A trip to Aldenham Country Park – trees and fungi

With the weather remaining fair, in spite of the onerous musings spouted from the verbal orifices of the meteorological office, getting out at the weekend to explore new sites is still very much on the cards. Today, a group of us went over to Aldenham Country Park in north-west London, to search for interesting fungi on trees; as if a weekend would yield any other result!

We started the day by doing something socially reprehensible: bringing in fungi collections for display. As the below photos show, my collection is growing in extent, though is dwarfed in literal size by another collection, which essentially involves monster brackets that are, in some cases, still clinging to the very substrate that provided them with their life.

polypore collection fungi
My collection, consisting of fruiting bodies of fungi including the genus Ganoderma (top left), the genus Trametes (bottom left), Fomes fomentarius (top middle), the genus Phellinus (bottom right) and Coriolopsis gallica (bottom right).
polypore collection 2
Another collection, set up almost like a demonstration of the solar system (with the Perenniporia fraxinea on the poplar being the sun, of course!), including Fomes fomentarius (a monster one), Daedalea quercina and, as stated, the Perenniporia fraxinea on the poplar wood.

Before sharing some finds from today, it’s almost important to share some images of more cross-sectional decay as caused by Ganoderma pfeifferi. For those of you with a memory that stretches back beyond a mere seven days, you might recall a recent post I made showing a decay cross-section on a failed beech. Below, we see how the fungus’ activity within a branch stub of a beech has resulted in zonal decay, which is somewhat comparable to the other example shared recently – particularly, with regards to the rosing pattern.

Ganoderma pfeifferi internal decay 1
A tiny Ganoderma pfeifferi within the opening of a branch stub wound on beech.
Ganoderma pfeifferi internal decay 2
The cross-section of decay produced by the fungus.

And so, on with the walk we did, quite early on we wandered past an old poplar stump with some quite extensive Rigidoporus ulmarius decay. Indeed, as is quite routine with this fungus, the internal hollow was clad aplenty with small brackets, whilst the outside sported a much more sizeable fruiting body still in an active phase of its existence. Evidently, a new hymenium has recently been laid down, suggesting that this fungus is soon ready to begin producing spore for the coming season.

Populus Rigidoporus ulmarius stump decay 1
Rigidoporus ulmarius acting as a saprotroph on this senescent stump.
Populus Rigidoporus ulmarius stump decay 2
Quite a nice one, actually! Good morphology.
Populus Rigidoporus ulmarius stump decay 3
Looking inside the hollow, not only can we see that it is used as a bin, but also to house many small fruiting bodies of this fungus.

Very soon after this sighting, a fallen poplar log with Oxyporus populinus was discovered. I admit to only having seen this fungus twice, of which this find was one, so for me this was particularly exciting. In fact, the single fruiting body was rather massive and easily discernible by the quite brilliant tube layers separated by narrow bands of mycelium. Almost directly adjacent to this was a fruiting body of Ganoderma applanatum, as could be determined morphologically by the very thin cuticle atop the bracket (that is crushed easily and cuts very easily) and the extensive damage to the fruiting body, as caused by the yellow flat-footed fly Agathomyia wankowiczii.

Oxyporus populinus Populus log 1
A poplar log hides amongst ivy.
Oxyporus populinus Populus log 2
On one of the cut ends sits this large fruiting body of the fungus Oxyporus populinus.
Oxyporus populinus Populus log 3
The demarcations between each growth spurt are incredibly distinct, in this fungus.
Ganoderma applanatum Populus log 1
A fruiting body of Ganoderma applanatum also sat nearby, on the same log.
Agathomyia wankowiczii Ganoderma applanatum Populus log 3
Underneath, we can see the distinct gall structures caused by the yellow flat-footed fly.
Agathomyia wankowiczii Ganoderma applanatum Populus log 2
We can also see the internal damage caused by the fly, as it develops into its adult form and leaves to lay eggs elsewhere. The very thin upper cuticle can also be seen, which is thicker on Ganoderma australe.

Following the sighting of copious amounts of Daedaleopsis confragosa, our attention was then drawn to a rather sorry-looking beech tree over a well-used footpath. Upon close inspection, both Kretzschmaria deusta and the rhizomorphs of Armillaria mellea could be found, which certainly puts the longevity of this beech as is into doubt. To be honest, in all likelihood it’ll be monolithed, in order to still provide habitat but with the risk removed.

