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Volunteers uncover Giant Puffballs at Hilton Business Park Pond

The sun was low, the sky was blue, the wind was ... erm, bracing ... but the volunteers were fabulous! Another successful work party at Hilton Business Park Pond in East Wittering took place on Friday 10th December, this time focussing on the south-east corner of the pond and southern bank.

Volunteers cleared the nettles and brambles from around a group of young trees that had previously been planted by the Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group, cut back some willow that needed management and was casting shade on this corner of the pond, and pulled reed mace.

In the process of clearing around the young trees, a large number of Giant Puffball mushrooms were discovered. These extraordinary fungi would once have resembled large white footballs but this late in the year they had become brown and were in the process of decaying and releasing their spores. With the slightest touch, a visible puff of spores, like smoke, is released from the puffballs - hence the name! Spores are the fungi equivalent of seeds and different fungi have developed different ways of spreading their spores. The Giant Puffball can grow as large as 1m in diameter and large specimens can easily contain several trillion spores. The good news is that Puffballs are thought to be mycorrhizal fungi, meaning they form mutually beneficial relationships with plants - the fungi take sugars from plants 'in exchange' for moisture and nutrients gathered from the soil by the fungal strands. This is good news for our little trees!

By the time the volunteers had finished cutting with their shears, loppers, pole and bow saws, it was clear to see that this dark corner of the pond was receiving more sunlight, even in the low December sun. The young trees will receive more sunlight and less competition from the nettles, and will hopefully grow happily amongst their fungal companions.

We also continued with the work of removing some of the reedmace from the pond. Donning waders and armed with spades, volunteers dug and pulled out some of these stubbornly rooted plants. Reedmace is a familiar site in wetland environments with its tall brown, sausage-shaped seed heads, and is sometimes known as 'bulrush' although true bulrush is actually a different species. Whilst reedmace is beneficial to wildlife, particularly providing habitat for many invertebrates, thinning it out is an important step in pond management and flood mitigation, as its roots are very good at retaining silt. Reedmace can grow very vigorously and become dominant and if left unchecked, open water can quickly get clogged up, allowing succession to take hold and the pond to get filled up with vegetation. One volunteer worked so hard she broke the spade!

We ended the session with lunch and hot drinks outside in a sheltered spot, feeling proud of the work we'd achieved.

We hope you will join us next time. Please sign up via out Contact Us page if you'd like to get involved!



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