Daniel Greenwood

The language of leaves

Posts tagged ‘Fungi photography’

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Fungy Friday 3rd July 2020

At last the rain has arrived. But did it bring a deluge of the mushroom kind? On a lovely clear evening after work I went to the woods to find out.

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Even in dry times there is one fungus that will not desert you. Artist’s bracket is a bracket fungus in the family Ganoderma. It gets its common name from the fact you can draw on the sporey underside of the fungus, usually something like noughts and crosses. I’ve seen these fungi get to be huge but in most places they are usually broken off by human hands.

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They have the ability to renew themselves, though, as this one above has begun to do. I read somewhere that this fungus produces 30billion spores an hour. Suppose I’ve taken a few home with me then.

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After rain like we’ve had in the past week in southern England, you don’t dream of bracket fungi. Or do you?

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Walking along a path in an area of open woodland my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw this massive dryad’s saddle sprouting from a dead sycamore tree. This area has been hammered by the combination of no rain and heavy footfall impacting after clearance work of sycamore has taken place, so I wasn’t considering the possibility of fungi being present.

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This is a fungus to find at this time of year. Due to its size, it will often find you. It’s an edible species but probably not at this stage. I’m writing this rather bleary eyed because I’ve spent the past couple of days researching the cultural heritage of oak trees for a talk I gave this week. Little did I know that dryad actually means ‘oak tree nypmh’, rather than simply ‘wood nymph’. The idea is that a nymph, or woodland sprite, or fairy, would sit on this bracket and hurl abuse at passers-by.

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I was looking down at some moss on the woodland floor when I discovered these baffling, miniscule mushrooms. They were about the size of a grain of rough sea salt. On their caps were these spikes, at first thought perhaps another fungus or mould growing on top.

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It just made me realise how much we can miss, these were some of the smallest fruiting bodies I’ve ever seen. I have no idea what they are.

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Next door was something a little larger, probably a bonnet of some kind. I don’t have the knowledge to get any closer than that. Again, this wasn’t much bigger than the weird fruiting dudes alongside it.

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After a good couple of hours searching, it was time to head home. Dramatic clouds built over the heath, perhaps with more rain to feed the fungi. We shall see.

Thanks for reading.

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Fungi Friday 26th June 2020

For some reason I decided to write a weekly Fungi Friday blog in 2020. It might have been the worst possible year to attempt this. It’s true that fungi peaks in the autumn but some of the more gentle, milder and wetter months of the year can give fungi an earlier chance. Not so in 2020, as this blog has complained for the past few weeks, it’s been very dry in southern England.

A recent storm didn’t reach Sussex but did pass through London and seems to have given fungi there a boost.

I could blame a global pandemic for the difficulty in finding fungi this spring and summer, but the dryness has been the main problem.

There are only so many dry (literally) blogs you can write about the lack of the thing you want to write about. This week I thought it would be a chance to cover a species that is one of the best known in the world and actually forms the largest organism on Earth. It’s also ‘feared/hated by gardeners’. I seem to use that phrase a lot in this line of unpaid work. What’s the species? It’s honey fungus.

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The mycelium of honey fungus

Every time I take a photo of these ‘boot laces’, I always intend to file it somewhere easy to find. That never happens so above is a low-res phone pic of a honey fungus mycelium (the fungal network of hyphae, a root-like structure that forms the living, physical structure of the organism). This can often be found underneath the bark of a tree that has fallen down or that has died due to the impact of honey fungus. These ‘boot laces’ are also what represent the largest life form on Earth. That’s a humongous fungus, some 2384 acres in size.

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An Armillaria oystayae specimen is the biggest organism in the world (not this one)

That species is Armillaria oystayae but it’s not the case of a mushroom or toadstool over 2000 acres in size – can you imagine how much that would stink when it began to decay? Because that is only the apple on the tree, whereas the mycelium is the living and breathing fungus itself. The fungi above had moved in on a tree that had been harmed by development, with likely damage to the roots, making the tree vulnerable. No one described the developers as pests in that instance. One suggestion was for the tree to be felled just because the fungus was present. That’s a terrible idea.

