Sniffing out the Stinkhorn at Bexhill’s Highwoods beauty spot

Stinkhorn SUS-150914-094155001
Stinkhorn SUS-150914-094155001

It is unmistakable - has an odour of rotting meat and it is lurking in woods at Bexhill.

The Stinkhorn fungus turned out to be one of the highlights of fungus forage at Highwoods on Saturday September 12.

John Dowling said: “Highwoods Preservation Society’s first Fungi Foray of the Autumn was set a trifle optimistically. Would there be much fungi – if any – to find so early in the season? It was something of a gamble.

Then fortune smiled. The sun broke through the clouds and the rain stopped. It was a comfortably-sized party which set off at 10am, led by Woodland Warden Alan Dengate and including one enthusiast so keen that he had come by bus from Eastbourne for the purpose. Sadly, society Chairman John Heasman was unable to join us on this occasion to add his expertise to Alan’s.

“First stop was a dead Scots Pine near the entrance to the woods. Alan knew he was on safe ground there, having made a careful reconnaissance. Sure enough, there were Chicken in the Woods mushrooms.

“Soon Alan was showing the visitors Yellow Rusula and Green Elf Cup. The party moved on, scouring among the leaf litter and on dead and fallen trees for more gems.

“Some walkers had brought pocket guides; others touted cameras. All were rewarded with fresh sightings. There was Tough Shank and TurkeyTail, Birch Bolete and Milk Cap.

“Camera shutters clicked. Well-thumbed pocket guides were consulted. The Woodland Warden explained the society’s policy of retaining standing dead timber where it is safe to do so. The effectiveness of this was clear to see, especially when Alan showed the group the masses of Bracket Fungus to be found of one of the woods’ big mature Beeches.

“One genus was eluding the party. But Alan had an ace up his sleeve.

“There is an area near another of the woods’s iconic Scots Pines where Stinkhorn are usually to be found.

“Sure enough, the morning’s lucky streak continued to the very end. To the experienced nose the odour, akin to rotting meat, was unmistakable.

“ Alan was spoilt for choice for an emergent example to cut in half so the cross-section could be shown to the group.

“Though nothing which had not previously been logged on the society’s list of flora and fauna was found, it was a promising start to what always proves to be a popular seasonal series of walks.”

Further Saturday Fungi Forays will be held October 3 and 17 and November 7, each leaving the woodland car park off the upper section of Peartree Lane at 10am.

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