Fungus foray in hills behind Selkirk turns out to be most productive

Mushroom Magic. The weekends mushrooms clockwise from top right: Meadow Wax Cap, Fly Agaric, Parasol Musgroom, Honey Fungus, Common Puffball, unidentified yellow one. Main picture  Scarlet Hood.
Mushroom Magic. The weekends mushrooms clockwise from top right: Meadow Wax Cap, Fly Agaric, Parasol Musgroom, Honey Fungus, Common Puffball, unidentified yellow one. Main picture  Scarlet Hood.

It was a marvellous weekend for getting out and enjoying the stunning autumn colours on display in the Borders countryside.

There is no better place than Bowhill Estate near Selkirk and that is where I headed on Saturday morning. It was calm, sunny and warm – perfect conditions to enjoy the fiery reds, browns and golds of the trees reflected in the mirror-like waters of the loch.

I was hoping that there would be a good display of fungi in the woodlands for me to photograph, but sadly the recent prolonged dry spell has meant that little was evident amongst the crispy leaves of the forest floor, other than a spectacular display of Honey Fungus on a decaying tree stump.

On Sunday I set out on a more intensive fungus foray, this time in the woods and hills behind Selkirk, where I fared a little better. In the Scots pine woodland above Linglie Glen, I came upon two substantial colonies of different species growing quite close together. One was Common Puffball and there must have been around 50 small spiky white balls in groups. They are quite edible at this early stage but I’ve never had the courage to try them. Nearby was a group of Parasol Mushrooms, which are edible too but I feel safer with the varieties from the supermarket!

The most productive habitat for my fungal foray, was the unimproved grassland at the head of the glen. Here the ground has not been disturbed or fertilised for centuries and immediately I could see tiny mushrooms everywhere in the short grass. Most noticeable were the bright red caps of Scarlet Hood, which looked like cherries pushing through the turf. I also found a lovely yellow one which I am struggling to identify and a small cluster of attractive Meadow Wax Caps, which you can also eat if you cook it slowly.

The most striking one I found was in the same grassy hillside, but one I normally associate with woodland – Fly Agaric. It is the red one with white spots, you normally see in children’s books with a fairy sitting on top. This one is not to be eaten as it is hallucinogenic and will make you ill. The white spots are the remnants of a white veil which encases the young mushroom as it emerges through the ground.

After a slow start, the weekend’s mushroom hunt turned out quite successful.