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Homes for Gnomes
In many years spent roaming around the countryside of England, I have seen a lot of fungi, but never the classic Gnome-for-sitting-on toadstool, the Fly Agaric. Until just over a week ago, when inamac and I were walking Draco on the local recreation ground, where we saw these...

Toadstools and dogs 009

What startled us was the size. Here's one with Draco's tennis ball for scale...

Toadstools and dogs 006

You are allowed to collect fungi in Hainault Forest and Chigwell Row wood (though not Epping Forest), and I hope that the collectors take fair warning from that red!

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You would have to be looking for a stomping to eat anything that colour!

They really are very impressive. I used to enjoy making pottery ones.

I understand that they are not actually as poisonous as their rep, though eating them is not a Good Idea.

I eat apples that colour

Apples have been bred by humans to be that colour.

However, though red is used both as a warning and as an attraction in nature, other aspects come into play. Insects, fungi and plants have been interacting for 400 million years, and insects don't see the same colours as we do, so warning red may not be the same as attraction red to an insect - indeed, may not be red at all. On the other hand, many fruits are red to make them visible to birds, as a seed spreading ploy. Birds seem to avoid fungi as food, but insects use red as a warning to birds, which is confusing. I suspect the whole warning red thing is species specific, particularly as many mammals don't see red very well.

Do you know alexfandra? Maybe you should.

She used to write Pros fanfic, too.

I always thought that was part of the reason they were called toadstools, that they were big enough for a large toad (or a gnome) to sit on comfortably!

I guess...

Though these are (according to the ever-(un)reliable Wikipedia) at the very limits of the normal size.

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