Common Earthball, Scleroderma citrinum, has ‘a characteristic smell of old rubber’ according to Wildlife of Britain, the Definitive Visual Guide or strong odour ‘of gas or acetylene’ (Encyclopedia of Fungi, Michael Jordan). As I’ve mentioned before, this didn’t stop me from slicing the young ones, with firm white flesh, and frying them in a bit of butter when I was trying to survive on a very slender travelling scholarship on a student field trip to Iceland. To me, they tasted of mushroom, but I don’t recommend that you try them, as they’re variously described as inedible or even poisonous.
These were growing by the path in deciduous woodland at the top end of the Pleasure Grounds at Nostell Priory Park.
I’m not sure whether this is the hoof fungus, Fomes fomentarius, or a Ganoderma bracket fungus. It was growing on a softwood deciduous tree, probably birch, at Dubbs Moss Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserve, southwest of Cockermouth.
Hoof fungus, also known as tinder fungus, was once considered to be mainly confined to the Scottish Highlands but it is spreading south.
There’s a heavy crop of oyster mushroom(above) on some sweet chestnut logs, the entire trunk of a felled tree, which have been left as a habitat in Thornhill Park. Oyster mushrooms are currently £10.80 per kilogram at Sainsbury’s, so there must be hundreds of pounds’ worth here, although some are a bit past their best.
The logs are also sprouting honey fungus(left), which is said to be edible when young.
On the stump itself, the common bracket fungus of dead wood, Trametes versicolor is growing. The brackets are paler around the edges.
This silver birch, down by the canal near the Figure of Three locks, was catching the sun. I’ve added a watercolour filter in Photoshop to bring out the texture of the diamond-shaped scars of its bark. Hopefully, I’ll be getting down to actually painting some watercolours in the new year!
I feel that I can already tell that the days are getting longer and it’s good to think that, in two months time, dogs mercury and lesser celandine will be springing up on the hedgebanks with coltsfoot appearing on disturbed ground.
For the moment though, the only conspicuous flowers are those of hogweed.
Hazel catkins, as yet unopened, are now prominent in the hedgerows.
There was a soft arc of a rainbow over the valley this morning as we set off across the fields via Smithy Brook to Thornhill.
Boxing Day Walk
I’m pleased that over the Christmas period we’ve managed to get out into our local countryside to walk our regular ten thousand steps because a news item in this month’s Healthy Food Magazine reports that researchers at The University of British Columbia have:
“found a link between getting a nature top-up with an increase in general happiness and health during a two-week study. Participants were split into three groups: a control group, a group noting down human-made objects and those documenting nature finds. It was the last group that experienced the biggest boost in self-perceived wellbeing.”
There was me thinking that catching up with my family and eating lots of Christmas cake and mince pies was what had given me a seasonal glow of wellbeing. I should have realised that it was getting my boots muddy and observing rainbows, fungus-covered logs and birch bark.
I’ve done a bit more on the watercolour of ear fungus that I started drawing from a photograph a few weeks ago. I’d intended to keep things simple but I’m fascinated by detail and the macro photograph not only gives me a reference for the fungus, it also brings the miniature landscape of the bark of the felled tree into close focus.
I could go on working up all that detail for a few more hours, but I’m going to leave it at this stage because I didn’t intend this to be a sharp focus still life study. It’s fine as it is.
I photographed ear fungus growing on a log at Nostell this morning and I’ve made a start on a watercolour, working from the photograph, this afternoon.
Starting with a pencil drawing, I’m adding the lightest colour in each area. This initial wash looks exotically bright for the subject of fungi on an old log but, as you can see from the detail from my photograph, there’s a surprising amount of colour there.
This candlesnuff fungus, Xylaria hypoxylon, is growing on wood chip beneath the rowan. It’s the first time that I’ve found it growing in our garden. It’s a common species, usually found on stumps and dead branches.
I’ve drawn it from a macro photograph; the fungus is about the size of a matchstick.
Hundreds of knopper galls are scattered beneath the oaks in Nostell Park. On some you can see the way that the acorn has been transformed into the home and the food source for the larva of the gall wasp Andricus quercuscalis. The acorns have stalks, botanically penduncles, so these are the acorns of the common or pendunculate oak, Quercus robur.
It’s the asexual generation of this gall wasp that produces the knopper gall; the alternate sexual generation produces tiny galls on the male catkins of the Turkey oak, Quercus cerris. Turkey oak acorns have ‘mossy’ cups, that remind me of the furry Russian hat that Ivan the Terrible might have worn. There are several Turkey oaks at Nostell.
This species of bracket fungus is sprouting on deciduous stumps in the woods around the lakes.
The head gardener is adding wire mesh to the newly restored iron gate to the walled garden.
“Is that to stop the ducks getting in?” (It’s been a good year for the mallards on the nearby lakes).
“I worked on the film of Watership Down, so I’m always rooting for the rabbits.”
This bracket fungus, Trametes veriscolor (formerly Coriolus versicolor), is growing on a stump at the Denby Dale Road end of the carriage drive in Clarence Park, Wakefield. When Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Park were laid out as a public park by the Victorians, horse chestnuts were planted along this drive.