Fungi has been around for decades and it has certainly made an impression over time!

Their relation with mythical creatures is clear in some species names. Fairy rings got their name from an ancient belief that the rings were created by pixies and witches. Some believe the rings symbolised a place where fairies, pixies or elves danced in the woods. Others believe that they were a portal between the fairy world and the human world. Most cultures considered them dangerous places for humans, and warned that anyone entering a fairy ring was likely to die young and would either become invisible, become trapped inside the ring, or be transported to the fairy world.

Fairy ring mushroomsFairy ring mushrooms. Credit: Tony Coultiss

In reality, the rings are actually created by the mycelium (underground fungi network) which moves outwards from the centre. After all the nutrients have been used up, the centre dies and a ring of mushrooms is formed each year.

Mythical creatures also influenced the name of the scarlet elf cup, otherwise known as fairies baths.

Scarlet elf cup

It was thought that wood elves and fairies drank morning dew from the cup.

It’s not just ancient myths that found fungi fascinating – popular stories such as Alice in Wonderland included them as a part of their adventures too. The fly agaric mushroom is a key part of Alice’s adventures in wonderland – when Alice eats one, she gets bigger or smaller, as does Mario in the Mario Bros video games. Perhaps this was inspired by the hallucinogenic effects of this particular fungi.

Fly agaricFly agaric mushroom. Credit: Steve Smailes.

In reality, fly agaric mushrooms are highly toxic, so DO NOT attempt to try one!

Historically and more accurately, ink caps got their name from their uses for signing important documents. The ink comes from the way they dissolve into a puddle of black liquid when mature.

Ink capInk cap mushroom. Credit: Amy Lewis

They were a good way to guard against forgery, as the spores could be detected under a microscope!

Join in with our #FindingFungi citizen science project – let us know what fungi you’ve seen on your woodland walks! Download your FREE fungi spotting guides following the link below.

Record your sighting

Finding Fungi campaign graphic