My morning walk through the Wilderness tells me Summer has gone and Autumn is here. Next to the path is a large (ca. 15cm diameter) red capped mushroom with a white stipe, white gills, no milky sap, no collar and a distinctively brittle texture. I can’t detect the smell but I’m still suffering hayfever and the taste is pretty bland!
These features mean the toadstool is likely to be in the genus Russula, a diverse and widespread genus of fungi. The size is unusually large for many British Russula but fungi don’t always follow the rules. There are several red capped species of which the commonest is Russula emetica, known as the sickener due to its poisonous nature. The oak leaf stuck to the cap gives an idea of scale and may also have caused the split cap during development.
If you spot a fungus you do not know then a good starting point to ID is the excellent web site of Roger Phillips known as Roger’s Mushrooms which has a huge gallery of images, keys for identification and information on mushroom poisoning symptoms. I learned my common fungi from Roger’s excellent pictorial book ‘Mushrooms and Other Fungi of Great Britain and Europe’ which now seems to be out of print.
There are many edible fungi but always be sure of your identification because some are deadly poisonous and others are, at least, mildly harful. For edible fungi try the UK Wild Mushroom Guide.