Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Some Tree Fungi in Hayes

Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, on felled Oak.  The Knoll, Hayes, on 26 September 2014.
Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, on felled Oak.  The Knoll, Hayes, on 26 September 2014.
These are a few tree fungi I found in a small local park.  The first one is edible, hence its common name Chicken of the Woods.  Here, it is on a felled oak, but it grows just as easily on living trees.  It's really quite a sight close up:

Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, on felled Oak.  The Knoll, Hayes, on 26 September 2014.
Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, on felled Oak.  The Knoll, Hayes, on 26 September 2014.
I have never eaten it, but those who do say it needs to be young and fresh or it gets pretty tough.  Also, it will grow on trees other than oak, and from some - such as Yew - it might be poisonous.  Don't eat anything based on comments in this blog!

Beefsteak Fungus, Fistulina hepatica, on Oak.  The Knoll, Hayes, 26 September 2014.
Beefsteak Fungus, Fistulina hepatica, on Oak.  The Knoll, Hayes, 26 September 2014.
This looks not at all appetising, but is also supposed to be edible.  I cut a slice across it to show the interior.  It is quite soft and spongy, and will grow and die within a few weeks.  This is on a living Oak tree.

Ganoderma species on Horse Chestnut.  The Knoll, Hayes, 26 September 2014.
Ganoderma species on Horse Chestnut.  The Knoll, Hayes, 26 September 2014.
This one is more commonly seen as a bunch of big showy brackets on Beech trees.  It doesn't seem quite so much at home on this Horse-chestnut, but even so, it keeps coming back every year, getting a bit bigger each time, with brackets all the way up the trunk right from the base. 

Ganoderma species on Horse Chestnut.  The Knoll, Hayes, 26 September 2014.
Ganoderma species on Horse Chestnut.  The Knoll, Hayes, 26 September 2014.
Here's a single bracket.  This year's growth is white, and is full of pores from which the brown spores fall.  This is definitely not edible, and in fact is so tough that you need a big, really sharp knife or a saw to take a sample.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Insects from August

Tachinid Fly, Eriothrix rufomaculata.  High Elms Country Park, Conservation Field, 11 August 2014.
Tachinid Fly, Eriothrix rufomaculata.  High Elms Country Park, Conservation Field, 11 August 2014.
Looking through my photos, I have a few folders to file, and this one has some photos of insects from High Elms in early August.  Flies, with their spiky hairs, look far from cuddly, and I would not want them around on a picnic, but they have their own beauty.

Ground Beetle.  High Elms Country Park, Conservation Field, 11 August 2014.
Ground Beetle.  High Elms Country Park, Conservation Field, 11 August 2014.
This is a Ground Beetle, one of the Carabidae, but there are several similar species and I do not know which one this is. 

Hoverfly, Rhingia rostrata.   High Elms Country Park, Conservation Field, 11 August 2014.
Hoverfly, Rhingia rostrata.   High Elms Country Park, Conservation Field, 11 August 2014.
Another fly, this time a hoverfly, my favourite group.  That snout is quite distinctive.  There are only two species that have it.

Ichneumon ovipositing on a Knapweed.  High Elms Country Park, Conservation Field, 11 August 2014.
Ichneumon ovipositing on a Knapweed.  High Elms Country Park, Conservation Field, 11 August 2014.
Ichneumon wasps are parasitic.  They typically lay their eggs inside the larva of another species, on which the developing wasp feeds.  I could not see what was inside that Knapweed flowerhead, but it must have been a creature which aimed to feed on the developing seeds, which has been detected by the Ichneumon. 

The large sting-like protrusion to the left is actually the sheath that normally protects the Ichneumon's ovipositor.  The egg-laying tube can be seen pushed inwards, parallel to the petals and amongst them. 

The Ichneumon turned around and probed several times, either to get a good shot at its prey, or to lay into several larvae; I could not tell which.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Fungi are here!

Ochre Brittlegill, Russula ochroleuca. Emmetts Gardens, 14 September 2014.
Ochre Brittlegill, Russula ochroleuca. Emmetts Gardens, 14 September 2014.
 Fungi are starting to turn up in the woods again.  These were out a month ago.  Russulas are common woodland toadstools, usually with interesting colours.  This one is easy to find.  Russulas are often called Brittlegills because if you rub the gills, they break up.

Coral Brittlegill, Russula velenovskyi.  Emmetts Gardens, 14 September 2014.
Coral Brittlegill, Russula velenovskyi.  Emmetts Gardens, 14 September 2014.
You can just see on this one that the cap colour extends down the outer edges of the gills.

Russula cyanoxantha, Charcoal Burner.  Oldbury Hill, 27 September 2014.
Russula cyanoxantha, Charcoal Burner.  Oldbury Hill, 27 September 2014.
 This one has a variable cap colour and, to add some unnecessary confusion, it has gills which are not brittle.

Charcoal Burner, Russula cyanoxantha.  Hayes Common, 17 September 2014.
Charcoal Burner, Russula cyanoxantha.  Hayes Common, 17 September 2014.
I'm pretty sure that this, found elsewhere a little earlier, is the same species.

Russula fellea, Geranium Brittlegill.  Oldbury Hill, 27 September 2014.
Russula fellea, Geranium Brittlegill.  Oldbury Hill, 27 September 2014.
This one, though superficially similar to the Ochre Brittlegill, has a yellowish tint to its stipe, and a smell similar  to geranium leaves.  Smell is important when identifying fungi. 

More fungi will certainly follow, if not in the very next post then in later ones.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Demeter's Dragons

Bronze coin of Gordian III from Hadrianopolis showing Demeter in her chariot.
Bronze coin of Gordian III from Hadrianopolis showing Demeter in her chariot.
Another new ancient coin, bought not because of any particular artistic merit but because of its subject.  This is the Greek goddess Demeter, whose myth originated agriculture and the seasons.  Her daughter Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken to his dark underworld to be his wife.

Hades was a powerful god, one of three brothers who shared the whole world between them - the others being Zeus, who ruled the land surface, and Poseidon, god of the sea.

Bronze drachm of Trajan showing Triptolemos distributing wheat.
Bronze drachm of Trajan
showing Triptolemos distributing wheat.
Demeter was distraught at the loss of her daughter.  She took her carriage, drawn by two Drakones, large winged snakes, and carrying two torches to light her way she searched everywhere.  Her search is depicted on this coin.

Don't be distracted by the way the coin seems to say "PIANO".  That's part of the name of its town of origin, in Greek lettering: AΔPIANOΠOΛEITΩN, meaning "from Hadrianopolis."

Demeter later lent the same carriage to her foster son Triptolemos,  and some coins show him on his mission to distribute wheat and the knowledge of agriculture throughout the world.  Here's one, this time from Alexandria. He is holding up a fold of his cloak so that it can hold the grain, and flinging it out with his right hand.

In some vase paintings, the chariot itself is winged, and is drawn by more ordinary snakes.

The Roman equivalent of Demeter was the goddess Ceres, from whose name we get the word "cereal." 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Dusky Thorn

Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Geometridae.   Hayes, 3 September 2014.
Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Geometridae.   Hayes, 3 September 2014.
Thorns are photogenic.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Colour Variations

Square-spot Rustic, Xestia xanthographa.  Noctuidae.   Hayes, August 2014.
Square-spot Rustic, Xestia xanthographa.  Noctuidae.   Hayes, August 2014.
Just one photo today, with two specimens of the same species, the Square-spot Rustic.  This shows something of its variability.  If you look carefully, you can see that the main features of the markings, spots and cross-lines are all in the same places, but the colours are quite different.  There are other possible variations, too.

The lower wing spot typical of the Noctuid family, which some like to call the reniform stigma but is usually known by the English translation of that name, the kidney-mark, has its sides cut off, leaving it looking rectangular.  I suppose it would have been too much trouble to call it a Rectangular-spot Rustic.

Lunar Underwing, Omphaloscelis lunosa.  Noctuidae.  Hayes, September 2014.
Lunar Underwing, Omphaloscelis lunosa.  Noctuidae.  Hayes, September 2014.
Here's another Noctuid species that shows a very similar sort of colour variation - Lunar Underwing.   Again, the lines and markings are in the same places, though the lines are less easy to see on the light brown specimen.  This one flies a few weeks later than the Square-spot Rustic.

All four of these specimens were in my garden light trap.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

August Moths in Hayes

Orange Swift, Hepialus sylvina.  Hepialidae.   Hayes, 4 August 2014.
Orange Swift, Hepialus sylvina.  Hepialidae.   Hayes, 4 August 2014.
As usual, I'm a bit behind with these posts, but there are some very pretty moths from August that are worth showing.  These are all from the light trap in my tiny garden, and this Orange Swift is on one of the pieces of bark I have collected to make some more dramatic shots.

Lesser Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing, Noctua janthe.   Noctuidae.  Hayes, 7 August 2014.
Lesser Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing, Noctua janthe.   Noctuidae.  Hayes, 7 August 2014.
This very similar pose is on a piece of egg carton, straight from the trap.  Whereas I was trying to make the Orange Swift look dramatic, here I wanted to show the greenish yellow "face" of the Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (the most cumbersome of the moth names).  Just the front edge of this can be seen in the usual view from above, but it is really quite distinctive and makes it twice as easy to identify.

Straw Dot, Rivula sericealis.  Noctuidae.   Hayes, 7 August 2014.
Straw Dot, Rivula sericealis.  Noctuidae.   Hayes, 7 August 2014.
The Straw Dot is a small grass moth, easy to spot flitting away as you walk through long grass in summer. This is a particularly fresh and well-marked specimen, and this photo shows details like the double spots that you can't usually see without a hand lens.

Rosy Rustic, Hydraecia micacea.  Noctuidae.  Hayes, 16 August 2014.
Rosy Rustic, Hydraecia micacea.  Noctuidae.  Hayes, 16 August 2014.
I like this pretty moth.  The Rosy Rustic has a very distinctive cross-line on its wings that curves up at the edges, repeating the overall wing shape.  This was the first one I have seen in my garden trap.  It's on the edge of another of my pieces of bark.