Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Forest in the Fog

Thursday's Guardian Country Diary describes a visit to Hamsterley Forest in Co. Durham on a foggy day.
The forest is a mixture of deciduous trees and conifers, with some fine beech plantations and some ancient oaks. Forests have a wonderfully mysterious, spooky quality when the sun begins to break through the fog.
In addition to the usual Scots pine and Sitka and Norway spruces there are some less familiar conifers, like this western hemlock. Its blunt resinous needles have an appealingly fruity, citrus-like aroma  when you crush them.

Hamsterley is always a good destination for a fungal foray - this (I think) is the larch bolete Suillus grevillei and this ...
... is yellow stag'shorn Calocera viscosa.

This looks like Coriolus versicolor, not yet fully expanded. The brackets exude droplets of moisture underneath.

And finally, one toadstool that's unmistakeable - stinkhorn Phallus impudicus. These always appear in large numbers in early autumn in a Norway spruce plantation in the forest and if you happen to be approaching from downwind you become aware of their presence from some distance. This is a perfect specimen that must have grown up overnight ....
.... and here' one that's probably a day old. Flies have carried off all its sticky brown spores, leaving one late arrival with nothing to eat. Slugs have already made inroads into the remains.


  1. Awe man Phil, (as they say round these parts) will you give over writing stuff like that putting the rest of us to shame who occasionally try to string words together... Your country diary piece is just so evocative, I'm right there standing in your footprints as I read it. One of your best!

  2. When the first photo popped up in my reader, I was confused, recognizing my forest and my paintings. Similar forest, I guess, down to the yellow staghorns, and what looks like goldthread under the day old
    stinkhorn, is it? I always find it fascinating how similar the forest can be, even in Florida, there were things that I recognized living with the palms and giant ferns. I like nibbling on the hemlock needles in early spring.

  3. Thanks Allan ........ it's amazing how much has changed in Hamsterley over the last few years - there's a lot of felling going on ... it's quite sobering to realise that you can remember when the planted the trees that they're now cutting down! Cheers, Phil

  4. I think they're spruce needles under the stinkhorn Valerianna. I guess fungal spores are carried right around the planet so there's no knowing where they might land and colonise. Never tried nibbling hemlock needles (but will when spring comes). Best wishes, Phil

  5. The best ones are the new green tips, quite lively and full of vitamin C, but you can eat them now and make a nutritious tea from them. Folks usually get concerned, confusing the hemlock tree with deadly hemlock plant, and we know how that became famous. And in the bottom photo I think I see goldthread, but I'm a bit rusty on that.