Kretzschmaria deusta beech Fagus Armillaria 1
It even leans over the footpath!
Kretzschmaria deusta beech Fagus Armillaria 2
Both the anamorphic stage of Kretzschmaria deusta and cambial necrosis caused by Armillaria mellea can be seen, in this image.
Kretzschmaria deusta beech Fagus Armillaria 3
Not looking good for this beech!

Around the proverbial corner (it was more like a ten minute trundle) from this beech stood a massive stump of an old poplar. In its prime, this would have been a tree operating on beast-mode, though is now far more modest in size. However, to make up for its literal demise, it now is host to the fungus Trametes gibbosa, which can be seen around one of the two stems.

Trametes gibbosa Populus stump 1
A fortress of nettles guards this poplar stump.
Trametes gibbosa Populus stump 2
Too bad they can’t defend against a zoom lens and / or walking boots and jeans!
Trametes gibbosa Populus stump 3
Some fresh brackets adorn the opposite side of the stump.
Trametes gibbosa Populus stump 4
Quite pretty, to be honest!

Delightfully, this stump also housed a bird nest, which I found only by pure chance when noticing what looked like chocolate mini-eggs! Tucked away impossibly well within a bark crevice was a small robin’s nest (I think), complete with four eggs. Hopefully, this stump will offer enough privacy to enable the chicks to develop well and not get picked-off by predators.

Erithacus rubecula eggs poplar stump tree 1
The arrow shows where the nest is, as it’d otherwise be impossible to see!
Erithacus rubecula eggs poplar stump tree 2
There were four eggs in this tiny nest. Such a great place for shelter and quite absurd that I came across it!

Once we had come across yet more Daedaleopsis confragosa, which I was busy photographing, a friend spotted a single Sarcoscypha coccinea (scarlet elf cup). Somehow, this is the first time I have seen this fungus and I can understand why it’s such a popular one! An absolute gem.

Sarcoscypha coccinea 1
Cheeky! Hiding away under nettles. Almost doesn’t want to be discovered…
Sarcoscypha coccinea 2
Nature’s very own satellite dish!

And then came something I found very interesting: my first ever sighting of the fungus of willow known as Phellinus igniarius. Upon what was either a crack willow or white willow, a few fruiting bodies had grown and the decay had since led to failure of an upper limb, which has since been cut up and left on the ground. The resulting abundance of fruiting bodies on both the tree and sawn logs is a testamenrt to the extensive colonisation of this fungus within the host. The largest bracket, which was a casulaty of the failure, in fact did not senesce and instead reiterated its growth so that the hymenium and tube layer re-grew at an angle perfectly parallel with the ground (known as geotropism / gravitropsim).

Phellinus igniarius Salix alba fragilis sp decay 1
A willow not unlike any other willow – battered by the elements.
Phellinus igniarius Salix alba fragilis sp decay 2
Oh but wait – a fungus! Surely it’s a Ganoderma…
Phellinus igniarius Salix alba fragilis sp decay 3
Phellinus igniarius Salix alba fragilis sp decay 4
As we shall see by what is on the floor, upon these logs…
Phellinus igniarius Salix alba fragilis sp decay 5
…Phellinus igniarius! Surprise! (assuming you didn’t read the text and look only at the pictures)
Phellinus igniarius Salix alba fragilis sp decay 6
Quite a significant number of new sporophores are forming, following the fragmentation of this limb.
Phellinus igniarius Salix alba fragilis sp decay 7
Around an old branch tear sits a single fruiting body, however.
Phellinus igniarius Salix alba fragilis sp decay 8
Not unlike a young Fomes fomentarius, really!
Phellinus igniarius Salix alba fragilis sp decay 9
And the main bracket has not perished!
Phellinus igniarius Salix alba fragilis sp decay 10
Using flash photography (literally), we can see the white spore print beneath the reiterated growth, following the change in orientation of this bracket.

