If you go down to the woods today

One night in the Cairngorms means there’s a chance to see Red Squirrels, Pine Martens, Red Deer and yet it’s the fungi which are motivating me. Lots and lots of fungi.

I’m out early in the morning before breakfast. That’s not normally something I would de, believe me. I’m in Boat of Garten and surrounded by paths through woods. There are fungi here in profusion; a dizzying array of species I’ve rarely, if ever, seen before.

Firstly there’s what looks like The Sickener, Russula emetica:

Fungi - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

That red cap is magnificent.

There’s The Blusher, Amanita rubescens:

Fungi - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The force with which fungi expand and grow upwards is exceptional. As a child I remember fungi breaking through tarmac roads when they fruited. Breaking through a little light leaf-litter in the forest must seem like child’s play.

I’m surrounded by many other species more difficult to identify immediately. I don’t know which way to turn or what to photograph first:

I can see what I think are Death Caps, Amanita phalloides. A cubic centimetre is probably enough to give you multiple organ failure. I say probably because the amount of toxin varies and I have no intention of trying it. Later I look at my photographs closely and consult experts. They are definitely Amanita species but despite the green colour and the bulbous base, there’s no ring on the stem. That means they are more likely to be Amanita vaginata, The Grisette, which is edible.

If you can’t tell your phalloides from your vaginata you’re in trouble in ways you can only imagine.

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