During the spring/summer months you will notice different shaped and oddly coloured mushroom-like structures on the bark of trees, on dead wood and on stumps. These are part of a huge, diverse, and often complicated group of Phyla known as The Fungi. They are separate in classification from the other kingdoms: Plants and Animals.
One of the biggest differences between fungi and plants is the presence of tough chiton in the walls of their cells. Unlike plants, they do not photosynthesize (use light as energy), and so like animals, they absorb nutrients from other living organisms.
Fungi perform an essential role in the decomposition of organic matter and have fundamental roles in nutrient cycling and exchange in the environment. Many other organisms also consume their fruiting bodies or mushrooms, including us!
We have an excellent example of one of these fungi, with a huge and fleshy fruiting body, next to the main driveway into Marks and Spencer. This is a Dryads Saddle, Latin name Polyporus squamosus. The part you can see is the fruiting body of the fungus which is filamentous and woven into the decaying stump of this Tilia tree. The fruiting body contains spores which are released in the air for reproduction. The fungi are not mobile so needs to be able to spread its spores over suitable distance.
Although this part of the fungi IS edible, we strongly advise that NO ONE takes nor consumes any fungi from Stockley unless highly experienced in natural food foraging and Fungi identification. As mentioned above there are many different types of Fungi, which often look remarkably similar from species to species. We would suggest sticking to those ones sold in supermarkets for the time being or if you are still keen to get out there and forage please check out some of the online foraging courses available.