To round off, I share a diabolically grotesque example of Ganoderma resinaceum upon Turkey oak. Enough to challenge the gargoyle statues of various catacombs (in both video games and real life, if there exist any!) for the prize of what’s the most vile in appearance, and we’re not talking about the Turkey oak here, this fungus is clearly a shadow of its former self. Nonetheless, it is important we can still identify them in such aberrant form, if we are to appropriate diagnose issues and enact management regimes. Thus, as a sort of encore, I present to you…

Ganoderma resinaceum Quercus cerris weird 1
Nice enough tree, eh!
Ganoderma resinaceum Quercus cerris weird 2
But what is that at the base!?
Ganoderma resinaceum Quercus cerris weird 3
Ganoderma resinaceum Quercus cerris weird 4
Yeah; uhhh…….?
Ganoderma resinaceum Quercus cerris weird 5
Ganoderma resinaceum!
A trip to Aldenham Country Park – trees and fungi

Winter wood-decay fungi

The weather has been quite superb over the past few days, and I utilised my lunch break today to get out and explore a country park I visit probably once every month or two. Unfortunately, it’s pretty massive, so covering the entire place takes far longer than a single hour, though that doesn’t dissuade as there are still fungi to find – and fungi I did find.

The title of this post, I’ll admit, is a little devious. Yes, it’s winter, and yes, these are fungi, though some are perennial polypores that essentialy cheat the system a little. Worry not, however, for there are a few examples of annual fungi thrown in for good measure. Regardless, the mix found today was pretty decent, and a few of those species shown below aren’t ones I come across very often.

We’ll begin with Perenniporia fraxinea, which I found on two different ash within very close proximity to one another. The second example is easily the best, as some of the brackets were absolute monsters (though it was the smaller ones that drew my attention to them). Sadly, due to the strong sun and the sheer mass of bramble and bracken surrounding the ash, getting good photos was incredibly tough, though the ones beneath are suitable enough to offer a sound appreciation of their size. If you look hard enough, you’ll undoubtedly find similar-sized examples, as they aren’t too difficult to track down if you know where there are plenty of large and mature ash. The first example is still useful, however – it demonstrates how variable the morpohology of the species can be.


Interestingly, the first example of the above Perenniporia fraxinea yielded another treat – Coriolopsis gallica, atop. From what I have seen of this fungus, it tends to favour ash (Fraxinus excelsior), though as it isn’t one I see that often it might simply be a bias from my observations – ash are, around here, abundant, and there is no shortage of wind-damaged ash and fallen limbs adorned with fungi. Relatively nearby, another ash, in the form of a fallen limb, supported a separate colony (or colonies) of this species, and both examples are thus shown below.


Essentially adjacent to the second example of Coriolopsis gallica stood a large hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), which had a longitudinal section of cambial dieback tracking its main stem from the death of the branch above. Despite not being at all uncommon, along this area of dieback were multiple sporophores of the fungus Ganoderma australe.


And finally, right at the top of another ash (which also was dressed with Inonotus hispidus) sat what appeared to be Pleurotus ostreatus – albeit, very mature. Exhausting my camera’s zoom lens, the below photos were captured. Given the position, size and colour of the fruiting bodies, I doubt it could be anything else.



Tell a lie, there’s actually one more series of shots to show. This time, we have an oak (Quercus robur) that has fallen and since reiterated to form a new crown, courtesy of phototropism. At the cusp of the transition between functional and dysfunctional wood stood this rather tiny little sporophore, blue in colour. From my experience and knowledge, I would suggest that this is Postia subcaesia, which is a species of the genus Postia that is routinely found on deciduous trees – most species are largely found on gymnosperms, however.


Winter wood-decay fungi

Rigidoporus ulmarius and the elder (Sambucus nigra)

Granted, an elder isn’t always a true ‘tree’, though it can and indeed will become one if allowed to. Unfortunately, as their presence is oft seen as a sign of a lack of management of a site (such as in unused brownfield sites), they are prone to being cleared when sites are re-designed. Of course, they can also be found developing in scrub (perhaps on old plotlands and within corners of allotment gardens), woodland edges and within established hedge lines – such old hedges may indeed be the last vestige of the elder in more urbanised and intensely-managed agricultural landscapes. Specimens within these hedges can therefore – by virtue of their age and size – sport some surprising fungal finds, as we can see below!

Another boring hedgerow elder….!
Wrong! Spot the fungal bracket. It is…
…the brown-rotter Rigidoporus ulmarius (the ‘giant elm bracket’). This is an association that does occur every so often, though is restricted to larger elders where there is enough substrate to enable the fungus to colonise and produce a sporophore.
And what a fine example it is! The characteristic and arguably unmistakeable algal greening atop and the orange-pink lip that details the most recent growth.
And for good measure a context reveals the just off-white trama and cinnamon-coloured tube layer.
Rigidoporus ulmarius and the elder (Sambucus nigra)

Trees and religion: Taoism

See part VI of this series here.

