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Fungi  Honey Fungus

Honey Fungus - Photo  Copyright 2006 Malcolm Greaves
Photo: Malcolm Greaves

UK Safari Tip:
A neat way to identify fungi is with the ID chart in the Nature Shop called "Fungi Name Trail" - click here

Latin name: Armillaria mellea

Size: The caps are about 3cm to 12cm in diameter.

Distribution: Found throughout the UK.

Months seen: June to November.

Habitat: Living or dead trees and shrubs.

Special features: Honey fungus is a parasitic fungus which affects the roots, trunks and stems of dead or damaged plants and trees. It forms a cream coloured layer of fungus just below the bark.

The fruiting body is usually yellow-brown to dark brown, and the caps can be smooth or covered in dark hairy scales. They have a white collar on the stem, just below the cap.

Honey fungus spreads by spores through the air. These normally germinate on damaged or dead wood.

It can also spread by means of brown-black, stretchy underground roots called 'rhizomorphs'. These rhizomorphs are made up of a bunch of thread-like filaments (hyphae), all fused together. As they grow through soil they infect other plants by latching onto their roots and take away water and nutrients. In this way the honey fungus is capable of attacking and killing many species of trees, especially oaks.

The Latin name 'Armillaria' literally means 'scaly', as in 'Armadillo'. The 'mellea' part comes from 'mel' which is Latin for 'honey'. This probably relates to the colour.

Honey fungus is believed to be edible when cooked young. Great care should be taken in correctly identifying the species. Even when you get it right, honey fungus can cause stomach upsets.

Did you know?
Honey fungus rhizomorphs can spread up to 9m (30ft) away from the original infected plant. One species of honey fungus (Armillaria ostoyae) in America is believed to be the largest living organism on earth. It grows in the Malheur National Forest in east Oregon and is 3.5 miles across.

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UK Safari Fungi Section

  2006 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved