All summer long the Wild Basil and the Wild Marjoram were locked in a fight to the death over the passing insect trade. And mostly, the marjoram won, attracting more species than the basil. But now the basil is the tortoise to the marjoram’s hare. The marjoram has given up, got its head down for the winter and has nothing left to offer. But the Wild Basil marches on. Hung with a filigree of spun sugar spider’s webs no TV chef could hope to emulate and snatching mist droplets from the air, the Wild Basil persists.
Wild Basil, Clinopodium vulgare. Sony DSC-HX20V f4 8mm 1/60 ISO 100
iPhone 5s 4.15mm f/2.2 1/912 ISO 32
For the past few weeks my photographic life has been dominated by fungi. I’ve spent so long staring at fungi that I see them in my dreams. There are other side effects too, such as an insatiable desire to eat fungi. I don’t eat wild fungi because they’re already under too much pressure from picking, and even worse, people who smash them on sight because they’re “poisonous”. But I do eat fungi, so on Friday night it’s off to Waitrose for a foraging trip followed by a weekend of fried mushrooms and garlic, mushroom pate, and mutton and mushroom pie.
Apart from a few easy ones, identifying fungi is real detective work, sniffing out clues such as that faint whiff of rhubarb from a Cortinarius umbrinolens. Thirty years ago I had a scare in a restaurant when “wild mushroom soup” turned my lips and tongue numb for several hours. That’s not the reason I don’t eat wild mushrooms now, but if you do, obviously you need to know what you’re doing. The difference between a tasty Agaricus and a toxic Cortinarius is vanishingly small. In this case, the yellow pores (rather than gills) on the underside of this big Bay Bolete were an important feature, but the blue bruising was useful confirmation.
Bay Bolete, Boletus badius. Sony DSC-HX20V f3.2 4.7mm 1/30 ISO 320
It has been said that in the UK you’re never more than five inches away from a spider. Although this has only ever been said by me, and like most of these famous sayings, it’s not true. But if you’re out on a misty autumn morning when the drops amplify the spider’s webs, you do realize exactly how many spiders are out there.
Sony DSC-HX20V f3.2 4.5mm 1/30 ISO 100