Taoism, which is popular in China (and other parts of Asia), is another religion that has a discernible stance on trees. Within the religious texts, numerous rules relate to how man must associate with nature, and they include: do not hurt trees, do not burn the forests, and do not fell trees without reason. The stance behind such rationales is that trees (as well as plants in general) are considered living beings, and therefore must be respected (Zhihua, 2012).

With regards to the important trees, or tree species, within Taoism, one can certainly identify the peach (Prunus sp. – multiple species) as occupying a high rank. This is because it is said that the eight immortals (not gods) within Taoist doctrines frequented banquets hosted by the Queen Mother of the West (‘Xiwangmu‘) in the Kunlun mountains. The abode of the Queen was home to the Peach Tree of Immortality (the Tree of Life) that blossomed every 3,000 years, and that is where the eight immortals sustained their immortality, having eaten the fruit of the Tree during a particular banquet (Cooper, 2010; Faust & Timon, 1995; Little & Eichman, 2000; Wong, 2011). The (carved) stones and skin of peach fruit are also used to make talismans, as are they used to aid in the process of conducting an incantation, whilst the wood of the peach also has religious importance, where it is used to construct ritual instruments that ward off demons (Zhihua, 2012). Symbolically, the peach also holds importance, where it is the tree that represents youth, marriage, wealth, and longevity (Cooper, 2010).

The Queen Mother of the West, depicted next to deer and almost certainly a peach tree in blossom. Source: Hero’s Journey.

Beyond merely the peach tree, many other trees are considered important within the religion. Because Taoists subscribe to the concept of yin-yang, by where everything must be balanced equally between yin (including the feminine) and yang (including the masculine), the use of trees is important when it comes to landscaping; such balance equalises the artificial and the natural (Fowler, 2005). Therefore, in the gardens made by Taoists, trees feature markedly in order to provide the yin. However, there exist some trees possess distinctly high yin-yang qualities, such as the pine (Pinus spp.) and the willow (Salix spp.), and therefore their presence within Taoist gardens was generally crucial (Cooper, 2010).

Almonds, cherries, peaches, and plums (Prunus spp.) also featured heavily within the gardens, because of their yin-yang balance, attractive, blossom and symbolic importance (which was explained earlier, with regards to the peach). For example, the almond symbolises watchfulness and adversity, whilst the cherry provides purity (yin) and nobility (yang), and the plum strength and longevity (Cooper, 1977). These yang traits of watchfulness, adversity, strength, and longevity, are offset with the beauty of the spring blossom of the almond and plum, which is an evidently yin characteristic.


Cooper, J. (1977) The symbolism of the Taoist garden. Studies in Comparative Religion. 11 (4). p224-234.

Cooper, J. (2010) An Illustrated Introduction to Taoism: The Wisdom of the Sages. China: World Wisdom, Inc.

Faust, M. & Timon, B. (1995) Origin and Dissemination of Peach. In Janick, J. (ed.) Horticultural Reviews, Volume 17. USA: John Wiley & Sons.

Fowler, J. (2005) An Introduction to the Philosophy and Religion of Taoism: Pathways to Immortality. UK: Sussex Academic Press.

Little, S. & Eichman, S. (2000) Taoism and the Arts of China. Belgium: The Art Institute of Chicago.

Wong, E. (2011) Taoism: An Essential Guide. USA: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

Zhihua, Y. (2012) Taoist Philosophy on Environmental Protection. In Mou, Z. (ed.) Taoism. The Netherlands: BRILL.

Trees and religion: Taoism

A visit to Wrest Park, UK

Last weekend I explored Wrest Park with a small group of other individuals, and we certainly saw plenty of interesting sights! For those curious, it is just north of Luton adjacent to a lovely old village called Silsoe, and for those arriving early you can even hear the bells of the nearby church ringing for Sunday morning service and explore the village to look at all the listed buildings.

However, as this blog is about trees, we shall keep it on all things tree-reated, and without further ado I’ll get into some of the features of this park that we passed by…

First of all, we came across this absolutely wonderful Wisteria sp. on the wall of the gardens. Without a shadow of a doubt, it is one of the largest examples I have seen, outside of the one at Kew Gardens. When trained well or given space to thrive, wisterias really do add a degree of formality and regality to a place, and one could hardly argue that the wall would have anywhere near as much character if this wisteria was absent!

