It was a pretty wet October. Grey rainclouds refused to budge, dropping their deluge day after day. Even when it was not raining, the clouds persisted, hiding the sun behind a curtain of grey. When it did break through it was for brief glimpses with swirling cloud quickly closing ranks again, like someone tugging curtains back over a window.
The leaves on the trees of the forest continued to change, turning yellow, orange, red and brown, adding a splash of welcome colour against the grey and the stubborn greens of those trees whose leaves and needles refuse to change.
Amongst the crunchy leaves carpeting the forest floor there was another palette of autumn colour. Amidst the browns of the fallen leaves there were the blood reds, burgundy reds, luxurious purples, brilliant yellow, creamy whites, delicate pinks and rich chocolatey browns of mushrooms. The wet weather had created perfect conditions for these organisms and it has been a bumper year.
They come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colours. From golden yellow staghorns, to the classic bright red with white dots of fly agaric and every shade of colour in between. And it is not just among the leaves of the forest floor that we find them. They grow on tree stumps, poke up through fronds of deep green moss and protrude through grass.
Mushrooms have a shroud of the mysterious and magic about them, not least due to their tendency to be poisonous. Deadly poisonous in some cases, hallucinogenic in others, unpalatable to simply delicious. Their form also leans to the magical, with their round caps and stalks making them look like little fairy houses. Mushrooms, or toadstools, and fairies are inextricably linked. There is not one child’s book about fairies that does not depict a mushroom alongside, as a seat, a home or a table. The connection goes back to the ancient belief that fairy rings (circles of mushrooms that appear in fields) were created by the dancing steps of fairies.
I do not pretend to know the names of all of them, but it was a fun month of searching for these shrooms, despite the gloom of the weather.