As the warmer days pass and the temperature drops by a few degrees it now becomes a great time of year to experience the wonderful, ever-changing natural palette of our local environment. The continuing rains help the mushroom season along and a myriad of colours appear in autumnal woodlands and fields - from vibrantly coloured Waxcaps in varying shades of green, yellow and red to white-capped purple-stemmed Field Blewits and on to the orange/red/salmon-pink Deceiver (or its Amethyst relative) and the classic red and white fairytale toadstool, the Fly Agaric.
Hedgerows are full of hips, haws and berries shining like jewels in the darkening light. A hedge can be festooned with the fruits of Crab Apples, Plums, Hawthorns (Britain’s most common hedgerow tree), Blackthorns and Brambles – their often-foraged fruit is the blackberry. You’ll also see the bright scarlet, oval hips of Wild Roses; these hips, pound for pound, contain about twenty times the vitamin C of oranges and they are full of pectin, making for excellent jam.
Also keep a look out for the bright orange berries of Rowan (a little like petite apples – but not to be eaten raw), sprays of glistening deep-purple Elderberries and the definitely inedible but extraordinarily hued, berries of Spindle with glorious pink opening to reveal richly-orange seeds.
As the seasons change it is the woodland trees themselves which perhaps show the most beautiful shift in colour as the greens of summer turn to the yellows, golds and reds of autumn. It’s all down to chemicals. During summer, leaves produce sugars from carbon dioxide and water using light and chlorophyll which gives them their green colour. The dropping temperatures trigger a stop in chlorophyll production allowing hidden pigments to make an appearance - carotene turns leaves yellow while anthocyanins make the leaves go red. The brightest colours are produced when dry, sunny days at the start of autumn are followed by cool, dry nights as dry weather concentrates sugars in the leaves, increasing the amount of anthocyanins.
So, embrace the changing of the season and go out and about to see the fantastic habitats of M&M!