Here we can see how the wisteria envelops at least a segment of the much larger wall.
And a great look at the stem morphology. The fluted appearance also gives this wisteria an old feel, which is probably because of its likely good age!

Just around the corner from this fine wisteria was a very sizeable cedar (Cedrus sp.). I recall it as probably being a cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), though we’ll run with a species of cedar when noting my inability to remember specifics! I might add that this was a sizeable cedar, actually – it is now less so, but is certainly still a very impressive specimen. What is interesting about this cedar was the cavity three quarters of the way up what was left of the main stem, which sported some now rather senescent sporophores of the dyer’s mazegill (Phaeolus schweinitzii). The common name for this fungus comes from the fact that the fruiting bodies were used to make purple dye (a phenomenon not restricted to this fungus, as a very many fungi are used for dyes). Always be sure to check stem cavities for this fungus on conifers, and notably old cedars and pines, as they can yield some great fungal treasures!

Wider than it is tall. I know they say that cedars flatten-out atop in maturity, though this one takes it a little too far!
Of course, this cedar was a lot larger, though unfortunately lost its top – probably during high winds.
But that isn’t a problem – the cedar still lives. And other things live within it, too – such as this dyer’s mazegill.
A closer inspection with the camera reveals a small tier of fruiting bodies, and given the deep fissure they are emanating from it is certainly an historic wound and not a recent one.

Further around the gardens, we came across a huge copper beech (Fagus sylvatia ‘Atropurpurea’). As well as a discernible graft line that has begun to bulge, we can spot some highly distinct stretch marks on the bark. Evidently, the more recent annual increments have been quite marked in cross-sectional area, and the bark has therefore split to reveal a fresher bark layer beeneath. As we know, beech usually has a gloriously smooth bark, though in some instances that smooth bark is lost to a much rougher one. Is this a problem? Almost certainly not. It might however be associated with the graft point, if there are additional mechanical stressors acting on the area.

Here’s the copper beech, in all of its bare glory.
The trunk not only adopts a very stretched appearance but also has a pronounced bulge around the graft union.
A closer look just to appreciate the degree of bark stretching. Perhaps a visit to Boots would help this beech tree reduce the prevalence of the stretching!

As luck would have it, we then saw a lot of fungi. First came this horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) stump, which had on it not only Bjerkandera adusta, Chondrostereum purpureum and Flamullina velutipes, but many Mycena sp. on roots surrounding the stump. All, in this case, are saprotrophic fungi, meaning that they feast upon the abundance of dead wood, though in the case of Chondrostereum purpureum the mycelium will parasitise upon the mycelium of other fungi (a bit like how Trametes gibbosa will attack Bjerkandera adusta).

A quite massive horse chestnut stump. In death, it still provides life for many species of fungi, as we can see…
Some very fresh and guttating Chondrostereum purpureum. This species is very common on cut ends of fallen logs and stumps during autumn, and is able to parasitise upon other fungi. Thus, it is a fungus that is a secondary resource capturer, as it follows other fungi that came in before.
More Chondrostereum purpureum alongside some rather old Flamullina velutipes.
And a select few of the bonnets (Mycena sp.) surrounding the stump, which are very likely saprotrophs of dead roots.

Our walk then took us through the woodland garden, where Inonotus hispidus reigned supreme on some of the ash (Fraxinus excelsior). This woodland garden was rather peculiar, in the sense it was utterly laden with laurel (Prunus laurocerasus and Prunus lusitanica), huge yew (Taxus baccata), oaks (Quercus robur) with wonderfully straight boles, limes (Tilia x europaea) completely ravaged by mistletoe (Viscum album), and other tree species (such as ash, as was noted above). The growing amount of deadwood is certainly valuable for any invertebrates, fungi and bacteria, though the laurel does certainly require some management as it currently dominates the understorey.

Obviously, as it is now late autumn, the leaves are off of the ash and the shaggy brackets are blackened (by-and-large). Here, we can spot one just before the stem break.
Conveniently positioned beneath an old branch abscission point. Note the spindle-shape surrounding the old branch stub, which is the optimal way of ensuring there are no huge stress pockets in the area.
This second ash is a little more sheltered but still doesn’t escape the ravenous hunger of Inonotus hispidus.
Again, we can see it is associated with a wound. In this instance, the wound is a little larger in longitudinal extent. The area also sags slightly just beneath, indicating the white rot present (and thus delignification of wood) that is being caused by the mycelium of this fungus.