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Fresh fruiting bodies of honey fungus on an ash stump

Honey fungus is renowned for its parasitic potential. Armillaria oystayae is a ‘pest’ for foresters. I would argue that honey fungus, and other species like it, is simply living in a nature-depleted world where ‘naturally-occuring’ species diversity has been destroyed by industrial monocultures in farming and forestry, and development that does not take account of the landscape it is replacing. They are also just trying to survive and taking advantage of niches which are presented to them.

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A plantation cleared on a hillside in Czechia – soil will be lost to erosion as the roots of the trees die and tension is lost

If fungi have been on Earth for 1billion years, they have evolved in a much more species-rich biosphere, rather than one we dominate now, which, in the case of Western Europe, is suffering from a loss of ancient semi-natural woodland and the associated habitat mosaics and species. In this case I mean there are fewer trees and less dead and decaying wood, the latter of which is a vital ingredient in a functioning and biodiverse ecosystem. Honey fungus, just like us humans, needs food and somewhere to live. It just so happens that honey fungi eat where they live and what they live on. Sometimes they also kill it. Sound familiar? Just ask Planet Earth.

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Honey fungus on the raised rootplate of a fallen tree

The most common species of honey fungus that occurs in Britain is Armillaria mellea. In actual fact it’s an indicator of ancient woodland, which means that people can’t use xenophobic language around ‘alien invasion’ to explain why it could be a problem. An ancient woodland indicator is used to show us that it is over 400 years old in Britain and Europe. In my view, this is just another species which highlights our own ignorance – we think we can control nature and that anything which doesn’t stick to the script must be destroyed or is a pest. Covid-19 is teaching us in a tragic fashion that we were wrong about that.

It’s true that honey fungus has parasitic tendencies and therefore can kill trees through a process of starving it of nutrients, rather than the supportive biological process of providing the tree with things it can’t get (a mycorrhizal relationship). But as a tree inspection professional once said, trees are not a safety issue until we show up.

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Young fruiting bodies of honey fungus in the ancient woodland landscape of the New Forest

One thing that appears to work in honey fungus’s favour is its edibility. However, from what I know it’s only something that can be eaten in moderation and it does cause stomach upsets in some people. It’s definitely not a way of ‘getting rid of it’ from your garden, because the mycelium is there as well. And no one defeated an apple tree by eating all its fruit.

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What can you do if you find it at the bottom of a tree? The only advice I have is not to panic and do something that causes more damage. The next step is to learn to love fungi and appreciate that trees die too, and fungi is there to help create space for more life. Beyond the loss of a much-loved tree, the main problem is our own rigid views of how the landscape lives and dies.

Thanks for reading.

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Fungi Friday 19th June 2020

I headed to the woods again this week to see how the Amanita from last week’s post was faring. There had been almost no rain again until that point. The woodland floor was crunchy and dry. It never feels good seeing a woodland like that.

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I was surprised to see that the mushroom hadn’t advanced. It was still encased in its bone-dry veil. I had a closer look to see if it even was a mushroom and found that it was actually attached to the soil through fungal roots. It was a learning point – I thought that even without water a mushroom can advance. Evidently it’s very difficult and sometimes they can’t.

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It’s worth saying that fungal fruiting bodies (usually ‘mushrooms’) are 90% water. The photo above shows a woodland stream (‘gill’ in the Weald). It has been an exceptionally dry spring.

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A good indicator of how much potential there is to find fungi can be seen in bracket or polypores on trees. This is probably hairy curtain crust which is looking as sorry as you’ll find it.

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Despite the super-dry conditions I did find more fungi. It was one of the most common species in the UK – sulphur tuft.

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These are places where fungi can fruit in these conditions. The inside of a decaying oak tree stays cool and damp, especially with holly surrounding to create shade and thus cool.

