Work and wildlife, autumn 2016

 

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Fallen leaves on Wrinkling Lane, last autumn

Autumn, sometimes known as the season of melancholy, has crept up once more to proclaim the end of summer. It brings bracing, misty mornings, clusters of mushrooms, nuts and berries; the earlier encroachment of darkness and leaves rusting, falling, and finally crunching underfoot. All of these seasonal characteristics are in evidence as you walk around Trelissick – the brambles have offered up an abundance of blackberries, acorns adorn the oaks and conkers hang hidden in spiked green capsules from horse chestnut trees.

Boletus mushrooms have been displaying their impressive fruit, beneath the trees in the parkland during the early part of the season. Most boletes, and assuredly all the common species’ found in Britain form mutual relationships with the root systems of a certain type of tree or shrub. This interaction benefits both partners, with the fungi helping the tree to obtain vital minerals from the soil and the tree, in return, delivers energy-laden nutrients (obtained through photosynthesis) to the main body of the fungus (mycelium) which resides underground.

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Boletus mushroom. Photo used courtesy of Northeastwildlife.co.uk

Most of the trees known for such fungal flirtation can take the mycorrhizal partner or leave it whereas boletes, and many other fungi that typically dwell on the forest floor, require this relationship for survival. Therefore, boletes do not grow in open grassland and knowing what species of tree is favoured by which particular fungi can aid you greatly if you wish to look for any of these fantastic mushrooms.

Of course, autumn can also bring a distinct change in the weather and recent high winds and bursts of torrential rain have already claimed a large beech tree from the North Woodland Walk. This specimen, which was standing sentry over the little wooden bridge to Roundwood, had a wound resulting from the loss of a branch, many years ago. Over time, this became a cavity and allowed Ganoderma fungus to colonise and consume a great deal of the main stem, weakening the tree and rendering it unable to stand against the elements.

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The shattered stump of the fallen beech reveals how hollow and weakened this beech had become, Photo used courtesy of Olly Brooks-Adams, 2016.

On the fruit front, our team of rangers and volunteers were busy foraging the hedgerows and orchards around the estate during September. We have secured a bountiful supply of both blackberries and Kea plums for our Trelissick restaurant where they are frozen and used throughout the year for jams and puddings. The branches of our apple trees are also burdened with fruit, imminently ready for harvest. Our apples in the countryside are usually picked by our group of volunteers and then sold to a local company for pressing into juice.

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A day’s haul of Kea plums and blackberries, September 2016

Whilst we are on the subject of all things orchard, our own community orchard was bolstered by the addition of a pond recently. We hope that this kidney-shaped crater will gradually fill up with fresh water and, as it is colonised by dragonflies, amphibians and insect larvae, add greatly to the wildlife diversity of, not only our orchard project, but the wider estate as well. Trelissick does not have many fresh water areas and so, even if this project becomes an ephemeral, rather than permanent pond it will still be a valuable haven for freshwater creatures that have increasingly fewer places to go.

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Digging the pond at Tregew Community Orchard

We have also just placed the order for this year’s apple and plum trees to be planted in the orchard and consisting solely of Cornish varieties. Please e-mail joe.harris@nationaltrust.org.uk if you would like to get involved in planting them!

  • The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford
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