Monday, 28 January 2013

An Interesting Fungus

The fungus Skeletocutis nivea, Byfield,  28 January, 2013
A bright early morning sun coaxed me out for a brisk walk, but the sun was being mendacious. A sharp overnight frost had put a crust of ice on puddles and temporarily halted the thaw, leaving lingering patches of snow. Being a fool plucky Brit I pushed on, skirting the cricket pitch, knowing that my fortitude would be rewarded. At fine leg (or deep mid off) stands an oak tree and I was pleased to see that it bore several fruiting bodies of the fungus Skeletocutis nivea, known as Hazel Bracket. It is not rare but is easily overlooked. These specimens were about three metres above the ground and I would probably have missed them but for a Grey Squirrel prompting me to look up.

Young Yew, Taxus baccata, Byfield Pocket Park
I was pleased to note that a number of sapling Yew trees are flourishing in the Pocket Park. Like Holly, this species is doubtfully native to Northamptonshire but - also like Holly - has probably been bird-sown from the churchyard. 

Ten minutes later I was in the churchyard, where Snowdrop flower buds are swollen to the point where a few hours of sunshine will cause them to open. It won't be today! The Yews have been stripped of fruit long since by birds eager to feed on the red flesh (aril) surrounding the seed. The aril is not toxic and the highly poisonous seed will pass harmlessly through a bird's gut to be voided elsewhere.

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