More Beautiful Fungi

Unfortunately autumn has brought with it colds and flu, felling people when they least expect it, including yours truly. It tales away the desire to blog. Anyhow, I’m back with some more fungi photos. I’m a relative newcomer to the study of fungi, or mycology as it is known to the scientific community, so if any experts want to weigh in, please feel free to comment.

Firstly, I need to warn people to be very careful when it comes to fungi. Just because it looks edible doesn’t mean it is edible. The innocuous-looking mushrooms in the shot below look like very many harmless species, but are known by the common name Funeral Bell (Galerina marginata) because they are so deadly. So never assume the dangerous mushroom or toadstool is going to look sinister or wear a gaudy uniform. Fungi are a law unto themselves.

Funeral Bell, a harmless-looking, but extremely dangerous customer.

But if you prefer to admire them for their beauty, rather than because you want to fill your belly with them, mushrooms, toadstools and other fungi are extremely beautiful creatures. I say “creatures” simply because it’s very hard to know how to describe them. Fungi are not plants or animals and are in their own kingdom of organisms.

Bog Bell (Galerina paludosa) a very handsome mushroom.

Fungi are mostly parasitic and tend to be associated with certain trees and shrubs. You can even see where a tree has been by the presence of fungus.

Where a tree used to be, the remains of the trunk are underground and shown by the fungus still feeding on them. Although there are many individual mushrooms, these are all only the fruiting bodies of a single organism, kind of like flowers or apples on a tree.

There are many different kinds of fungus and some are very handsome, such as the Dark Honey Fungus (Armillaria ostoyae) which is studded with spines.

Dark Honey Fungus looking very handsome in a cluster.

But some fungi are absolutely massive. One of the most spectacular in Wicklow is the Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) seen below on a piece of dead wood. The name of this fungus comes from the similarity of its shape to that of a saddle, and its similar size. A spectacular giant, especially common on old sycamore trees.

A Dryad’s Saddle with a €2 coin resting on it, giving a sense of both the size and strength of this massive fungus.

Find a nice sunny day, take your camera and go out and get some photos of these beautiful subjects which stay nicely still while you compose your shots. They are part of what makes autumn such a special time of year.

 

 

What’s moths got to do with it?

Believe it or not, quite a lot.
Moths are major bio-indicators and moth biodiversity and habitat biodiversity, or lack of it, are linked. My friend Veronica French recently contributed to a large-scale study of moths for a paper about the relationship between tree biodiversity in forests and arthropod biodiversity (like insects, spiders, etc.), just published in the scientific journal Forest Ecology and Management under the title “Can Mixed Species Stands Enhance Arthropod Diversity in Plantation Forests?”:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112712000096

Congratulations Veronica!

Now we are in October there are very few moths and butterflies around, but nevertheless you will see this smallish moth at your windows, the Hebrew Character – Orthosia gothica. It is important to remember that although they might not be on the wing so much, if at all, these species are still going about their lives in the countryside, albeit as caterpillars, or in suspended animation as pupae, which will later hatch out into adult moths.

The Hebrew Character, a very common moth species still seen at night-time windows in October.

An Adventure in the Garden of Ireland