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You can see how hungry the local slugs are. To humans this is a poisonous species, so don’t be a slug. Even though these had been heavily munched, it’s nice to see a shroom. Rain has come in the past 24 hours, so it will be interesting to see how things might change in the next few days.

Thanks for reading.

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Fungi Friday 12th June 2020

At last, this week some rain arrived. I headed to my local woodland to see if any mushrooms had taken the bait. I went there with a slender hope of seeing anything because it has been so dry this spring.

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Common cow wheat

It was pleasing to see special woodland plants such as common cow wheat, another of those species which is not actually so common anymore.

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Juniper haircap moss

The bryophytes also looked more lush and watered after a day of rain in the past week.

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This stunning drinker moth caterpillar was chilling (literally) on a boardwalk. I moved my fellow redhead to safety before it got squished by evening strollers.

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My special summer patch was free of fungi, it may be another month before anything comes up there.

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The mycelium of green elfcup

Just like last week, green elfcup was evident in those beautiful blue-green stains on bits of fallen wood.

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I was quite startled to spot this growing out of the buttress of a tree. I think this might be rooting shank, a species which is often found at this time of year. It’s a signal of summer.

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The slugs are obviously hungry at the moment because much of the fungus had already been eaten. The slime trails below are the smoking gun.

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Nearby I saw what I thought was an old tennis ball. Upon closer inspection it was in fact a mushroom making its way up into the world.

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This is almost certainly a member of the Amanita family, home to fly agaric and the death cap. It could be tawny grisette. You can see it is appearing from a veil. There is the typical Amanita patchiness to the remnants of the veil. I did wonder if this might even be Caeser’s mushroom. I will try and check back in a few days if it can last that long.

Thanks for reading.

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Fungi Friday 5th June 2020

This blog has now entered into its sixth month and the real-time fungi action hasn’t really happened, as this one will illustrate. Last week I went for an optimistic jaunt to my local ancient woodland/plantation/heathland to see if anything had popped up. I was astonished, not that there was very little to see, but at how dry the woodland was.

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It should come as no surprise that I only found one fruiting body, growing out of a bit of deadwood, which would already have some moisture inside the decaying wood. My footsteps were so loud as I walked across the leaf litter. But then we have just had the sunniest May and one of the driest springs on record. Across the south of England warnings have been in place about the high risk of fire. Very disappointingly but not surprisingly, fires are ravaging heathlands as I type. At least some of these are because of visitor impact, either arson or things like disposable barbecues.

I went for a second mushroom hike – that’s how dedicated I am to this series – and found that an area of more wet oak woodland also had almost nothing appearing. I found so little that I didn’t even get my camera out and instead just used my average phone camera. Sign of the times. The best I could muster was the porcelain fungus above, growing from a beech log that had rolled into the dried out gill. Last winter I saw that stream overflowing.

It would be wrong to say that there is no fungi, because fungi is the life we do not see. This stick, looking a bit like a blue whale or a squid, is made green by green elf cup. This is the work of the mycelium, the true living part of the fungus.

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In autumn small green fruiting bodies will appear as above. This was taken in October 2019.

If you need them, you can always rely on a bracket fungus in the dry season. This is artist’s or southern bracket, what most people will generally call by its Latin name Ganoderma.

I found these blushing brackets (I think) on the path, they were crisp and dry. This species begins pale, blushing red and then turning to black.

This is an area of woodland that is quite good for fungi, compared to the wider condition of the wood. It suffers from a huge amount of trampling. Please see what I’m about to say as objective comments on the physical state of this place, I am not attacking the land managers. Last autumn much of the holly in this area was cut and left. The aim was almost certainly to allow more light in to replenish the woodland floor. The brash, as it’s called, now covers where most of the fruiting bodies appear, and the holly will not break down soon enough for those fruiting bodies to appear again in perhaps the next five years.

