Sunday, 23 October 2016

Autumn spotlights

Autumn is such a wonderful season. The days are getting shorter and the sun low in the sky casts long shadows and dazzling spotlights through the treetops. I can't help but explore the area that the suns rays light up, always hopeful that it's natures way of pointing out something precious.

Some mornings we wake up to thick fog that gradually burns off, filling the woods with an eerie Halloween atmosphere. Ghosts and ghouls lurk behind every tree ...

... no, really they do. Black trumpet shaped fungi called horn of plenty poke up through the leaf litter. They're said to be trumpets being played by the dead.

Horn of plenty
When they've finished playing their trumpets, the fingers of the dead try to claw their way out of the ground.
Dead moll's fingers
Not all fungi are quite as macabre though. These terracotta hedgehogs were hiding amongst the leaves on one of my recent walks. From above they look like little apricot coloured toadstools, but turn them over and you find an amazing set of spines hanging underneath the cap.

Terracotta hedgehogs
Hedgehoggy spines
Fungi are fascinating. You can walk the same path through the woods from one day to the next and see different fungi each time. They pop up over night when the conditions are just right, often forming large colonies. There are so many different shapes, sizes and colours to look out for. 

A sulphur tuft forest

Coral fungus

Shaggy parasol

Stump puffballs
Some of my favourite fungi are the inkcaps, particularly the magpie inkcaps with their distinctive black bell shaped cap that's covered in the remains of a white veil. They're so elegant, but you have to be lucky to see them as they start to break down within a day or two of appearing, with the cap literally dripping away.
Magpie inkcap
Snowy inkcap, covered in white flaky scales

A delicate little inkcap
The leaves have finally started to change colour, and soon they'll be setting the Chiltern hills alight with copper, bronze and golden flames. Definitely something to look forward to!

The first signs that the beech leaves are changing colour

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