Mapping the Fungal Networks in Claypark Woods

Dec 7, 2021

It’s mid-November, and the day is very cold but bright and sunny. Dr. Christian Taylor is leading a group of a dozen folk along the Western Carriage Path near the village of Holbeton. The pace is extremely slow, not because of the humans, but because of the huge array of fungi which means we stop every few paces. A myriad of designs, colours and forms popping up high in the trees, at our feet, and dripping from branches in the form of lichen or elf cups are not easily ignored once you get your eye in.

We learn a huge amount about these extraordinary beings, and have a great deal of fun hunting for them, then learning how very differently they all smell. Through the lens of fungi we begin to see the woods in a very different way – as a huge network all linked together and interdependent.

It was astonishing to discover that in such a small area of woodland and in around two hours, we identified 26 species, from mycelial networks ranging thirty metres across, to individual mushrooms no bigger than a pin. is currently working on mapping the extraordinary diversity of fungi that we find in Claypark Woods with an aim to create a ‘library of spores’ from as many of them as possible.

We have also put some small pieces of mycelium or in some cases small pieces of the fungi itself into jars of sterilised sawdust and organic millet and will be hoping to see some stirring of life in these jars and bags in the coming weeks.

Our aim is to ensure that as our climate changes we will have an excellent record of what is currently thriving here. We also hope to explore different ways to grow these hyper local species on, for potential use in soil and water improvement trials.

With growing knowledge of and interest in the natural interplay between fungi, plants and microbes in fertile soils, we believe there is increased importance in identifying and encouraging hyperlocal strains that already support a healthy soil ecosystem, and avoid the risk of introducing new strains.

Flete Field Lab is, as far as we know, the first organisation to begin work like this in the UK in the hope that we can learn how to work with what is already present in the local landscape.
If you know of other organisations doing this, please do tell us!

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