Damp surprise

You have to keep your eyes wide open around here, for you never know what oddity nature will toss about unannounced.

It’s been wet and cold and i’ve not been outside much, but at least there are some breaks today.  Dashing out to the woodpile during one of them, I squinted at a pale dab of colour beneath the leafless birch tree.

It could well be an autumn leaf blown from a more distant tree — or, more exciting, it could be a new slime mould!

I squelched closer, noting the rapid growth in the bulb leaves since I last checked. Nope, not slime mould, but an overly populated clump of fungi.

I remember that there were several clumps here one other year, although not in this exact spot. I didn’t recall them being so ‘toothy’, almost like sea anemones. I didn’t identify them then, and still can’t, despite trying anew.

I’ll have to settle for my usual admiring and ignorant astonishment at the complexity of life if we let it be.

Autumn flower

There’s little flowering right now in my forest, but this pink one caught my eye. Hadn’t seen it before, and there was only one. 
So, naturally, I got the camera and went closer.

Which is when I realised it was a fungus, fleshy rather than flowery, fat-stemmed, the cap splitting into ‘petals’, lightly frilled, with a gill-fluted white petticoat.

And I have tried to find out what it could be called, but failed. Neither my books, nor Gaye’s Fungi site, nor the web, have revealed its identity.

One of the mysterious aspects of fungi is how a single specimen can appear, delight and confuse me, and disappear, never to return in that spot– or not for the decades I’m around.

Oyster and tomato fungi, anyone?

Being Autumn, alternately damp and cold, then dry and warm, I’m on the alert for more weird and wonderful fungi. 

These fleshy tree-huggers are new to me. I was taken by the way their lightly frilled skirts droop into points like nippled udders. 

I think they are a type of oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus, which would be edible, but I wouldn’t dare try them.
Perhaps someone will identify them for me.

A few days later, these two isolated individuals showed up on the forest floor. Tomato-red, I think I have tracked them down to be Stropharia aurantiaca.

They don’t have a common name, so Tomato fungi they will be for me. 

They aren’t noted as edible, but given my cowardly nature in such matters, I’ll just enjoy their cheery appearance on a bleak day.

 For me, common or not, all fungi are magic — sudden appearances, startling colours and shapes, as much appreciated for the surprise, the element of discovery they provide, as for the visual treat.

The Blob

On my way out the other day I noticed  a bright yellow blob on the bark of a fallen tree by the gate. Must get a photo of that, I thought — but I forgot for few days.

When I returned with the camera, the bright yellow had turned orange, with older purple edges and only small oozings, awfully like custard — or worse — showed yellow.

Now I had not seen this before, but from previous investigations into another of the family, I knew it must be a slime mould, Myxomycota. They’re not fungi but tend to be lumped with them.

I had been fascinated that they move about like amoebae, reproducing into perhaps thousands of ‘daughter cells’; then, at some sort of chemical signal, they all get together and make a larger organism.

Some species make such large organisms that a horror movie, The Blob, was inspired by them. 

This is one of the most common, worldwide, I had read. It’s in my fungi book as Fuligo septica, with the common name of ‘Flowers of Tan’, but the much less poetic and more apt names I found to be most common elsewhere were ‘Dog vomit mould’ or ‘Scrambled egg mould’!

Field fungi

Visiting a friend recently I spotted a solitary white ‘mushroom’ in the middle of their grazed paddock. It looked like the elegant parasols I have had at home sometimes.

I took the camera over to investigate; the inquisitive sheep followed me.

It’s an especially beautiful fungus, frilled and flocked and so purely white as it is. It always makes me think of demure young ladies in Victorian times. It is Macrolepiota dolichaula and I believe it’s quite common. Some people eat it without ill effects; others find the opposite; others, like me, don’t want to find out.

Only a week before I had stopped to see what these huge fleshy fungi were, in an overgrown roadside area, normally mown. There were about a dozen of them.

I’d photographed them but not looked them up. The central peak, the ‘umbo’, looked like lightly browned meringue.

Now I realise they were probably the same as the one my sheep fancied, but because they were turning upwards, probably older, they looked more substantial, not parasol-like at all.

The patch is now mown and no trace of the colony exists. I wonder if the mowing man felt reluctant to slice through them?