Not only is Earth Day to celebrate what we know we have, to rejoice in the diversity of the natural world, and to resolve to do our best to protect it as best we can, it is also about discovering some of nature’s richness we were unaware of. Take this, for example:
It was attracting flies and so needed a closer look:
A large ‘ice-cream cone’ in shape:
The flies are definitely attracted what could be construed as ‘chocolate sauce’:
Today is the first time I have seen such a fungus growing in my garden. If anyone can identify it I would be very pleased.
Happy Earth Day!
In the aftermath of the recent rain are these examples of fungi in my garden:
Spotted in a drought-stricken garden in Cape Town:
I often think of Sylvia Plath’s poem, Mushrooms, whenever I happen across one or other form of fungi in the garden.
Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.
Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.
Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,
Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We
Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!
We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,
Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:
We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.
It has rained – at last!
You can see how the water ran across the garden, gathering fallen leaves and sticks in its wake:
The sun is shining this morning – and see what has emerged:
Our front garden must be an enormous colony for subterranean termites. I imagine they obtain some moisture from underground – there certainly has not been much above ground for months! I recently illustrated hundreds of alates emerging on a particularly humid day.
On Monday my attention was drawn to the same spot in the garden when I saw a pair of Olive Thrushes feasting on something there. They would peck at the ground, fly away and returned often enough for me to become curious. The normally hard section of earth was covered with light-coloured grains of sand sprinkled with tiny white specks and there were several termites about. That is possibly what the thrushes were eating. I rubbed a little white speck between my fingers and it disintegrated in a squishy sort of way. The air was humid and the temperature of the day was hot. I wondered idly if the termites had brought their eggs to the surface (why?) and if this presaged rain for us at last.
It transpires that these were not eggs after all, yet rain poured down on Tuesday, accompanied by a light sprinkling of hail and a rush of wind. None of this lasted very long and only yielded 15 mm in the rain gauge. The compacted, dry soil could not absorb the water fast enough and so fierce rivulets tore through the garden and in doing so washed away whatever I had seen re the termites the day before.
Yesterday the strange light-coloured mounds were back, spreading far into the lawn and again sprinkled with these minute white specks.
A completely different and unexpected sight greeted me this morning: swathes of tiny mushrooms!
I do not know what kind of mushrooms these are, although I am aware that termites keep fungus gardens underground and assume that the light coloured soil must have been pushed to the surface by them. According to African Insect Life by S.H. Skaife, termites may bring material from the fungus beds to the surface after rains. They then spread it in the shade on the surface near their nest. The small white mushrooms develop very quickly, produce spores that are dispersed by the wind and then die.
The next day:
These mushrooms have opened out in the bright sunshine.