Thursday, 8 October 2015

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Autumn has arrived in Aberdeenshire and we've enjoyed some lovely days which have epitomised the opening line of John Keats "Ode to Autumn".

In the woods there are still some summer plants in flower - this is Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), a common member of the geranium family which seems to thrive on the partly shaded banks along woodland tracks.

The Brambles (Rubus fruticosus) have ripening berries; a sharp and juicy treat during a walk!

This seems to have been "a good year for the roses"; all the Dog Rose (Rosa canina) bushes have plenty of  hips which will be an important food source for the flocks of winter thrushes when they arrive from Scandinavia.

Fungi are sprouting everywhere, this is Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) which, as its name suggests, is host-specific on Birches.  It's a fascinating fungus whic is weakly parasitic on the host tree. Healthy trees will support it but weak or aged trees will be killed by the fibrous spread of the fungus within the wood.  The fruiting body is an annual growth, the top two in this image are this year's fruit, the lower one from a previous year.

Birch Polypore has a number of useful properties - it can be used as tinder, particularly to carry a spark from one fire to the next as it  and also to sharpen blades with when cut into strips (a common name for it is "razor strop fungus").  The list of medicinal properties claimed for the fungus is impressive too: Immune tonic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-parasitic, anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and styptic.

The medicinal properties have been known for a long time too"Ötzi" was the name given to the 5300 year old body of a hunter found preserved in the ice in the Italian Alps. Amongst his kit Ötzi’ carried two strips of hide onto which had been threaded pieces of birch polypore. As he was later found at autopsy to be infected with intestinal parasites against which the birch polypore is active, it has been suggested that he was carrying them as treatment and also as a possible anti-septic in case of minor injuries.

Smaller and more delicate fungi are emerging from the leaf litter and grassy areas, this is, I think, a Mycena species, but my fungus identification isn't good enough to tell which one.....

It's always a thrill when the leaves begin to turn and autumn really gets going; I really think it's my favourite season of the year.

It's a gradual change but some trees are colouring up to brilliant, flaming autumnal shades

On the farmland surrounding the house the barley is all harvested after a wet and windy summer, the yield later and less than the average, but at least it's down safely.  The stubble fields are still golden and dotted with "tractor eggs" which will be stored for winter feed and bedding for beef cattle.

It's a great time of the year to be out and about!


  1. It's a great time to be out and about, indeed, Ian. Such a marvellous season of transition...yet so much lingers as if to hold onto the fading summer. We've got the very occasional blackberry still, a treat on a walk. The rose hips await the first frost...still a long way off. The mushrooms seem reluctant to appear until there is more rain...the woods are lovely, dark, and deep. There is balance. So nice to have a taste of "blue sky Scotland" again. :) Warm wishes to you both from us. Duncan.

    1. My favourite time of the year's circle D & J; so much to celebrate :o)

      Warm wishes

  2. I've really enjoyed autumn this year, mostly due to the run of good weather. The east coast is the place to see a good harvest as it doesn't really occur over on the saturated west coast.Never heard them called tractor eggs before but it fits when you see them popping out the back.

    1. Hi Bob, hopefully the colours will be as pyrotechnic as they can be! I bet the farmers wish that the tractor eggs would hatch into wee Fergies!

      Kind Regards

  3. This post really captures the colours of Autumn perfectly, I love it!