Nature Notes: Woodland Wonderland
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!