Also within this woodland, we came across a large oak that had lost its top during last winter. The debris now dressed the ground beneath, and it was not very surprising to see Bulgaria inquinans present on the fallen wood. This fungus is present as a latent organism within the vascular system of the oak, and upon death of a branch it quickly colonises (often quite brilliantly and over vast swathes of wood) to make use of the carbon readily available. In this example, the colonisation wasn’t so glorious, because the wood had been cut into smaller segments, though if left in tact the fungus would have produced black jelly discs across the entire upper stem.

A victim of the wind, though still alive. This loss of the upper stem might in fact allow the oak to live for a longer period of time, as it significantly reduces the risk of entire failure by the wind.
Some discs of Bulgaria inquinans, all of which are maturing or already mature.
Other equally mature examples on another piece of fallen wood. Absolutely abundant, as is to be expected.

After exiting this woodland garden, we were allowed access to a part of the site closed off to the public. Not only is this good because the area is often not trampled down, but what you can find in there away from the haunts of man is often a great treat, and we were not let down on this front, as you will see by the below images! However, before entering the gate, we stopped a beech (Fagus sylvatica) that had a great example of Perenniporia fraxinea at its base.

I suppose you could say it’s the guardian of the gate. It didn’t do a very good job though, as we had a key and the beech can’t actually move.
Here’s the sporophore, tucked away between two buttresses and covered by bramble a little.
Pay attention to the white spore beneath, which differentiates it from the slightly similar Ganoderma australe.
The brown context is another identifying feature of this fungus.

We then saw this fungus again, immediately upon entering the gated area. However, this time, it was on a host I had never seen it on before – hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)! And a great example it was, too.

A rather contorted but very large hornbeam, with bark that one could almost describe as black locust-like.
Around the butt were many sporophores of Perenniporia fraxinea, but this was by far the best one.
Now here’s a postcard picture! Who wants to see a picture of a beach with palm trees when you can see this…!?
And again a shot of the context.

Walking down alongside the lake we then came across a fallen weeping willow (probably Salix x sepulcralis ‘Chrysocoma’) that, upon its stem, was dressed with sporophores of the blushing bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa. This is rather common dead parts of willows (including Salix caprea), though generally the brackets are a little smaller and less sublime. However, in this instance, they provide us with a great example of how it looks.

Willows doing what they do best – break!
…and then providing great habitat for wood-decay fungi.
This dead section of the stem is covered by over a dozen Daedaleopsis confragosa fruiting bodies.
And when we look closer we can spot the brilliantly-textured upper surface. The pores below are between gills and pores, being quite elongated in nature.

So not to bore you all with fungi, I shall share one last example of Laetiporus sulphureus ssp. on yew (Taxus baccata). If you look around old yews you will often see chicken of the woods, though make sure never to eat it as it won’t do you any good and could end up with a visit to the hospital!

If yew look closely…
…you can almost see the tree weep at such a vile pun.
This Laetiporus sulphureus ssp. even had a cherry on top. But don’t eat it…
…because it’s blue and mouldy. And poisonous to some!

And now that I’m blue in the face from blaring out so many horrific puns, here’s a few images that will lighten up your day – lightning damage on oak!

Here we can see an old lightning wound that spans the entire length of the stem. Note the old ribbing to both sides and the central shallow fissure where the bolt probably tracked.
Another oak close by shows a similar style of wound, though less extensive in circumferential damage. Both oaks have survived, and long-term this damage might create some interesting habitat!

Well that is everything. I do suggest this site to those who are nearby, or want to make a trip at a weekend to explore a formal park. It is worth it, though please try to look beyond the huge yews that were topped to try and recreate a hedge! It isn’t easy, but I suppose the dead stumps make for some curious landscape features…

A visit to Wrest Park, UK

Trees and religion: Jainism

See part V of this series here.

Jainism, a religion from the Indian region, is also worthy of note within this series, despite being one of the smaller major world religions. Its origins are debated, as to whether the ancient Vedic religion pre-dated it or not (Shah, 1998), though such origins are clearly beyond the scope of this post. Therefore, with specific focus on the stance Jainism takes on the natural world, and specifically trees, one can observe that the stance adopted is one of marked non-violence (ahimsa) – greater than that of both Buddhism and Hinduism, in fact (Altman, 2000; Hall, 2011). The rationale behind this assessment – provided originally by Mahavira (the eminent ‘teacher’ of Jainism) – of plant life is that, because plants are able to respire, metabolise, reproduce, and die, they are living. In turn, plants are considered to possess independent life souls, which are encased within their physical structure (Arumugam, 2014; Tobias, 1991). Trees may even have multiple souls (Fynes, 1996). Such souls can be reborn into the body of an animal, and even a human – the reincarnation process is not limited to humans and animals (Hall, 2011). However, a soul can only be liberated following an existence in the human form.

Jain literature does however indicate that plants are not necessarily intelligent (though they can feel karmic emotions, such as anger, passion, and pride), and thus the acquisition of resources for life processes is perhaps only a survival instinct (Hall, 2011). Regardless, because the religion adopts the outlook of not harming living beings, plants (including trees) are not to be unjustly harmed. Fruits and other materials can, of course, be harvested from trees (Jainas are vegetarians), though the trees themselves cannot be uprooted, as this kills them (Altman, 2000; Sims, 2016). Unlike both Buddhism and Hinduism, Jainism also has no God – worship is considered something that interferes, and runs counter to, nature. Instead, as Tobias (1993) and Long (2009) write, Jainas revere. Trees are not excluded, in this regard. Mahavira speaks of trees as having inherent beauty, and instead of seeing them as suitable for their timber that can be used to construct buildings and other objects, they should be seen as “noble, high, round, with many branches, beautiful and magnificent” (Chapple, 2001).

Within the Jain religion, the following trees are considered to be of great importance: the acacia (Vachellia nilotica), bel (Aegle marmelos), bodhi tree or pipal (Ficus religiosa) and other figs (Ficus spp.), kadam (Neolamarckia cadamba), mango (Mangifera indica), tamarind (Tamarindus indica), and teak (Tectona grandis), amongst others (Begum & Barua, 2012; Chandrakanth & Romm, 1991; Chapple, 2002). With regards to the bel (Aegle marmelos), it it understood that the 23rd Jain teacher (the one before the eminent Mahavira) gained enlightenment under the tree (Ariharan & Nagendra Prasad, 2013). The pipal (Ficus religiosa), another highly-regarded tree, may act as a symbol of the Jain religion (Choudhury, 2012). Such aforementioned tree species, in addition to others not mentioned, may therefore reside within and around Jain temples (Kiernan, 2015; Lal et al., 2014).

The Ranakpur Jain Temple, which sits amongst wooded hillside. Source: Pilgrimaide.

In some instances, Jainas may also partake in the planting of trees (notably on degraded land), and perhaps most notably of the tree species seen as worthy of particular reverence. However, Jain monks and nuns may refrain from planting trees, as in disturbing the soil to plant a tree they may kill various soil micro-organisms, which goes against the non-violence aspect of the religion (Altman, 2000; Arumugam, 2014; Kiernan, 2015). On a similar level, monks and nuns will have a very strict vegetarian diet, because their holy scriptures forbid the consumption of raw plants. Of course, this means such individuals cannot even eat fruit, and as this is not wholly practical, there are deviations from the rule (Hall, 2011). Nonetheless, it does demonstrate exactly how highly Jains regard plants.


Altman, N. (2000) Sacred Trees: Spirituality, Wisdom & Well-Being. USA: Sterling Publishing.

Ariharan, V. & Nagendra Prasad, P. (2013) Mahavilva-a sacred tree with immense medicinal secrets: a mini review. Rasayan Journal of Chemistry. 6 (4). p342-352.

Arumugam, D. (2014) The perspective of environmental protection in Jainism: special reference to the concept of Parasparopagraho Jivanam. Global Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies. 3 (1). p25-45.

Begum, S. & Barua, I. (2012) Ficus species and its significance. International Journal of Computer Applications in Engineering Sciences. 2 (3). p273-75.

Chandrakanth, M. & Romm, J. (1991) Sacred forests, secular forest policies and people’s actions. Natural Resources Journal. 31. p741-756.

Chapple, C. (2001) The living cosmos of Jainism: a traditional science grounded in environmental ethics. Daedalus. 130 (4). p207-224.

Chapple, C. (2002) Jainism and Ecology: Nonviolence in the Web of Life. USA: Harvard University Press.

Choudhury, J. (2012) Tree worship tradition in India and origin of Jagannath cult. Odisha Review. June 2012. p55-57.

