Thursday, January 03, 2013

Stinking canine phallic fungi

A kindly coincidence brought tree surgeon, Duncan Smith , back to our village. A near neighbour had asked him to tame a leggy leylandii hedge and he had a ‘problem’. As a commercial enterprise, the municipal tips charge him to take his woodchip waste. It didn’t take too much imagination to find a permaculture solution: we said he could drive the 2km to our woods and dump it there. We’ve just spent a very pleasant three days in a sunny, if somewhat soggy, woodland, barrowing the woodchip along the nature walk we’ve previously created. The aromatic carpet makes walking easier on the sodden ground and, as it rots down, the woodchip will use up nitrogen, so acting as a weed and grass suppressing mulch.

Once we’d finished, we went for a stroll, spotting deer and wild boar foot prints and, in this unseasonally mild weather, some mushrooms. One we haven’t identified yet, one was a mushroom we’ve already met and the third was, well, how can I put this? It has the less-than-endearing qualities of smelling badly and looking like a dog’s penis, which gives it its Latin name,  Mutinus caninus. Its common name is the Dog Stickhorn. In Roger Phillips’ book, Mushrooms, the season is shown as summer to late autumn.

Another mushroom we came across is one I already know but hadn’t seen it in this form. It’s Clathrus ruber another member of the stinkhorn family. Not willy-shaped this time but seriously foul smelling. We’ve seen this several times in the comfrey patch at the back of the henhouse as a red cage but when I saw this in the woods, enveloped in a gelatinous outer ball and the cage very pale in colour, I wasn’t sure. I knelt down to sniff … nothing of note. Then I spotted one nearby, a little more like the ones I’m used to. Quite why, I’m not sure, but I again knelt down for a closer sniff and instantly recoiled at the really strong stink of shitty, rotten meat. Apparently, it does that to attract insects, which help in the distribution of its spores; isn’t Nature wonderful! 
I couldn’t identify the last fungus, found in an area of Corsican pines, please post a comment if you know what it might be.

When the rain has been sheeting down, all too often recently, I’ve found gainful employ inside, freshening up our website for the new season, using our new logo, created by our friend, Tony, a professional graphic artist. I swapped me and my big green Renault van, diesel included, to help him and his family move house in exchange for a logo for our holiday cottage business. I should also mention recent holidaymaker Kieran, who did the bit of JavaScript that makes the images revolve on the front page: thanks to both of you.