Summer is definitely toppling over into Autumn now, so on a quiet and mellow afternoon we head off on a forestry walk not far from Inchree where we stumbled upon these fantastic examples of Fly Agarics.
Just off the footpath at the edge of the forest these toadstools look as if they had been made for a fairytale film set. There is not a blemish on their bright red caps, and they are huge!
Everything about these Fly Agarics is perfect as we get to them and look closely. The large white gills present as fresh white with a tinge of pink when viewed from underneath, and the new veil is still complete, flaring above the typical bulbous base.
With no slug trails, mice nibblings or bird pecks the cap is still perfect with as yet nothing to spoil the pristine surface.
The smaller of these two Agaric (or Amantia Muscaria to give it its latin name), shows an excellent example of an emerging toadstool, cap still rounded before fully opening and flattening out. The white spots or warts are still a lovely creamy white; at later stages they will fade to a yellowish colour as they age and get rain washed.
Pulling back the view and showing them in their setting you can see how arresting the sight was as we rounded the corner of the footpath and saw them on the bank under the trees next to the river. They are typical of their habitat, growing as they are under the Birch and Spruce trees on this acidic soil bank.
There’s a whole host of other fungus species showing well right now and in Glen Nevis there is a small stand of beech trees with colourful bracket fungus growing out of the heartwood.
This is the Hoof or Tinder fungus so called because the brackets look very like a horse’s hoof – if you the rap the fungus with your knuckle you will find it quite solid and hard; this is a tough specimen at this full grown stage, hard like a walnut. Not the soft collapsible spongy feel that one might expect on first encountering it.
Close up you can see beautifully coloured tiers of distinct growth, concentrically grooved and zoned with blue grey, greens and rich tan coloured rings.
The currently accepted scientific name for this bracket fungus is Fomes Fomentarius which means “fungus used for tinder” as this fungus can indeed be used for lighting fires, even if it does burn very slow.
When this fungus is in its fruiting body phase it is common to see a large, spongy thick lip growing all the way round the bracket – this soft white lip is the growing layer of the fungus. Only later on will it become the very tough horny hoof that we see on tree trunks throughout beech woodlands across the Scottish Highlands.
On this same group of tree trunks we also found a sweet example of Porcelain fungus. Classically situated high up on the beech trunk it’s delicate thin appearance is immediately evocative of translucent porcelain tea cups; especially when viewed alongside the tough no-nonsense brackets.
The morning was a warm bright, sunny excursion up the Glen following the winding river Nevis and traversing past the old burial ground which lies quietly enclosed in a guardian of beech and sycamore trees.
Later in the afternoon, having crossed the river Nevis at Lower Falls we headed back down the Glen through the coniferous plantations. By now the sun had gone in and the warmth had gone; there was a definite early evening chill in the air. We headed back along one of the forest tracks accompanied as we walked by the high pitched delicate, restless notes of Goldcrests and Coal Tits foraging together up in the canopy along their own little coniferous highway.
On a mossy lichen encrusted bank farther along this track is a veritable village of toadstools looking exactly like a small hamlet. It’s a bit of a steep scramble to get up to look at the fungi in detail built as they are high above the road like tiny alpine chalets.
They are each quite jaunty looking funnel shaped fungi close up, and have the outward look of a stetson hat set squarely and confidently on its stalk. The gills are interweaved, more akin to the offset course of bricks as opposed to the smooth running line of the gills in the Fly Agaric. The closest we have been able to get to identifying them is possibly the Bi-coloured Deceiver.
Growing out from their precipice as they do, they complete an elegant study in this green palette of mosses and lichens which are immensely pleasing to the eye.