Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Parasol in July

While most associate mushrooms with woodland in Autumn one can even find edible fungal delights on the coast in July. This giant lone mushroom is either the Parasol (Macrolepiota procera) or the Shaggy Parasol (Macrolepiota rhacodes). I didn't distrurb it to find out which of the two candidates it was, the flesh of the M. rhacodes bruises red; though both make good eating, it was so beautiful nestled among the ripe grass that I left it for others to appreciete.

Another reason for turning down costal mushroom for breakfast is that I had left all my I dentification books at home and though I am confident of this identification I have promissed my wife that I will only eat fungus I have identified with 100% certainty using two different books!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Gorse parasitised by Hellweed

More usually known as Dodder, Cuscuta epithymum is a parasitic plant that lacks chlorophyll entirely.

Rhi noticed it parasitising Gorse (Ulex europaeus) on the coast of St. Brides Bay in Pembrokeshire.

I particullarly like the name Hellweed as it recalled to me H.G. Wells' description of the martian red-weed in his book "War of the Worlds".

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Bristols tube web

Segestria florentina is now naturalised in a number of areas in England, though according to the NHM web site it was only first described here in 1845. It was initially limited to port areas such as Plymouth and Bristol but there is some evidence that it is spreading. It can give a nasty bite (rare in a British spider), rarely medically significant but reportedly quite painful. They are also very fast and fairly aggressive, never the less they are quite beautiful and certainly fascinating. It is a good job I find them interesting rather than scary as they are common in the walls of our garden.

They sense vibrations along the radial "trip-wires" of their tubular webs, which are usually set into cracks in walls, and then they dart out at great speed, grab their prey and immediately envenomate, retreating to their lair with their dying meal.

During May and June they wander from their tube webs during the night and search each other out to mate. The males can be differentiated from the females by their pedipalps and their marginally smaller size.

Male S.florentina

Female S.florentina

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Dumbleton Pear

About a month ago I went to the ancient village of Dumbleton in Gloucestershire. We were out there to study the geology and search for a little known fossil locality. Our route north of the village passed through the old manor estate which contains some fine old specimen trees including Cedrus libani and Fagus sylvatica Purpurea. On initially passing this tree I paid it little attention, thinking it an old stags headed Quercus robur however it's nothing of the sort, it's actually a huge European cultivated pear tree, Pyrus communis.

This tree has a trunk just over three metre in diameter and must surely be several hundred years old!

You can find it here: