SCOTLAND'S woods are alive with autumn growth and plantexperts are asking the public to be on the lookout for four fungi which will be fruiting now.
The call comes as readers prepare to take part in The Scotsman Wildlife Watch, which begins tomorrow.
Professor Roy Watling, a retired head of mycology and plant pathology at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and Anne-Marie Smout, from Biological Recording in Scotland (Brisc), have suggested the species to look out. Photographs of these will be passed on to Prof Watling for verification.
The fungi for which readers are asked to look are:
• Ballerina or pink waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis)
Description: Waxcaps are small, brightly coloured mushrooms, with a cap that is often conical and greasy or slimy. They are found in grassland and on lawns.
• Porcelain fungus (Oudemansiella mucida)
Description: This fungus is white, glistening and sticky. It grows, often in large clusters, on living beech trees and beneath them on fallen branches and twigs. The caps are two to eight centimetres across.
• Golden bootleg (Phaeolepiota aurea)
Description: This is a big, tall fungus, with a cap between 12 and 15 centimetres across. It is covered in a bright orange to yellow dust. It is found on rich soil, such as piles of leaf mould, in corners of damp parkland, especially where there has been some disturbance
• Earthstars (Geastrum ssp)
Description: As the name implies, these fungi are like large whitish or brownish stars on the forest floor and in hedgerows. The fruiting body varies in size from half a centimetre to ten centimetres, with the outer wall splitting into a varying number of pointed rays, depending on the type of earthstar.
Readers should never eat the fungi they find, unless they are experienced collectors able to clearly identify edible species, and should wash their hands after touching them.
As well as looking out for these fungi, readers are asked to go out into their gardens and the countryside and tell us about the creatures they see.
The pictures and notes gathered during our quarterly nature survey, which is supported by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, will be passed on to Brisc.
The information will then be distributed among Brisc's network of local recorders and biological records centres and may be used in conservation work.
Records of birds, mammals and insects are all welcomed, as are notes and pictures of flowers, especially if they are in bloom at an unusual time of year.
Past Wildlife Watches have included focuses on red squirrels, whales and dolphins, and dragonflies.