In Dorset we have some lovely beech woods and in autumn the fallen leaves and remains of the beech nuts (beech mast) form thick carpets on the ground which become home to a complex micro system of organisms, both animal and vegetable, that breakdown this 'waste' product. Leaf litter is something one probably rarely looks too closely at but, out of this rotting material comes beautiful gems such as this stunning magpie inkcap fungus (Coprinopsis picacea). By far my favourite fungus, this is fairly common in southern England but, being an inkcap, it only presents in this immaculate form for a few hours before the caps start melting away in to an inky substance.
It apparently smells of naphthalene (ie moth balls) and is said "to be poisonous but eaten by some with no ill effects". Note, the book says eaten by some with no ill effects, it does not say what happened to the others! In any event, who would want to pick and cook such a lovely structure. Is it not best left where it was found for others to see?Coprinopsis picacea: the magpie inkcap fungus