In a previous job we would undertake thinning of holly and dead hedging to protect areas from trampling. The majority of pubicly accessible woodlands in southern England have fairly high levels of footfall, dog walking and the nitrogen enrichment that comes from dog waste. I mention this because I worked in a woodland which was only 20 acres in size but which had 100,000+ visitors annually, with probably around 50,000 dog visits. Holly was absolutely key to protecting soils from erosion and the creation of news paths, and protecting birds and other wildlife from disturbance.

Removing holly on this scale can result in the opening of areas to unintended impact where it could infact have the reverse effect desired. More light will come in to replenish the woodland floor, but more feet will come too and the soil will suffer, along with everything that needs it. Basically everything. I write this absolutely knowing that I provide some of those footsteps, but they are kept to desirelines and I do not have a dog that I allow to run free in these areas. Dog walkers will tell me that children have the same impact.

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The blusher, found in this area in July 2019

The holly creates a microclimate which in hot dry periods such as this, means that soil retains moisture and fungal fruiting bodies can do their thing, a thing that is a key part of the reason a woodland is there in the first place: reproduce, break down organic matter, feed the trees that need them, and recycle organic matter into new soils.

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Grey spotted amanita, July 2019

I wonder, do woodland managers ever think about fungi through anything beyond leaving dead trees to stand and logs to rot down on the ground? Does anyone consider the need for microclimates within woodland to ensure a mosaic of micro-habitats? Again, this is not an attack, just observations and pointers from my own experience.

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An oysterling on a birch branch in this area, July 2019

When I began in woodland management (the account of one of my first days is the post visitors seem to read in their droves to on this website) I did not consider fungi as I do now. Seeing as fungi has such a crucial role to play in our woodlands, sooner or later we need to ensure that in dry spells such as these there are safeguards, like holly, to support fungi.

Thanks for reading.

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Fungi Friday 29th May 2020 via November 2011

This autumn it will be 9 years since I first began photographing fungi. I want to share how I found a passion for these incredible organisms and show the first photos I ever took of fungi.

I owe thanks to several people for tuning me into the world of mushrooms. David Warwick, who led fungi walks for volunteers and the public for London Wildlife Trust at Sydenham Hill Wood, shared his knowledge with his fellow volunteers and helped me to gain an interest. That was where I learned about fungi and, over 7 years, had the opportunity to watch them pop up and fade away across the nature reserve.

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Turkeytail

The biggest thanks of all go to Ashley White who was the Project Officer who managed the Wood when I was a volunteer. For anyone who has ever volunteered, you will know that the person who leads you is as important as the thing you’re volunteering to do. Ashley inspired many of us to follow our interests in many areas of conservation and ecology.

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Velvet shank

My first real attempts to photograph fungi took place in November 2011 during a volunteer day. I used a Nikon D60, a 10 megapixel camera (the equivalent today is double that) that I was given as a birthday present in 2008. I had no editing software and the photos here are as they were taken in the camera, which you can probably appreciate.

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Sulphur tuft

One of the more memorable images that I contributed to London Wildlife Trust was this happy bunch of sulphur tuft. This species is probably one of the most common in the UK. It’s toxic but charming to look at. I respect its ability to show up in the street and in all manner of other locations.

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Bonnet with a droplet on top

Photography has always been a way for me to learn about much more than cameras. To identify the majority of species of fungi, you’ll need to undertake all manner of experiments that I am way too lazy/skilled enough for. I want to spend as much time outside in the company of the things I enjoy photographing. Too much time is already spent indoors. All these are excuses, I know.

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Parachute

I think one of the most interesting things about fungi are their diversity. This doesn’t just mean there are a lot of species (over 120,000 accounted for on Earth, probably more than 1,000,000 in reality). It also means they appear in all kinds of places: leaf litter, holes in trees, the ground, the pavement, sometimes even inside your house. That’s not really what you want.

