It is rapidly approaching that time of year again when the Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) awaken from their fitful slumber and begin to stir deep inside their decaying host. From small, unassuming beginnings this fungus gradually blossoms into a woodland behemoth, often obtaining epic proportions. They are edible but best enjoyed when they are young.
The specimen in these photos was a majestic sight whose appearance I welcomed each year like that of an old friend. Often I would pass the time of day with it and tell it the tales of the woodland or news it may have missed during its dormancy. If it was interested or merely irritated by my presence it was difficult to tell, as it so often is with mushrooms. Then, as the days passed I would watch my friend slowly wither and fade to black, its spore set and a job well done for another year.
Sadly, this year I will be unable to renew old acquaintance. Upon returning to its location it seems that some bastard has sawn up its tree trunk home and taken it back for firewood or some other such purpose! Is nothing sacred?
Farewell old friend, it was a pleasure and you brought immense joy to my woodland rambles for many years; may your memory live for evermore in some bright corner of the internet.
Velvet Shanks (Flammulina velutipes), a beautiful edible fungi which appears in late autumn/early winter and is one of few mushroom species which can survive a frost. This fact, combined with its nature of growing in large clusters, makes it desirable to the winter woodland forager. I have to admit that it is not really to my taste, I find the flavour a bit too metallic for my liking. I have read some descriptions which describe it as somewhat tasteless, which surprises me. Admittedly, taste is a very subjective matter, for example I despise cheeses (or the sperm of Satan, as they are known to me!). My advice would be to try it and make up your own mind and do not believe everything you read when it comes to taste; remember, one man’s fish is another man’s poisson.
Commercially, Velvet Shank can be found on the shelves of the majority of supermarkets, although you may have trouble recognising it as such. The cultivated form is called “Enoki” which is long stemmed with a small cap and pale, a far cry from its wild form.
Young Bay Boletes (Boletus badius).
Morels it seems are like London buses, you wait two years for one to come along and then twelve come along all at once! I was as happy as Larry when I found these beauties in a local woodland, it truly was a spine tingling moment. These guys appear to be mostly Morchella esculenta and one Morchella elata, that is what I’m going for at least.
It is always wonderful to find seldom seen fungi species, especially when they are as bizarre looking as Morels. I bumped into a lady in the woods whilst I was collecting these, she was amazed at their structure and decided that they looked like space age sponges! I certainly wouldn’t argue.
So, a great start to the new season. Now, all I have to do is find a Lobster moth caterpillar and I will be even happier than the now legendary Larry.
In a wood just outside of Chepstow, there lies in one corner, a hidden copse, seldom frequented by visitors. The copse cannot be said to be big, indeed it is quite the opposite, it is small. However, as so often in life, size is an unreliable indicator of beauty. Until recently, this jewel was cut off from the main wood by a rusty fence which prevented casual ramblers from entering. Sadly, as must we all, the fence has succumb to the ravages of time, becoming a jumble of tangled wire, a foot snare for the unwary walker; it is a fence no more.
Once within, we see that the copse is mainly comprised of neglected Ash coppice stools which have been allowed to grow unmanaged for too long. Here and there we find the odd invading Sycamore, and a sparse understorey of Hazel. In the height of Spring the floor is a carpet of Dogs Mercury, Bluebell and Ramson with each footfall releasing the heady scent of wild garlic which assails the senses and gladdens the heart. A magical place to rest weary feet, read a book and free the weight of the world from sagging shoulders.
It is also a fantastic place to find early spring mushrooms, both St. Georges and Morels are found here, hidden amongst the ground foliage. St. Georges grow in fairy rings, some of which can be hundreds of years old, if you find one mushroom there will be others. Morels are true masters of camouflage, tread carefully and keep a beady eye out; once spotted, remain calm and scan all around before taking further steps, a squashed morel is no good to anyone.
These pictures were taken in the copse two years ago, one of only two occasions I have managed to find Morels……..
I must admit, the lovely weather we have been having in South Wales over the last week or so had me fooled. Glorious displays of Spring flowers such as Celandine, Primrose, Wood Anemone and Violets have festooned the local highways and byways. I dared to believe that we had truly turned the corner and Spring was on the way, maybe it was just wishful thinking because today the rain is back.
Now, I’m not obsessed by the weather, it is what it is and it cannot be changed; I have to say though that all the rain we have had of late has got me down a little. My garden has been sodden for months now and was just beginning to dry out, it’s in great need of some TLC.
Despite the rain it hasn’t been cold, in fact it has been one of the mildest Winters I can remember, frosts were rare and there was no snow at all. The last few years have seen us snowed in on at least one occasion during the winter months, much to the delight of my dogs. On the brightside, the first edible mushrooms of the year have already begun to show. Tiny St. Georges mushroom are growing and will hopefully be ready to harvest in the next couple of weeks and it will soon be time to begin searching for the elusive Morel, I hope I have better luck than last year.
Delicate inkcaps (Coprinus spp): there are around 100 species of the genus Coprinus in Britain, many of which can only be identified by microscopic features of young specimens.
I cannot seem to find anything in my books which resemble the second photo; I had imagined that the distinctive “Herringbone” pattern around the fringe of the cap would point the way to a positive ID, but no luck yet. If anybody has ideas then please let me know.
Dynamic duos: five fotos of fantastic fungal friendships.
Beautiful Snowdrops, a sure sign that spring is just around the corner.
The Death Of Autumn
When reeds are dead and a straw to thatch the marshes,
And feathered pampas-grass rides into the wind
Like aged warriors westward, tragic, thinned
Of half their tribe, and over the flattened rushes,
Stripped of its secret, open, stark and bleak,
Blackens afar the half-forgotten creek,—
Then leans on me the weight of the year, and crushes
My heart. I know that Beauty must ail and die,
And will be born again,—but ah, to see
Beauty stiffened, staring up at the sky!
Oh, Autumn! Autumn!—What is the Spring to me?
Beautiful words by Edna St. Vincent Millay