One Thing Leads to Another in Culag Woods
Ian Evans and I visited the old curling pond bog in Culag Woods on 27th August to collect a sample of sludge for desmid investigation by Ian’s friend, David Williamson. We then made our way to the Are You Brave Enough? path (NC 089215), where we found a colourful fungus on an old conifer stump, which we collected (photo 1). We knew it belonged to the Bolete family, since it had pores rather than gills and we thought it was a Suillus, because the pores were angular (photo 2). We consulted a couple of books, Mushrooms and Toadstools and Mushrooms and other fungi of Britain & Europe, and surmised it was Suillus variegatus, the Velvet Bolete, since the surface of the cap was covered in small, downy scales (photo 3). Two specimens were sent to Bruce Ing, a fungus expert, for his opinion, which was intriguing. One was indeed a Velvet Bolete, but the other an example of the very similar, but much rarer, Hollow Bolete, Suillus cavipes. All my photographs were of this latter species!
I returned to the woods on 29th August to take some photos of the fungus habitat, which was a series of mossy ridges (photo 4). Further along the path, on some logs, I spotted another interesting fungus, Pleurocybella porrigens, Angel’s Wings, a species common in Scotland, but rare elsewhere (photo 5). As I was taking the photos, I noticed many small plants, just showing two paired leaves, amongst the moss and the spruce needles (photo 6). I identified these as Neottia cordata, Lesser Twayblade, and saw that some of them had borne flowers which were now gone over (photo 7). I counted about 63 plants, which was the most I’d ever seen and never before in a conifer woodland. However, the Flora of Assynt refers to this habitat as well as the more usual one of underneath heather (photo 8).
Even more Twayblade!
I went back again on 31st August, since I had more time to take photos and extended my search. This time I counted 263 plants altogether, of which two were still flowering (photo 9).
The 4th September saw me back again on Are You Brave Enough? This time I found 30 Neottia cordata in a colony a short distance from the others and then three other plants beside the path linking Are You Brave Enough? with the White Shore path. Returning again on 7th September with a GPS, Ian and I counted 10 plants, rather than three, in this location, and he found a new site on a bank near the bridge, where there were two more. So, 305 altogether, showing it pays to revisit a find!
I recently learnt that Stuart Belshaw and Andy Summers found this orchid in numbers in this part of Culag Woods about five years ago. It will be interesting to monitor its abundance in future.
Collins Complete Guide to Mushrooms and Toadstools by Paul Sterry and Barry Hughes (2009)
Mushrooms and other fungi of Great Britain & Europe by Roger Phillips (1981)
Flora of Assynt by P.A. & I.M. Evans, G.P. Rothero (2002)
All photos by G. Richards