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Brittlestems out of focus

After autumn volunteer days I would seek out fungi anywhere I could find them. I had begun to notice some growing down in the leaf litter. As you can see from the photo above, it’s difficult to take photos on the ground without a reticulating screen. Mine was fixed which led to classic images such as the above. These are brittlestems. Over the years at the Wood I would notice this family of mushrooms popping up in damp patches under leaf litter.

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Fairy inkcap

Many of the mushrooms in an urban woodland like Sydenham Hill Wood are common species that can pop up after a decent amount of rain. These fairy inkcaps are often found at the base of steps. The steps in the Wood were constructed by volunteers using wooden sleepers, planks for the edges and then filled with gravel. These mushrooms like steps so much I have even found them growing in Clapham Junction station on steps! For those who don’t know, this was once one of the busiest railway stations in the world. Thousands of people rush up and down these stairs every day.

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What’s not to love?

For all the negativity around nature conservation in Britain – and for me all contact with nature in the UK fosters a relationship with conservation – fungi gave me a sense of nature’s attitude of I will show up where I want, when I want. For anyone who has ever felt constricted by the physical environment we are forced to live in, nature is always looking to re-align it. As with fungi, it just takes time.

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A miniscule fairy bonnet on a piece of mud

Fungi says to me (not literally) that life does not stand still. Fungi are a part of life processes which have no end. Fungi are always building and feeding a new world whether we like it or not. Perhaps that’s what seeing those fairy inkcaps on the steps of Clapham Junction station taught me. We may be extinguishing a beautiful diversity of life on Earth, first with large, charismatic animals. But nature is complex, unknowable in its entirety, and it will never stop.

Thanks for reading. Have faith.

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Fungi Friday 15th May 2020

I mentioned a fungi photo project which I was working on, watching the development of a fungus on my daily exercise ration. Both of those things have now been foraged and are consigned to the past. We can go out for a walk more than once a day, and my subject has been sliced and munched by someone who knows what they’re doing.

I was watching the slow mushrooming of a chicken of the woods fruiting body on a circular walk from my house but its progress was interrupted last week. Now the post looks wafer thin. Here’s how it played out on Twitter:

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I first saw this mushroom developing on 25th April on a fallen oak tree next to a footpath, lodged between farmland and a wooded estate.

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Three days later I passed it again under twilight and the advancement was pretty clear.

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I also felt it looked quite a lot like Mark Twain, one of the great American writers. His characters sure ate plenty a chicken in the woods, sure did.

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Chicken of the woods is a highly desirable edible fungus for people who desire that sort of thing. It’s one that’s easy to identify and is not known to have any serious side-effects. I have noted ecologists arguing that it should be left for the many species of invertebrate that find a home in it.

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The images above show a chicken of the woods fruiting body with some of the invertebrates hanging out on it. Believe me, there were so many more.

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At this stage, on May Day, the chick was beginning to make its way in the world.

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Four days later, it was positively enjoying life. Then, this happened:

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The moral of this story is: we all get foraged in the end.

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Here you can see the clean cuts of someone who knows what they’re doing. They’ve brought a knife with them on their walk and have made an attempt to not damage the mycelium which is attached to the dead wood itself, and not visible here.

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I’ve found some pretty epic chicks in the past, like this 1-2m long gathering on a fallen oak or sweet chestnut next to a river in West Sussex. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen. It does make me laugh how bites have been taken from the side, possibly the teeth of deer which are common in this area.

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This one is several months old and had begun the process of falling apart. This is in July and is probably a June fruiting body.

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This is the same day, and here Richard’s coat was not dissimilar to the fungus itself. He is a bit of a chicken in the woods at times, too.

Thanks for reading.

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Fungi Friday 8th May 2020

Happy Bank Holiday Friday! I hope you’re having and are permitted a nice extended weekend off.

