Season of …Oooo-er

We have potato blight on site! Don’t panic, well, not too quickly anyway. Some trusted, experienced plot holders “up-slope” have noticed the first signs on the foliage: dark patches on the leaves, spreading quickly to take out the whole leaf. The long hot spell of dry weather followed by the recent, fairly heavy rain has obviously helped the wind-borne virus. Initially active on the above-ground parts of the plant the blight will travel down and can damage and/or destroy the potato tubers below ground.

So: remedial action has been going on furiously since the discovery. Those “in the know” are cutting off and burning the haulms and/or harvesting the crops now.

Exactly what we did … oh, after gratefully scavenging forty two by two (foot) concrete slabs for a hedge-side path we are planning. Back and arms aching we set to … oh, after picking gorgeously ripe yellow plums that are delicious when stewed and made into mouth-watering desserts.

… and after picking blackberries. In some very wrong fashion I had previously defended the prickly old-fashioned bayonet thorned blackberries that infest our hedgerows. But this year will confess I was, just maybe a little bit wrong. Our thornless blackberry, having been moved from the position in which it was losing an annual fight with tayberries it has thrived. Long, thick and strong stems carry bunches of grape-sized berries that are dark, handsome, and better still , painless to pick. We had mulched beneath the plant, and the gooseberry bushes with which it shares it shares the raised border with wood chippings that contained pine, leylandii and rowan. And, in the dark, shady spaces beneath the stems I saw, to my surprise:

DSC01554

Looking completely artificial, almost like a plastic toy. In fact my first impression was that it was something one of the children from the house next-door (our plot is an end plot, with a lapboard fence and a hedge separating us from the house and extensive grounds). Things, like dummies, small gliders and tennis balls often “creep” over and it is my habit to lob them back over.

But when I looked closer I could see it was some kind of fungus. My second thought was that (honestly) I was looking at some completely new-to-science strain, possibly even a deadly-to-man fungus (perhaps because I am reading a horror/zombie story Coldbrook).

So I took some photos (poor quality maybe but what can you do ?) so I could do some better research at home (that’ll be search engine time then!).

I learned that this is not uncommon (drattit!) but is a Stinkhorn, erupting from the “egg stage”. The scientific name couldn’t be more appropriate – phallus impudicus – I ask you.

There is some splendid further information aon this one at

http://www.first-nature.com/fungi/phallus-impudicus.php

but I was secretly amused and entertained by the fact that “Some Victorians, including Charles Darwin’s granddaughter Etty Darwin, were so disgusted or so embarrassed at the form of these phallic fungi that they attacked them with cudgels at dawn rather than allowing them to fruit and spread their spores.”

I also admit to some embarrassment that I felt like an explorer discovering a new species, but, going back to the same place on the same day was staggered to find that the plastic “perfection caught in my shot had become a ragged edged, slimy ball. Maybe my photograph was timely after all – just need to work on the technique!

There is an excellent factsheet about potato blight at http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/factsheets/dc17.php which I can fully recommend.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Good luck with sorting your blight. That is a most upstanding stinkhorn, for more Victorian plant prudery look here http://wp.me/p3DjAB-3C to see why Cuckoo Pint was renamed Lords and Ladies!

    Reply

  2. Well…umm…yes…what an amazing looking thing!!

    We seem to have managed to avoid blight this year but have had a horrid time with it in the past.

    Reply

  3. […] version of the “monster” that had me thinking I had discovered a new species last year (see https://mucktwineandthinker.wordpress.com/2013/09/08/season-of-oooo-er/). Either I missed some last year, they do degrade and disappear amazingly quickly! – or there […]

    Reply

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