Friday, 19 October 2012

Autumn in the Wood

An article by Heather Martin

The recent rain has dampened the ground and fungi are starting to pop up here, there and everywhere.

Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria) is probably the species that everyone associates with the season. The common name comes from the historical practise of soaking pieces in bowls of milk to stupefy flies. It is often found close to birch trees and although this specimen, like most in our wood has been nibbled, the fungus is extremely toxic to humans and must not be eaten.

Every year I look forward to the emergence of a group of Magpie Inkcaps (Coprinus picaceus). They grow to a height of around 30cm but their delicate perfection is short-lived because like most of the species in this genus, the gills quickly auto-digest turning into a dripping, black mass.

A large cluster of Common Bonnet ( Mycena galericulata) has covered the rotting stump of a sweet chestnut tree. Examination of the spores gave a positive identification.

Some insects are still in evidence if you happen to be in the right place at the right time.
Rodney spotted a Glow-worm (Lampyris noctiluca) larva ambling across a log on a pile at the edge of a track.

I noticed a caterpillar munching voraciously on a hawthorn berry. It has the characteristics of a larva of the Geometridae family and Jim Barrett suggested it is probably a Mottled Pug (Eupithecia exiguata). The species should overwinter as a pupa in the soil then emerge as an adult next May.

This caterpillar from the same family was also found on hawthorn. Any ideas Jim?

(I believe this caterpillar may be 1773 Broken-barred carpet (Electrophaes corylata); Its a tough one to call though as green body with yellow bands is a common among caterpillars. JB)

Now that a large percentage of leaves have already fallen - or been blown off! - it's easier to notice some things like galls for example. The Ram's-horn Gall on this pedunculate oak tree was caused by the gall wasp Andricus aries. It was only discovered in England in 1997 but is now quite common across the south of the country. Not much is know about the life cycle of the wasp apart from the fact it has two generations a year, the second in the gall from October emerging the following spring.

A peculiar little appendage on the underside of a hornbeam leaf was identified by Tony Davis as the larval case of micro moth Coleophora violacea. It has fragments of leaf attached to the surface. The plain brown adult flies in May and June.

All Pictures by Heather Martin 18/10/2012

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