I am working on a fungi photography project just now through my daily exercise walk but it’s too early to share just now. So it’s another ramble down mushroom memory lane. In the week that the UK became the country worst hit in Europe by the Covid-19 pandemic, I bring you one of the countries that has dealt with the situation far better: Czechia.

In September 2017 my friend and I visited the White Carpathians, an area of mountains that stretch across the border with neighbouring Slovakia. I wrote this post about the landscape of the White Carpathians. Here I am sharing never-before-seen photos of some of the fungi we encountered on one hike in the White Carpathians.

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The Carpathians are a mountain range that stretch across central and eastern Europe crossing Austria, Czechia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and the Ukraine. The White Carpathians are so called because of their white limestone (which I think is chalk!). In Czech they are called Bílé Karpaty. I am indebted to my friend Zuzka Veverkova for introducing me to this landscape.

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Eddie and I were hiking to the Czech-Slovak border from a hostel we were staying in a tiny village called Vápenky. We hiked up through beech woodlands which were actively managed as plantations to reach some ancient woodland close to the accessible peak of Velka Javorina. The walk began well with this absolutely massive dryad’s saddle. It was so big it had become like a giant petunia and held rainwater in its cap!

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Here is Eddie, who is over 6ft, giving a sense of scale. This is a species which is fruiting now in May. It’s the biggest seasonal fruiting body of a fungus I’ve ever seen. Ones that are present all year round as brackets don’t quite count!

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In the beech plantations (beech is remnant of the climax vegetation in the Carpathians – basically the naturally occurring dominant tree species) parasol mushrooms were pushing up from the leaf litter. We also encountered a woman returning from the mountain with a small number of these mushrooms collected for cooking. She had picked them when they were young and just appearing from the soil. It was evidence of local knowledge that is diminishing in many parts of the world as urbanisation increases.

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The forestry practices in the area bordered on the surreal.

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We saw much larger parasols on the steeply wooded slopes.

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At the sides of the forestry roads they were also common.

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I find this family of mushrooms quite confusing and need to spend some time getting to know them better. The Lepiota/Macrolepiota group can appear very similar and I am not quite dedicated enough to find out what each one is.

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I will lie down for a photo though, to take one that is (thanks Ed). You may not realise but these are some of the richest grasslands in the world. September is not a good time to see them however, April-July is best.

For reference, above is a collection of images of the plants found in these grasslands in May 2014 when I first visited. The Steppe grasslands of the White Carpathians are the richest in the world, according to the Landscape Protection Agency. The orchids seen here are elder-flowered orchid. The woods were frothing with wild garlic.

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On trees and stumps, a fungus that was common was red-belted bracket. This was nice to see as it is not so common in the UK, if present at all.

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This very colourful bracket was growing on the stump of a felled tree close to the top of the mountain.

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For most of my hiking comrades this is the feeling of, ‘oh for God’s sake not another mushroom photo’. Soz Ed.

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On the way back down from the summit we found this shroom which I think is rooting shank. It’s a dream vantage point for a photo, especially with some blissful bokeh blur in the background.

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This is a species I associate with late summer or early autumn when the wetter weather hasn’t quite arrived and the soil is still a bit dry. They’re often close to the trunks of trees.

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This has the look of a shield of some kind, but I didn’t spend much time looking at it. This was in one of the protected areas of woodland where forestry was not permitted. It happened also to be the place where biting flies where most interested in us so we didn’t stand still for long.

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The White Carpathians are a fantastic place for nature and I would love to visit in the prime mushroom season to see what shows up.

Thanks for reading.

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Fungi Friday 1st May 2020

For another week the Covid-19 pandemic is keeping me away from the woods and therefore the shrooms. This fungal breaking news desk has run out of scoops, so it’s more like a sports channel airing classic re-runs.

I had been intending to post about some fantastic fungal hiking experiences (sounds weird) from a 2018 visit to Scotland but work and life stopped me. I do hope anyone reading this is doing well and that you’re following the guidance.

