Nature Notes: Woodland Wonderland

The fly-agaric

The fly-agaric

First published in Nature Notes Wandsworth Guardian: Photograph of the Author by

At this time of year a woodland walk, especially through beech woods on a misty, moisty morning is both rewarding and revealing.

Beech woods glow with glorious reds, golds and bronze as falling leaves patter softly down to add their fading tints to leaf-litter and this autumn's small beechmast crop.

Belonging to nature's tribe of 'little rotters', this is where fungi come into their own. Every fallen tree trunk is covered with a mind-blowing mix of mushrooms of many shapes sizes and hues. Some bear English titles but many have almost unprounceable Latin names. Boletes, blewits, polypore, puff-balls and ink-caps are just a few species to be seen. Few are edible, many are toxic and some are downright dangerous.

Moving out into light birch-studded heathland and mixed grasses the surface is strewn with glistening dew-laden funnel and blanket spider's webs reflecting a myriad points of light.

Here we find the famous fly-agaric, the classic toadstool, often illustrating childrens books with an elf or goblin sitting on top of the white-spotted scarlet dome. The white spots are the remains of a thin translucent membrane or veil which, initially covering the head,shrinks and fragments leaving just white evenly spaced flecks visible.

Very poisonous and causing hallucinations if eaten, fly-agarics are frequently nibbled by slugs (see photo) seemingly immune to their toxicity.

So, slugs on drugs? An arresting thought!

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree