So, diligently, I collected those leaves on the point of rotting, pressed them between tissues in encyclopedia volumes, and learned, when I next opened the books to mount them, the subtle distinction between the smell of sycamore, poplar, beech and oak leaves in autumn.
Today, Five Mile Wood smells again of the Biology scrapbook. Weaving in and out of the olfactory hamper of autumn comes the odour of wet grass, heavily trodden, and the varied aromas of dozens of species of fungi, above and below ground, seen and unseen. It is raining, softly but insistently, the rain bringing its own subtle influence on how each smell is perceived, like a wash applied over a freshly executed painting, that changes its whole nature. Beech leaves, nowhere near inclined to fall, glisten with rain. Waves of ripples from falling raindrops diffract and blur in pools and ditches. I am challenged to keep the rain from running down my neck, challenged by the chill in the air, challenged by the distraction of mushrooms and lack of time that cut this walk a wee bit short.
I won’t bore you with more gratuitous gloating about the basket of edible mushrooms I took home to dry or make into fungus and ale pies, nor with more photos of the ones I can identify! But today, the woods presented me with the gift of an unknown species. Actually, the woods do that every time I go foraging, for there are many, many mushrooms I cannot differentiate. But as I know they’re not on the “edible and good” list which is tattooed into my brain, I indolently dismiss them as “small brown jobs”. Which they usually are.
Today’s find was a real unknown unknown, to quote Donald Rumsfeld. Bright orange-red globes popping up through the grassy banks between the path and the ditch; I first mistook them for discarded tomatoes. But they were fungi, no question, and when I cut one open to help identify it, it was hollow, with pale-coloured ribbing inside. I had never seen anything like it, but as it was so distinctive, I expected identification to be straightforward.
So far, I have not found this species in any of my books, and have drawn a blank from the social media mushroom groups from whom I begged enlightenment. Someone said they’d once seen something similar, but yellow, only got distracted by all the edible ceps nearby. Easily done! I have contacted the Tayside & Fife Fungi Group, and wait in hope. I will find out…. Perhaps someone reading this will have the name, and be laughing at my ignorance?