Tag Archives: fruiting bodies

Fungi, before the storm

Unfortunately the arrival of Hurricane Ophelia right on top of the island of Ireland is going to pretty much spell the end of most of the beautiful mushrooms and toadstools around at the moment, but I thought I should at least show some of them. So here are just a few, starting with the Common Puffball (Lycoperdum perlatum):

This handsome fungus grows in abundance at the moment, and stands a good chance of surviving torrential rain due to its shape and toughness. When they get older puffballs become soft and are designed to release spores in a cloud when trod upon. When they are young, as they are now, they are very handsome. Here’s one on its own:

An equally common, but far more delicate mushroom is the Parasol (Macrolepiota procera), which is famous for its extremely narrow stipe, which is the part of the mushroom which looks like a stem:

And then there are the more notorious ones, such as this, the infamous Deathcap (Amanita phalloides), one of the deadliest toadstools in Europe, but fortunately quite distinctive. The most common variety has a platinum-coloured cap, but this white variety, alba, is almost as common:

Whereas Deathcap looks pretty unremarkable, some fungi could best be described as curiousities. Here is a common species which appears to be emitting motor oil, the Common Inkcap (Coprinopsis atramentaria), and eventually dissolves into a black blob of oily substance containing spores:

   Some fungi are both beautiful and remarkable-looking. Here is one of my favourites, the Upright Coral (Ramaria stricta), which gets its name due to its resemblance to coral from an undersea reef. It is one of many species of coral fungus, and, despite how exotic it looks, it’s actually quite common:

All it remains for me to say now is stay safe. Hopefully all will be well and the hurricane/cyclone will pass off and dissipate with a minimum of fuss and harm to Ireland, or anywhere else.

The Autumn Equinox

Tonight, and only a short time ago,  at 9.02 am local time here in Wicklow (8.02 pm GMT) was the exact halfway point between the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice. To put it bluntly, this is the definite end of summer and start of autumn, and from now until the Vernal Equinox next March each day will be shorter than the night. And the birds know that, so they’re fattening up, increasing their energy reserves by eating the various berries on the myriad trees and bushes which are brimming with them right now. Here’s a photo I got of a male House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) feeding on blackberries:

   And now butterflies are disappearing fast, although there are Large Whites, Green-veined Whites, Red Admirals, Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells still to be seen in small numbers. The latter two will hibernate and need to find suitable accomodation relatively soon if they are to make it to spring. However, the most numerous butterfly at this time of the year, and the one that blends in best with the autumn colours, is the Speckled Wood, which is usually the last species seen along hedgerows in the autumn. Their numbers are falling too, though. This September has been cooler than those we’ve had in recent years and that’s probably a factor.

But, if any creature plucks the heart strings more than others as it disappears from the landscape it’s the Swallow, You can still see some in our skies, but they’re flying south-east at speed, and usually not playfully hunting for insects as they were a few weeks ago. Now they have no time to waste and need to get to southern Europe and across the Sahara Desert to southern Africa with some degree of urgency, as the insect population on which they depend crashes in the colder, less sunny climate of autumn. There’s still a lot to enjoy out there though, and I’ll be doing my best to showcase it. Here is my slightly out-of-focus photo of a Swallow flyng quickly south,  and quite high up, this morning. I guess this is farewell and bon voyage, until next March or April:


Fantastic Fungi

What makes autumn special… or especially special, as I recently heard someone say, is fungi. There are always fungi around, but usually like veins or threads in the soil or in trees, alive or dead. But in autumn their spectacular fruiting bodies appear, what we call mushrooms and toadstools. And many of them are absolutely fantastic-looking. Each tree will have its own species, so what you find very much depends on where you go, but Wicklow has such varied habitats you are likely to find many spectacularly-different species. Here are just a selection I found in a woods consisting of birch, alder and willow trees on acidic soil:

Honey Waxcap – Hygrocybe reidii, with lovely fleshy orange gills.
Pleated Inkcap – Parasola plicatilis (mature form)
Common Inkcap – Coprinopsis atramentaria, which has spores that ooze like writing ink.
I’m not 100% certain of this identification, but I think it’s a Liver Milk-cap – Lactarius hepaticus. Milk-caps have milky “juice” in their gills containing the spores.
Turkeytail – Trametes versicolor, a fungus found worldwide and which lives in dead timber. It is also known as “rainbow fungus”.
Matt Bolete – Boletus pruinatus, a very heavy mushroom and quite large.
Shaggy Inkcap – Coprinus comatus, also known as Lawyer’s Wig, for obvious reasons. This is an extremely inky fungus, and notoriously strong, the mushroom being known to crack asphalt as it rises. Yet it is extremely brittle too, as I found when I bumped my camera lens off one, and it broke!

These are just a selection I photographed in less than an hour in the woods. As for eating them… I have only very basic knowledge about that and so can give no advice. All mushrooms taste like poison to me! Mushroom soup isn’t too bad though… sometimes. And I would never risk making it myself. The cause of of most food-related poisonings is the colossal ego of a wannabe chef…