Fungal Foray

For the last week or two we’ve been seeing some fabulous fungi photos on social media, from around and about Worcestershire. We’ve never really gone out specifically in search of fungi, but spurred on by mushroom envy, we set out for Monkwood. Monkwood has been a favourite place for butterfly watching in the past, but we’d never been out of season, so it was interesting to see it at a different time of year. The wood itself of course looked totally different, the trees resplendent in their autumnal colours.

We’d barely stepped out of the car before we realised there were mushrooms and toadstools everywhere (apparently there is no scientific difference between the two of these, people just tend to call the poisonous ones toadstools and the edible ones mushrooms). There were fungi growing out of the ground, from dead wood and from living trees. Single specimens and bigger colonies were everywhere.

As complete novices we took photos of everything with a view to identifying them when we got home. Thankfully there are some very helpful people on https://www.ispotnature.org/ who identified all but the blindingly obvious ones which we managed ourselves. Unfortunately we hadn’t realised that to identify a lot of the fungi, you really need to take photos of the stem and the gills underneath, not just go for pretty photos of the cap. So a lot of the fungi we photographed couldn’t be fully identified. We’ll know better next time. Despite this we (well mainly the kind people on iSpot) managed to identify 13 species. Not bad for a first attempt.

We saw several types of bracket fungus – fungi that form shelf-like ledges usually growing out of wood. We only managed to get 2 identified to species. The first is this Turkeytail, which fans out from branches or logs, with concentric rings of different colours.

Next is the brilliantly named Hairy Curtain Crust. This grows in more varied wavy shapes, with the upperside distinctly hairy.

Some of the fungi grew up in short spikes rather than forming the more typical cap. This one growing out of dead wood is called Candlesnuff Fungus, but also know as Stag’s Horn.

This next one is called Crested Coral and looks just like a piece of marine coral that has somehow found its way into the middle of a woodland.

We spotted 3 types of jelly like fungus, in varying colours. The Purple Jellydisc is pretty much self explanatory.

The Crystal Brain Fungus doesn’t look particularly brain-like, but I do like the name – maybe because it reminds me of the Indiana Jones title!

This Yellow Brain Fungus is also known as Witches’ Butter and was indeed a beautifully buttery colour. This specimen was too small to really look like a brain but apparently when they are bigger they get more brain-like wrinkles.

On to the more “traditional” looking mushrooms. This one is called the False Death Cap – apparently unpleasant tasting but not totally poisonous like the real Death Cap. We have no intentions of trying any of the mushrooms though – not worth the risk when our identification skills are still in their infancy!

Next up the Common Puffball or Devil’s Snuffbox. It’s a small round mushroom, which as it ripens develops a hole in the top through which the spores puff out. The latin name is Lycoperdon, which comes from Lycos for wolf and perdon for breaking wind – hence another name – Wolf Fart Puffball.

The next one is a Trooping Funnel. They start of with flat caps which gradually turn funnel shaped. They can occur in large groups or Troops and can form fairy rings.

We did come across one very large Fairy Ring (or Elf Circle or Pixie Ring) of mushrooms (not sure what species) in the wood. It must have been at least 5 metres in diameter, the mushrooms growing around the perimeter. It was too big to get in a single photo, the best I could manage was this section of them growing in a line.

Next up a pretty little cluster of Sulphur Tuft. These are apparently a common sight on decaying wood, often forming large tightly packed clumps.

While many of the fungi seem to have devilish names, this next one has gone the other way – the Angel’s Bonnet, is a dainty little thing growing on dead wood.

The final fungus is the one that most intrigued us from the social media photos we’d seen – the Green Elf Cup. We’d seen photos taken in Monkwood the week before of really stunning bright green elf cups, which is why we’d chosen this wood for our first fungal foray. Sadly we couldn’t find the same cluster, but we did spot this small group of them. Not quite as vivid a green (in fact looking more blue here) as we’d seen online, but lovely to find all the same.

Hopefully this will be the first fungal adventure of many and we’ll get better at photographing and identifying them. I’ve loved finding out all their names. Fungi names often seem to have mystical connotations – elves, fairies, devils  and death seem to feature strongly. Fungi are present in a lot of old folklore, being associated with both positive and negative spirits.

Although we spent the morning hunting for mushrooms, this Speckled Bush Cricket had climbed an old stump and was crying out to be photographed. I was surprised to see such a fine specimen so late in the year, a reminder of the summer gone.

Mellow Fruitfulness

It may only be September, but it is starting to seriously feel like autumn in the garden now and has been for a few weeks! The nights are drawing in and the garden is starting to mellow into autumn, plant by plant. I’m hoping our resident hedgehogs are doing enough to fatten themselves up for the winter; but judging by the amount of time this one spent at the food bowl the other night, I think he or she at least has got the right idea!

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We’re planning on getting a hedgehog nest box this year to help them out a bit further. Hopefully we can find a suitable spot for it under the brambles that are gradually taking over the back end of the garden.  Said brambles have been fruiting for weeks now – lovely fat juicy berries.

Blackberry

The beauty of picking blackberries from your own garden, especially if you garden organically, is that you know there’s nothing untoward been sprayed on them (with the possible exception of the lower ones which may fall foul of neighbourhood cats scent marking!)

Blackberries

I’ve picked some, but there are too many for us really, so I’m hoping the birds will take their fill, although they seem at the moment to prefer the suet bird food provided and are spurning the healthy fruit option!

Our other fruit crop is from our Discovery apple tree, which is an early cropping variety with lovely red sweet apples.

Apples

The tree a few weeks ago looked like this – laden with apples that were already starting to drop on our shoddy attempt at a lawn.

Apple tree with apples

Again there were too many apples for the two of us, but fortunately Chris has a cider-making friend who kindly came round and cleared most of them for us. Hopefully we’ll get some of the finished product! So a day’s apple picking and a few weeks later the tree is looking like this – leaves just starting to change colour from green to yellow in places.

Apple tree without apples

Another “crop” from the garden are the artichokes – Globe ones. To be honest they don’t really get harvested as I always leave them until they’re too big and tough. And anyway, I love the purple flowers which the bees go crazy for and they give fantastic structural interest amongst the prevailing weeds!

Artichoke flowers

Small mushrooms are also popping up now in the “lawn” – another autumnal sign. I’ve no idea what species they are or whether they are edible, so they’ll stay where they are amongst the grass.

mushroom

One final thought – as if the approach of autumn wasn’t daunting enough, some of the apples from the tree have already made their way into this – Christmas is coming!

Mincemeat