Saturday, 25 September 2010

Bonsai in early autumn

This European Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) is coming along nicely, the canopy will broaden as twig ramification is built over the coming years. I have developed this tree from raw nursery stock for three years.

This Cotoneaster (C.horizontalis) has also been in development for three years and was originally collected from a building site. A better pot is required.

This Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) was collected in February of this year, the growth has been cut back twice and I have made a rough branch selection. There's a long way to go with this tree, but good progress in the first year.

Field maple changing colour

Monday, 20 September 2010

Autumn coming soon

Lemon yellow leaves begining to appear on this field maple (Acer campestre), although also a little powdery mildew unfortunately (it won't harm the tree much).
The approach grafted roots on the left of the hollow have almost fused and sacrifice branches have really thickened up the lowest branch, I think the winter shilohete will be greatly improved this year!

Eccentric yew

This English Yew (Taxus bacata) is starting to look like a tree with a future.
This came from a comercial garden store as a clipped pyramid, reduced down to £5 due to poor health... no wonder, vine weevil grubs were eating the roots! The tree was bare rooted, the grubs killed by hand and was planted in a pond basket and very open substrated to encourage vigorous root growth. Less than 2 years on it is inthis gorgeous pot and has been fully styled, now I just need to build ramification of the branch structure.

The same tree one year ago

Monday, 13 September 2010

Genus Amanita: why wild mushrooms are feared

Many wild mushrooms are delicious so why is it that so many people are fearful of them? My Mum still gets anxious about my mushroom collecting (even though my wife insists that I use three sources of identification and that I am 100% certain of my diagnosis before I eat any wild mushroom).

Are these fears unfounded? No!

There is a good reason that every fungus identification book includes a warning about the dangers of poisonous species. Poor or half hearted identification of mushrooms can have disastrous consequences.

There are a number of mushrooms that grow in the UK that are deadly, and the genus Amanita contains several of the most harmful.

Many people know the iconic poisonous mushroom, a red cap with white spots; the Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria), this is indeed poisonous and there has been at least one confirmed fatality from ingestion, but the effects are mild compared to some other members of that genus.

The aptly named Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) contains high levels of amatoxins, to which there is no known antidote antidote. Even with quick diagnosis and excellent treatment in intensive care fatality rates are at least 20%, rising to 90% if left untreated.

I'm not going to tell you how to identify this mushroom (or any for that matter) as there are much better sources; the best online resource is Rogers Mushrooms and here you can read about the horrifying effect of this most deadly of British Mushrooms.

It is not a rare species, here is a specimen that I found in Leigh Woods, Bristol, last week:

...and here are a number of mushrooms that I'm fairly certain are an edible Amanita species, commonly known as The Blusher (Amanita rubrescens), which looks remarkably similar to the very poisonous Panther Cap (Amanita pantherina). There are a number of key differences between the two species and I'm 95% sure I can make that differentiation but the danger of fatal poisoning is not worth a 1:20 chance never mind the post-prandial anxiety!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Mmmmm... breakfast

Hydnum repandum, AKA Hedgehog Mushroom, AKA Wood Hedgehog, AKA Pied de mouton... AKA breakfast!

Fungus season

Thanks to recent rain and cooler temperatures we are having an excellent early fungus season in the south west.

This Thursday I took the day off work to have my car serviced and while it was in the garage took a walk over to Leigh Woods on the outskirts of Bristol. This is a fragment of the ancient Avon forest, and ancient woodland is fantastic for mushrooms.

I found a huge variety of mushrooms, I may post more later. These are a few I found growing with Scotts Pines (Pinus sylvestris):

Lepiota hystrix is an inedible mushroom, which is relatively rare and can be distingushed from other Lepiota species by its dark pyramidal scales and strong smell, reminicent of Elderflower.

These mushrooms are defintely of the genus Suillus, I think they may be the Sullis collinitus (which is uncommon and Red Listed in some areas).

Russula sanguinaria, AKA the Bloody Brittlegill, was very numerous but saddly not eddible (some Russula species are edible, some are poisonous... take great care and only eat those you are VERY confident in: a spore print is an essential tool for identifying Russula species!)

A few weeks ago I returned to Priddy in the Mendips and collected a few Humpback Brittlegills (Russula caerulea) which I identified but did not collect last year... one positive ID via a spore print later and it was breakfast time (delicious they were too).