Posted by: Ross Gardner | October 21, 2019

Timing is everything

Sometimes, in the world of nature, timing is everything.  Many a birdwatcher will tell you that there is that special week, usually around late August, when the autumn bird migration peaks and all sorts of travelling birds can turn up in all sorts of places.  There will be the best times to go looking for elusive butterflies, like the very splendid Purple Emperor, which is apparently best looked for in its woodland haunts during the fortnight around the middle of July.

So too might there be an optimum fungi time, although it can be something of a moveabe feast.  It is sometimes not too difficult to predict the autumn flushing of fungi, perhaps all the more so this year with the rather long and very dry summer we have experienced in the south-east of England.  Much needed rains have arrived and stayed over the weeks this blog has been silent.  The fungal flush was inevitable.

Yet, with that said, good timing can make a difference.  A visit to a local ancient wood (the Essex Wildlife Trust’s Pound Wood nature reserve) on the 13th of this month and the woodland floor was quite literally littered with mushrooms.  Some required a keener eye, like the curious looking White Helvella (Helvella crispa), while others rather forced themselves onto the gaze, like that archetypal ‘toadstool’, the boldy capped and white spotted Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria), or the pied and equally striking Magpie Inkcap (Coprinopsis picacea).  This last in particular can require that the timing is right.  So many times have I seen these after the short-lived fruiting body has begun transforming into a black and gloopy mess, the inky substance that gives the various inkcaps their name.  Is was indeed a fine treat to find them in tip-top condition.

Less than a week later at another fine ancient wood and anticipated mycological bonanza and the fungi rather needed to be sought after.  The Fly Agaric had past their best and mushrooms in general were harder to find.  Such though, are the vagaries that makes the natural world so compelling.

Helvella crispa (scaled)

Helvella crispa – something of an oddity among mushrooms.

Fly Agaric - Pound Wood (scaled)

Fly Agaric – the archetypal ‘toadstool’.

Magpie Inkcap 2 (scaled)

The striking Magpie Inkcap.


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