Ebernoe Common, Sussex Weald, October 2019
Last week I spent a drizzly and dark afternoon at Ebernoe Common, a National Nature Reserve managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust. It was raining not only water but mushrooms. The first signs of the good times came in the shape of a magpie inkcap. This is something I’ve only seen three times, twice at Ebernoe and once on the North Downs.
The word magpie relates to the English phrased ‘pied’ which means black and white. This species goes into the delicious state of deliquesce (an inky kind of melting), just like its relative the shaggy inkcap. Unlike the shaggy inkcap, though, it’s toxic so don’t eat it. The thing I like about this image is the glow of green in the background gradually turning to yellow as autumn progresses. Beech usually provides this kind of backdrop.
Porcelain fungus is a reliable species. It fruits in the same place, often en masse, each year. It is a beautiful species but the beauty, like so many things, lies underneath.
The gloopy glimmer of the cap is photogenic but the gills of porcelain fungus are stunning.
I use a small LED light to illuminate mushrooms in this way. I can’t tell you how much more character this can offer to photos. Actually I can: a lot more.
Here you can see my roving light (yes, I meant this!) mixing it with some delicious bokeh in the background. Leaves and branches create lovely bokeh because of the break of light in the gaps.
Here is one of ‘the finished images’. I like that the light circles can imitate the caps of mushrooms in photos and offer a deeper layer of resonance and reflection. Who knew.
In photography, macro is where the fun happens. There are so many amazing things happening at our feet that our eyes are incapable of seeing without the help of magnification. If you want to have a go at macro, don’t hesitate. Just do it. I call this one ‘Climb every mountain’. The piece of deadwood does have the appearance of a peak in this light. The mushroom is like a protagonist, playing on a theme of mushrooms as individuals or sentient beings throughout human history:
This seems to be particularly prevalent in German culture and Christmas or New Year celebrations. Christmas has evolved from Pagan traditions (Paganism was once considered any religion which was non-Christian) and the place nature has in the human imagination is pretty clear here.
Back to life, back to reality. Honey fungus is enjoying its first boom phase and seems to be having a good year.
There is a dead veteran beech tree at Ebernoe Common which is basically where all the mushrooms live. This wide angle image shows just how many larger species were making a home within the tree. Here you can see giant polypore (bottom left), honey fungus in the middle and Ganoderma brackets everywhere. This is a stunning tree and of the highest ecological importance because of all the species, not just fungi, it supports. All of these species are contributing to the tree’s decay and recycling into organic matter (soil).
Not far away was a patch of hen-of-the-woods, an aggressive root-rotter (harsh). It’s said to smell like mice (more harsh).
You can imagine how I thought someone was playing a trick when I passed this. A swing made from a beech log that was covered in porcelain fungus. It was embarrassingly hard to photograph well. Thankfully only the mushrooms were looking and they haven’t evolved to use Twitter yet.
On my way out I spotted this slurp of fungus low on a log by the path.
Looking closely with the macro lens it has the appearance of something you might find in a coral reef. Then that’s the beauty of woodland, it has a depth to it that you have to dive in to experience for yourself.
Thanks for reading.