With all the fungus, there’s not mushroom

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September has been an unbelievably dry and mild month. The lack of moisture has meant that the elderberry crop this year is poor, with the berries shrivelling almost as soon as they ripen.

Plums, however, have been in great abundance, but while gathering my share from a neighbour’s surplus to make wine, I was alerted to another shortage, but one which is quite welcome.

Despite lots of squashed fruit on the ground and the humid conditions, there was not one single wasp to be seen.

In previous years, such a task would have been a nightmare, due to the striped marauders, intoxicated on the fermenting juices of the rotting fruit.

I have also noticed a shortage of crane flies (daddy-long-legs) this year. In late summer and early autumn, they can often reach plague proportions.

Last weekend, while walking through some riverside woodland, I was surprised to hear a chiffchaff in full song. I wondered if the mild weather had fooled it into thinking that spring was here.

Along the river banks were large patches of the invasive plant Himalayan balsam, which displays an amazing system of seed dispersal at this time of year if you come in contact with it.

It is the largest annual plant in Britain, growing up to 2.5m high from seed in a single season. Himalayan balsam spreads quickly as it can project its seeds up to four metres.

Many seeds drop into the water and contaminate land and riverbanks downstream, but the explosive nature of its seed release means it can spread upstream too.

Despite the dry conditions, woodland fungi are now quite numerous as I discovered on a recent walk through the woods above Eildon Hall.

The beautiful red and white spotted fly agaric was showing well, as was the delicate porcelain fungus which grows on rotting beech branches.

It is pure white, almost translucent and is covered in a layer of clear mucus, which gives it the appearance of fine bone china.

Another very photogenic variety which I discovered was the brick cap, which was cascading down the side of a rotting tree stump.

In Europe this mushroom is often considered inedible or even poisonous, but in the USA and Japan it is apparently a popular edible fungus.

I certainly wouldn’t like to take a chance on it and that goes for any wild mushroom which I wasn’t a hundred percent sure of.