungus that likes to associate with deciduous trees, particularly oak, and silver birch. A. phalloides contains the greatest concentration of amatoxins (as little as 0.1mg/kg body weight is lethal in humans), which disrupt protein synthesis, particularly in the kidneys and liver. The death cap has caused many fatalities because it resembles many edible species.
Also known as birch bracket, or razor strop, this fungus is a very common parasite of birch. P. betulinus was found inside the 5,300 year old mummy Oetzi 'the ice man's' medical kit: it is thought that he will have used its antibiotic and carminative properties to alleviate his intestinal parasite (whip worms).
Nidulariaceae family (Bird's nest fungi)
Birds' nest fungi resemble tiny egg-filled birds' nests. They are common saprotrophs, living on bits of bark or twigs. The inner surface of the nest is grooved such that water droplets can dislodge and eject the spore-bearing periodoles (the "eggs").
The common earth ball has a rubbery smell and has a scaly skin that eventually ruptures to release the spores. When mature the inside develops into a powdery brown spore mass.
The Common Ink Cap is a common species found in Europe and North America. Although it is edible, it is toxic when consumed with alcohol due to its interaction with acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, allowing the build up of acetaldehyde in the body. Acetaldehyde is a secondary metabolite of ethanol responsible for the nauseous symptoms associated with a hangover - hence its nickname 'Tippler's Bane'.
Prior to 2003, the pear-shaped puff-ball (M. pyriformis) was known as Lycoperdon pyriforme. This puffball is common on decaying logs, both deciduous and coniferous. Whilst young it is considered a delicious morsel (while the inside is still white).
Orange clubs is a common grassland fungus. Often found in short grass, or moss, or among herbs in broad-leaved woods, the club-shaped fruiting bodies are matchstick size.
Armillaria mellea is a honey fungus, which are a prevalent group of plant pathogens. It causes root rot and also forms thick black rhizomorphs beneath the bark of the tree - hence it is also known as the 'bootlace fungus'. A. mellea is also bioluminescent and may be responsible for phenomena such as foxfire and will o' the wisp.
The Verdigris agaric is a green, saprobic, slimy woodland mushroom that especially likes wood-chip mulches in gardens. It is deemed poisonous, although these properties are yet to be fully clarified.
The yellow-ochre cap of 'Shaggy Pholiota' has distinctive upturned red-brown scales. Can be found in clumps on dead wood or broad-leaved trees. It has a sharp radish-like smell and the spores are brown in deposit.
The pleated ink cap is very common inhabitant of grass land from spring to late autumn.
Also known at 'the sickener', Russula emetica is well known for inducing vomiting and diarrhoea when consumed raw. It is easily identified by its brilliant convex red cap and white gills. It has a slightly fruity smell and a peppery taste. It is common in coniferous woodlands and, interestingly, is known to be foraged for, and consumed by, red squirrels.
Commonly known as the 'apricot fungus' due to its pleasant apricot smell. This fungus has become much more common due to Dutch Elm disease, which provided an abundance of dead Elm on which Rhodotus grows. It starts of a deep-pink colour, but turns an apricot colour as it matures.
The shaggy ink cap common in grass, woodland and urban areas. It is edible when young, but does not keep for long due to its autodigestion of its gills and cap. When mature it releases a black fluid containing the spores.
The shaggy parasol has a white cap with thick brown scales. It is common in North America and Europe.
Stinkhorns are renowned for their putrid smell that attracts flies to their spore-bearing olive green slime on the head of the fruiting body.
Sulphur tufts are common woodland mushrooms. It grows especially on dead broad-leaved trees. They are poisonous and are thought to have similar effects to those produced by amatoxins.
The orange-red wax cap belong to the Hygrocybe genus, and are often distinguished by the impressive, vivid colour of their fruiting body. They are common in the autumn, in acid soil, pasture and heathland.
The common earth star. This image shows a young fruiting body, yet to open. Upon maturity (image on the right), it opens into a spore case with a star of 4-9 arms. It is a cosmopolitan species and can be found in most woodlands during the autumn.