Daniel Greenwood

The language of leaves

Posts tagged ‘Honey fungus’

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Ben Vrackie as seen from Clunie Wood

Fungi Friday 17th April 2020 via September 2018

For another week the Covid-19 pandemic is keeping me away from the woods and therefore the shrooms. To be honest though, my town is so deserted at the moment that I am kind of hoping some shrooms start popping up soon in the paving. Especially considering there is rain coming today.

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.

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.

This week I’m reminiscing about a great walk in the wooded hills of Pitlochry.

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The walk was on a Friday afternoon from the door of our guesthouse in Pitlochry but can also be done from Pitlochry railway station. It’s a stunning place, close to the southern border of the Cairngorms National Park. My friend Eddie lives in Glasgow and his journey was a wee bit quicker than mine from Sussex. Above you can see Eddie not at all incongruous in the landscape All these pics are taken with the amazing Canon Powershot G7X MII in RAW format and processed in Adobe Lightroom.

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Scotland has deliciously wet and humid woodlands which in some parts constitute what is affectionately known as ‘Celtic Rainforest’. This is my habitat, the milder temperatures and shadier conditions far better suit my Celtic biology (which is not actually something that exists in Science).

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These birch trees were host to large hoof fungus brackets and many foliose lichens. These are commonly found on the acidic soils of heather moorland that covers so much of the Scottish Highlands.

These dead standing trees are a vital source of biodiversity in woodlands. They are the thing we have lost but are slowly, very slowly, returning to the landscape thanks to sensitive management.

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In Clunie Wood I found my first ever jelly babies. These are a bizarre species that do look like the sweets. They were growing in large numbers under shade in a wet area alongside the path.

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At the edge of a plantation we found a huge fly agaric.

Here is Eddie getting a pic which gives a sense of scale. September seems a good month for fly agaric in the Highlands of Scotland.

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The conditions were perfect for fungi and these beautiful bonnet mushrooms were alongside lichens on a tree stump.

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This quite hilarious clump of mushrooms (they were growing from one small stump… had to be there) are probably a type of honey fungus described in Latin as Oystoyae.

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This cheeky slime mould was another sign of the exceptional conditions with the mixture of broadleaf woodland and conifer plantation providing lots of moisture.

I always think orange peel fungus is some kind of plastic pollution. Having worked in urban nature conservation it reminds me of litter picks pulling old bits of traffic cone out of the soil!

At the edge of the woodland the beautiful heather moorland appears and views expand into the Grampian Mountains of the Cairngorms National Park.

Thanks for reading and keep dreaming!

More mushrooms

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Loch Lomond, Scotland, September 2019

I am very fortunate to be able to visit relatives at the foot of the Scottish Highlands. It’s a landscape that I first experienced when visiting family in Perthshire and Stirlingshire about 10 years ago. My family haven taken me to visit the dramatic hills north of Perth, places like the Pass of Killicrankie, the ancient Birnam oak and sycamore, and Rob Roy’s grave in Balquhidder. My cousin was married in Pitlochry one Christmas and the misty woods of the southern Scottish Highlands left their mark on my sense of the place: dark, mysterious and forbidding. Little did I know that it was so close to an ancient continental clash, the Highland Boundary Fault:

Around 430 million years ago two small continents, one equating to modern Scandinavia and the other to the eastern seaboard of North America slammed, geologically speaking, into each other throwing up a vast mountain range similar in many respects to the modern Himalayas. At the height of the uplifting phase the peaks may have breached even the 30,000ft ceiling. – via Greg Murray, Scotlandinfo.eu

Those mountains thrown up are the Scottish Highlands, themselves now ground down to the rounded hills they largely present themselves to be. Just imagine, two continents once with their own flora and fauna now fused together.

The Highland Boundary Fault actually cuts through the northern part of Loch Lomond. If my geology is correct this picture was taken on the south-eastern side of the fault. Two worlds, long since collided.

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Like so many of the landscapes we hold dear in the UK, Loch Lomond was formed by the retreating glaciers over a period over several hundred thousand years. On the shore this oak tree protruded from an area of soil, still managing to survive with most of its roots probably under water.

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Oaks don’t like it too wet in the UK, unlike willow, aspen or alder, the last of which actually needs flowing water to prosper. Oaks like soil that drains well which makes this one all the more unusual. Like everything in nature, there will be an explanation.

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Loch Lomond is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, made more diverse by the series of islands that are dotted across the surface of the lake. The result of the messy retreat of glaciers, dragging rocks and debris along with them, the ensuing flow of water from the melting ice carving out more of the landscape and filling it with water.

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Along the shores of Loch Lomond, Western Atlantic Woodlands grow mossy and wild. More civilised was the flow of walkers along the West Highland Way. Americans, Germans, French, English and indeed Scots were present in a constant flow (bar the pic above). I know this type of woodland as Celtic Rainforest. They are found in the western, wet areas of the British Isles such as here in Scotland, Wales, south-western England and western Ireland. They abound with mosses and liverworts, and they drip with lichens. They get branded as Celtic from the fact they exist in areas where the ancient Celtic-speaking tribes of Britain presided. They consist of oak, birch and hazel in the main.

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For anyone who has seen this website before it will come as no surprise to read that I was on the lookout for fungi. I found this species of what I reckon might be a kind of honey fungus (Armillaria) and some pleasing spreads of sulphur tuft:

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These mushrooms were at a part in the West Highland Way where walkers would pause to catch their breath. I heard lots of snapshots of conversations here, like the two Americans remarking that Donald Trump was a conspiracy theorist (no, really?).

I was quizzed by a couple from Yorkshire about what I would do with the fungi photos.

‘Do you print them or put them in an album?’ a woman asked.

‘I put them online, usually,’ I said. ‘But the main thing is to enjoy being out here.’

I was trying to sound virtuous, then again they were the ones who were walking the near-100 miles of the trail in pretty woeful conditions before then. The woman showed me that she had a film camera with her, a passion she had held for decades. More than anything when looking for or photographing mushrooms, the pleasure is in the moment of finding something, be it new, interesting or unusual.

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Before heading back beyond the Highland Fault to visit my family for the evening, I was taken aback to hear a raven low in an oak, belting out its call. I had never seen one so close. It sounded so much like its words were oak, oak, oak!

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Whatever it meant, the raven surely could not have known that its flight across Loch Lomond took in two continents.

Thanks for reading.

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