Chicken of the woods
The New Forest is home to nationally important oak woods which include large numbers of amazing mature oak trees, many of which are in various stages of decay. This is the type of habitat that is excellent for Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) to thrive. Growing out from the trunk or branches of standing, and still living trees, as a shelf or bracket fungus, it is often such a bright yellow colour that it can be spotted at quite a distance away.
It is robust and long lasting, although it becomes crumbly in texture and loses its bright colour with age to become plain and straw like. The whole structure can be a considerable size, sometimes a metre or so vertically and even horizontally. It can be an impressive sight.
It is not uncommon to see it in any deciduous wood in the New Forest, although oak is the favoured host. The fruiting body emerges as a large yellow lump before the ‘shelves’ form and is at its splendid best from early summer through to the winter, when it very slowly disintegrates and eventually falls to the ground in crumbling chalky pieces.