Tuesday 16 November 2021

The Peaches Revisited 15th November 2021

I returned to Standlake today for some more communing with the Wrinkled Peach fungi that Peter and myself discovered on Saturday and was delighted to find them still intact and safe, despite being very near to the track running between the woody hedges that guard it. Fortunately the still rampant nettles and bramble obscure the toadstools to a certain extent but once you know they are there they do seem very obvious, as they are pale and stand out against the darker vegetation.

In this afternoon's sunnier conditions I could not resist taking a few more photos of them, particularly the undersides which show the gills delicately tinged with pink .They really are a most attractive fungus especially when viewed from the underside.

Once I had satisfied my urge to revisit these remarkable fungi I  decided to follow the track further on its winding course, just as I had done on Saturday. It becomes wilder and narrower once it commences to run alongside a shallow stream, with gnarled and contorted hawthorns vying for the light with dead and dying elm saplings, all fallen haphazardly across the stream or leaning at perilous angles from a damp and earthy bank. It is quiet, almost sepulchral here, a place eminently suitable for the fungus to impose its understated presence on this its gloomy realm.The track has become a carpet of yellow and brown fallen leaves while above, the branches of the trees on either side meet, so one is walking through a natural tunnel of leaves and branches. I followed the track for quite some distance looking for more 'peaches' as Redwings, seeking this autumn's berries, 'chooked' in alarm and unseen Wigeon whistled from a lake beyond, hidden by the trees.

Realistically I held little hope of finding more 'peaches' but if you do not try then you will never know. Nine times out of ten this approach goes unrewarded but today was to be the exception.To my joy I managed to discover two more, growing side by side on the trunk of a still upright but dead elm, right by the track.They were at head height, say six feet up and each was at least three to four inches across.Like the others they were a pale peach or apricot colour. Looking at their position by the track I realised I must have walked past them at least twice while looking for them on Saturday and yet still failed to notice them, assuming they would be lower.

Never mind, I now had them firmly in my sights and rang Peter to let him know I had found the 'peaches' that had given us such a frustrating  runaround on Saturday. To my amazement, when he answered he told me he also had the same idea as me to revisit the 'peaches' this afternoon and was at this very moment commencing to set off along the track. I told him I would wait by my latest discovery until he joined me.

In the meantime I availed myself of this opportunity to take multiple images of my new find, from every angle possible.

Peter eventually joined me and he too set about taking his share of photos while I stood back and watched. I left Peter to it and looking further back along the track amongst the  tangle of dead and rotten branches lying by the stream, almost by chance, from the corner of my eye I saw a pinprick of bright pink perched on the green grey stem of a dead elm. I had found yet another Wrinkled Peach, so small and colourful it seemed almost inconceivable that it was one and the same as the two I had been admiring just seconds before but it was.

It was considerably smaller than the two more mature specimens I had found today but boy was it a beautiful little thing as, unlike the other larger examples which were pale peach in colour this was a deep raspberry pink. It was almost spherical and crossed by a multitude of pale veins giving rise to the soubriquet 'wrinkled'. Its size and colour can be explained by the fact it was in its early stage of fruiting, just establishing itself, when it appears like a round pink jellybean and at this stage its curved stalk exudes red and gold coloured droplets.This weeping is known as guttation.As the days pass and the fungus matures it will expand and become a paler peach colour.

It was a thing of great beauty and could so easily have been missed, a tiny jewel of nature concealed as it was, almost at ground level, by a clutter of twigs, sprouting forth on its chosen narrow stem of dead, lichen encrusted elm that was leaning out over the stream.

So in the course of three days we have found eleven Wrinkled Peaches of various sizes and hues. This track with its random complement of dead and dying elms, thankfully left to rot and not cleared away, is obviously a hot spot for this lovely fungus that thrives on dead elm and it is nice to know they will probably be here next year for us to enjoy.

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