Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

The Beechwood Sickener – Russula nobilis

The photo above shows a mushroom known as the Beechwood Sickener – Russula nobilis.

As the name would suggest, this is a poisonous fungus. In the unlikely event that you do choose to eat it you may be warned of what is to come by a fiery hot taste and coconut smell.

I now know this fungus fairly well, not because I have been made sick by it, but because it can give an uneasy feeling to natural navigators. It can look like another bright red toadstool, the Fly Agaric – Amanita muscaria; especially when a little damaged as above. I confess to having confused them in the past, which can throw the navigation a bit.

Fly agaric – Amanita muscaria

Fly agaric is a strong indicator that there are birch trees nearby. Birch trees are colonising trees, which means that they indicate the edge of a woodland – and therefore the way out of it.

Beechwood Sickeners only indicate that you are in a beechwood, something you are doubtless already aware of. If the flash of red in amongst the forest litter leads to thoughts that you have a Fly Agaric and therefore you are about to break out of the trees, then discovering you have a Russula nobilis instead can be a little… sickening.

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