Who needs artificial Christmas decorations when Mother Nature provides her own … and they’re biodegradable … and they’re available all year round (in the right conditions) … and they’re free!
I took myself off for a fungi foray around the woodland at Cardiff’s Heath Park today as it’s usually a good place to find a wide variety of fungi. And, rather than post colour photos of my finds, I thought I’d convert them all to black and white as that shows, I think, the fungal world’s amazing diversity of shapes and textures.
Though it’s hard to believe today, as I look out the window at yet another grey rainy day and the temperature is set to go down all day not up, here is yet another sign that spring really is just around the corner. I spotted these Marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) blooming in a muddy pond in Cardiff’s Heath Park last week.
I’ve blogged about Heath Park before: 37 hectares of fields, woodland, a stream and two ponds, lots of biodiversity and one of my favourite places for invertebrates during the summer and fungi over the winter months. And, right now, its trees are painting the park red and orange and gold. It’s another stunning place to soak in these stunning autumn hues and crunch a leaf or two!
I saw my very first Oudemansiella mucida, the Porcelain Fungus, last Friday, during a wander around Cardiff’s Heath Park and knew at once what it was. Such immediacy of identification does not happen often in the world of the fungi fanciers so this was a rare and much-valued moment. But this is one fungus that is easy to recognise.
Firstly, it lives exclusively on beech, and I have been keeping a close watch on a huge old beech tree that came down in a big storm last winter, which, much to their credit, was sawn into huge chunks and left at the woodland edge by Cardiff Council staff. The beech is now providing a home to many small creatures, not just to fungi. Secondly, it is a clean, almost translucent white, like my granny’s tea cups used to be, and its caps are frequently covered in a thin layer of slime (hence the second part of their scientific name: mucida refers to this transparent mucus). That’s not as revolting as it sounds – the shiny surface makes these little beauties shimmer in the sunshine.
Interestingly, this fungus produces chemicals called strobilurins, which have anti-fungal properties. The Porcelain Fungus uses them to inhibit and even attack opposition fungi in order to protect its territory but scientists have refined these same chemicals to produce anti-fungal agents that can protect crops from fungal attacks. Like so many fungi, the Porcelain fungus is beautiful and utile.
Today is the second National Meadows Day, an initiative led by Plantlife, with contributions from 11 other organisations and with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, that aims to:
raise awareness of the desperate plight of wildflower meadows and grasslands and equip communities with the knowledge and skills to reverse this devastating trend, and
give people all over the UK the chance to visit, enjoy and learn about our wildflower meadows and grasslands.
Meadows are such magical places. The gorgeous flowers they contain provide food and shelter to all manner of wildlife, from pretty fluttering butterflies and hawking dragonflies, to wandering weevils and little leaf beetles. There are events happening all around Britain today so, if you’ve no plans yet for your afternoon, get out and enjoy a meadow near you.
This is the last, but by no means least, day of Wales Biodiversity Week, and today we’re checking out the biodiversity of another of my locals, Heath Park.
Once upon a time (in the 1830s), the Lewis family built a great mansion (Heath House) on this land (since demolished – where the Miniature Railway and neighbouring carpark are now) and the present park was part of their estate (you can read more here). Today, the 37-hectare site is owned by Cardiff Council, and contains sports fields, courts and playgrounds, a large carpark (also useful for visitors to neighbouring Heath Hospital), large fields for picnics and dog-walking, a mature woodland and two ponds.
Part of the woodland is very damp so, as you can see from my photos, it’s ideal for fungi, even in the summer months. And there is also a rather smelly stream, the Nant-y-Wedal, which had a surprising abundance of wildlife amongst the vegetation adorning its banks. Heath Park was an unexpected biodiversity hot spot, so we have a bumper number of photographs which seems a fitting way to close Wales Biodiversity Week for 2016.