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These posts remind me of my uncle Joe Reilly who passed away in November. Joe was a Glaswegian by birth who, along with my aunt Marg, introduced me to some of the most beautiful places the UK has to offer in Perthshire, among so many other gifts. I would visit Marg and Joe in Perthshire as often as I could, often in autumn when going to meet my hiking companion Eddie (seen here) for a jaunt in the Cairngorms.

Joe fell for fungi like I did in recent years and I will always miss his WhatsApp messages with mushrooms he had found on Perthshire walks. We miss his thirst for life terribly but carry it on just as he did.

Last week I was sharing fungi found on a hike to the top of Ben Vrackie in Perthshire.

This week my final Scotland post makes me feel like a bit of a cheat. The post is built around an incredible hike led by the rangers of the Balmoral Estate in the Cairngorms National Park with only one serious mushroom to be found. But it was one special shroom, and probably one you want to eat if you haven’t already. I will soften that blow with some dodgy phone pic shrooms.

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I was visiting the Cairngorms for a Europarc Conference and there was very little time to get out on foot in the mountains and hills. Most of my photos looked like this one above, a phone pic taken while being ferried around in a minibus.

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I was staying in Aviemore and there were a pleasing selection of shrooms found right next to the pavement in the verges. This is a giant puffball in its early stages, part brain part, well, bottom.

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I’m not entirely sure what this species is, I thought it might be in the Macrolepiota/Lepiota family (where parasols are found) but can’t find a candidate just now.

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This is almost certainly brown rollrim, a deadly poisonous fungus. It’s growing out of ballast, which is no surprise as I’ve seen it growing next to pavements in south London.

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And behold, a very well trampled cauliflower fungus.

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Winner of the truly worst phone pic was this fly agaric which was absolutely belting it out from underneath a hedge in a residential area.

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As mentioned at the start of this blog, I was lucky enough to go on a hike to Lochnagar on the Balmoral Estate, led by a very nice ranger and a professional guide, who was also very nice. There were National Park staff from all across Europe. I spoke to one ranger from Iceland who would be spending her winter driving around the vast areas of her Park undertaking works to signage and all manner of other things. She was the real deal. Our National Parks are tiny in comparison to many in Europe, though the Cairngorms is the closest we probably get to some of Europe’s most rugged wildness. The Balmoral Estate is not a good example of that because of the intensive management to support grouse shooting. Apparently the Queen still drives around the Estate in her Land Rover.

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There were extreme winds at the time of the walk and we didn’t make it to the peak of Lochnagar. It was too dangerous. Though you’re unlikely to find much fungal diversity at these altitudes (1000m+) there was a familiar neon lichen on the boulders. This is Rhizocarpon geographicum.

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It took a real effort to actually hold my camera in place and take this photo. It was incredibly windy. This is Lochnagar. The peak can be seen in about the middle distance where a small cairn stands.

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At this point we were all told to put our cameras away because the winds were going to hit hard. They did, it was incredible.

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You’re probably wondering – where are the shrooms? But let it be a lesson to you, finding fungi can be really hard. Sometimes it’s all there at the side of the pavement, but at other times you will see nothing.

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At the point where our minibus was parked I could not believe what I saw. This is a cep, otherwise known as porcini or pennybun. Its Latin name is Boletus edulis. It is the most prized edible mushroom. This was the most perfect specimen I have ever come across. In the background is Loch Muick, with the classic Scottish rain, sun and wind falling in the background. I can still get a tingle of the joy of finding this mushroom, against that background, in such a stunning location.

Thanks for reading.

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#FungiFriday 25th April 2020

For another week the Covid-19 pandemic is keeping me away from the woods and therefore the shrooms. This fungal breaking news desk has run out of scoops, so it’s more like a sports channel airing classic re-runs.

I had been intending to post about some fantastic fungal hiking experiences (sounds weird) from a 2018 visit to Scotland but work and life stopped me. I have three hikes to share with you which should get you through the next three weeks of lockdown. I do hope anyone reading this is doing well and that you’re following the guidance.

