It’s easy to find mushrooms growing in the damp rotting vegetation of autumn. These fungi, now recognised as their own separate Kingdom of organisms separate from bugs, plants and animals, are an important food as well as an essential part of children’s literature. They are also the subject of a new kind of art, willow sculpture. One of the leading experts at this is Tom Hare, whose exhibition of sculptures is in the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. His work
has attracted the interest of at least one famous person. Another woman interested in mushroom art was children’s writer Beatrix Potter,
among whose most favourite characters is Peter Rabbit. Potter spent a lot of time describing and drawing mushrooms and toadstools as botanical specimens.
Fortum and Mason’s, the grocer in Piccadilly had models of mushrooms in their window display for Christmas 2010, models based on some of Potter’s illustrations. Across the road at the Linnean Society the entrance hall and staircase were decorated with the same models until safety regulations caused them to be taken away.
The Higher Fungi include mushrooms, puffballs, stinkhorns, bracket fungi and others with special spores. These cells become filamentous, made up of hyphae (except for yeasts) and they reproduce sexually by transferring DNA through clamp connections on the cell walls. A new classification includes Basidiomycota and Ascomycota in a group now known as Dikarya.