Country diary: porcelain fungi light the dark like a splash of milk

Country diary: porcelain fungi light the dark like a splash of milk

Drumlanrig, Dumfries and Galloway: A carpet of mushrooms covers earth rich with the rot of autumn

The rain stopped hours ago, but the crown of the beech tree fades out in the grey smirr that glazes the morning. The leaves remain slicked with water, shining with reflected light. I trace the tree down from grey to green, branch to bough, back down to its elephant-grey trunk. This tree has presence. Not only for its size but for the dappled khaki, grey and teal lichens that have grown into the decades-old names of passersby carved into its skin. Soon this tree will be a riot of autumn colour. But we are not there yet.

My wife, Miranda, not content to simply gawp at a tree, beats me to the find. A few metres down the path, a branch has been lost to the floor, rotting in the soft sorrel and moss. She spots the smallest porcelain fungus, shining in the dark like a splash of spilt milk. It is a perfect thumb-sized thimble of a fungus. The domed cap is grey-tinged white and coated in a glossy slime. From the earth’s eye view, its gills look more like miniature ribs – robust white lines that hold the cap as they rise up from rotting beech. Seen from this angle the cap has a spectral sort of translucence.

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