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These posts remind me of my uncle Joe Reilly who passed away in November. Joe was a Glaswegian by birth who, along with my aunt Marg, introduced me to some of the most beautiful places the UK has to offer in Perthshire, among so many other gifts. I would visit Marg and Joe in Perthshire as often as I could, often in autumn when going to meet my hiking companion Eddie (seen here) for a jaunt in the Cairngorms.

Joe fell for fungi like I did in recent years and I will always miss his WhatsApp messages with mushrooms he had found on Perthshire walks. We miss his thirst for life terribly but carry it on just as he did.

Last week I was sharing fungi found on a walk around Clunie Wood in Pitlochry.

This week I’m reminiscing about a hike from Pitlochry up to the summit of Ben Vrackie accompanied by my friend Eddie. Below the tree line, a pleasing range of fungi were found.

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The walk leaves the town of Pitlochry and heads up through suburbs. This manicured field had a rowan so heavy with berries it looked like it was falling over. I have never seen so many on one tree.

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The day was warm and while I waited for Eddie to change out of his underlayers behind a tree I scoped out some shrooms in the first piece of woodland we encountered. I’m not sure what this species is. I found them pre-plucked at the side of the path.

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Further up through the woodland this common puffball was sitting among the leaf litter. This has to be one of the most common woodland mushrooms to find in the UK. This is always a good sign of what is to come on a longer walk. Puffballs can be an indicator of a good amount of fungi on the ground.

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The woodland broke into something more open as the moorland and hills approached, with large birch trees growing along the edge of the path. A tree stump held this gathering of yellow staghorn. I asked Eddie if he would help to add something to this pic! Probably one of my fave fungi photos.

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As we ascended towards the winding set of steps that take you to the top of Ben Vrackie, we saw two golden eagles floating above another hill nearby. This was only the second time I’d seen golden eagles in the UK. They are massive!

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The fungi in these areas thins out to small species connected to the habitat and the odd common species which is particularly good at spreading its spores and growing in a range of habitats (stuff like sulphur tuft on dead wood). For those who don’t know, this is heather moorland. Short on trees so not the richest place for fungi. Then again I haven’t spent enough time looking.

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This is a popular walk from Pitlochry. Lots of people were coming and going from the 841m summit of Ben Vrackie. Here is Eddie trying to get some soul signal from the gods. He failed.

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The views north into the Cairngorms were beguiling. Landscape photographers would have appreciated the range of weather available and the clouds which gave extra character to the views. While we sat up here eating lunch, a man and his two sons reached the top. He told them a story of when he had climbed a hill with £200 cash in his pocket. He knew it was a bad idea and half way up the money slipped out of his pocket and away into the landscape. He salvaged £20. His boys told him it had indeed been a bad idea.

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Rain following the River Garry through the valley from Blair Atholl. This photo has been enhanced to bring out the distant peaks and rainfall.

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Rain arriving in the hills.

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Descending back down through the tree line, we took the same path back. It’s interesting how you see things so differently when you walk a single route in another direction. Here was a very large birch polypore, also known as razorstrop fungus. It is a natural controller of birch trees and is possibly one of the easiest species to find.

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On the way back we found what I think is a birch bolete. It was reaching out from the path edge and had already been nibbled on by slugs. A real treat to find something like this.

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It was a pleasant surprise was to find a chantarelle, one of the most sought-after edible fungi. This one had already been plucked (I think).

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I’m really not sure what species these shrooms are, but they were a nice find.

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On the way back we visited this beautiful pub, the Moulin Hotel, with conifer beams holding up a balcony. It dates from the 17th century.

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The rain was coming and going throughout the afternoon. It reminded me why Scotland is so good for fungi. There is a high level of rainfall, large areas of woodland and acidic soils which seem so good for mushrooms.

Next week it’s fungal royalty in the Cairngorms.

Thanks for reading.

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