Fynes, R. (1996) Plant Souls in Jainism and Manichaeism The Case for Cultural Transmission. East and West. 46 (1-2). p21-44.

Hall, M. (2011) Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany. USA: Suny Press.

Kiernan, K. (2015) Landforms as sacred places: implications for geodiversity and geoheritage. Geoheritage. 7 (2). p177-193.

Lal, H., Singh, S., & Mishra, P. (2014) Trees in Indian Mythology. History. 12 (29). p16-23.

Long, J. (2009) The Paradoxes of Radical Asceticism: Jainism as a Therapeutic Paradigm. In Derfer, G., Wang, Z., & Weber, M. (eds.) The Roar of Awakening: A Whiteheadian Dialogue Between Western Psychotherapies and Eastern Worldviews. Germany: Ontos.

Shah, N. (1998) Jainism: The World of Conquerors, Volume 1. UK: Sussex Academic Press.

Sims, L. (2016) Jainism and Nonviolence: From Mahavira to Modern Times. The Downtown Review. 2 (1). p1-8.

Tobias, M. (1991) Life Force: The World of Jainism. USA: Jain Publishing Company.

Tobias, M. (1993) Jainism and Ecology. In Tucker, M. & Grimm, J. (eds.) Worldviews and Ecology: Religion, Philosophy and the Environment. USA: Bucknell Press.

Trees and religion: Jainism

Fungal finds at a local Apple Day

Autumn is upon us, and the apples are ripening on the trees, ready to be picked and eaten raw, cooked, or made into juice or cider (including cider vinegar). For me, the events (generally dubbed ‘Apple Days’) that come alongside this apple-harvesting season are great fun, and it was delightful to see people of all ages come to pick apples and enjoy walking through an ancient orchard. Quite honestly, small local events such as the one I attended today are a great way to meet people, relax, and overall have an enjoyable day, all whilst supporting local businesses that come to sell their products (I picked up a jar of cinnamon honey, which is absolutely delicious!). Beats staring at a computer any day!

Of course, I was there with a few intentions (1) to buy and eat local apples, (2) to explore the ancient orchard, (3) take photos of the trees, and (4) hunt for fungi. Brilliantly, I managed to tick all four things off, by the end of the afternoon. Nothing tops trying locally-sourced produce, and apples picked either directly from the trees on site or brought in from the wider area aren’t something one comes across every day, particularly if shopping at larger supermarkets.

With regards to the other aims on my list, not only were there some stunning ancient apple trees to get photos of, but some sublime fungi to go alongside – namely, Inonotus hispidus, though also a tier of Ganoderma australe. Any agarics on the floor would have, sadly, been trampled by those exploring, and from clearance work to create paths in the days before. Not to worry, for the Inonotus-laden apple trees went down a treat with me, and also some children who took a keen interest in them as well. Certainly, a great opportunity to teach them a thing or two about fungi, and their responsiveness to feeling the fungal sporophores and exploring the trees for other fungi was really good to see – they even found some more, as I could hear from a few trees away!

Below are an assortment of pictures from the various apple trees that did have sporophores on them, and the trees upon which they reside are – in themselves – quite sublime. Contortions galore, and that really rugged look that only an old fruit trees can really possess. Enjoy!

For those who do like ancient orchards, Wildtrack Publishing (run by Ian Rotherham) put out a good book on such orchards across the UK. At only £22.50, it’s a good price, too!

Apple tree #1

A gorgeous little tree, though certainly not young!
Some great sporophores can be seen, here.
The one at the base is tiny, and very downy atop.
This one is a much better example of a ‘textbook’ Inonotus hispidus, and is growing out from an old pruning wound.
Probably my favourite photo from the day, is this one.
A look at the underside here – complete with finger marks!
Two more on this same tree.
An over-mature sporophore, that has grown around a small twig – this is a phenomenon exclusive to the polypores, I do believe.
And higher up in the crown sat this small guy.

Apple tree #2

This apple tree sat away from the beaten path, amongst plenty of nettle and bramble. Not that the tree cares about that!
Oh, look! More Inonotus hispidus, along a large limb or two.
I counted four, in total (plus a fifth on another limb). All associated with historic wounds, it appears.
A really interesting picture, showing how the colonisation traverses the limbs / stems. Perhaps colonisation came from both limbs, or broke through the ‘barriers’ present at a junction. Thankfully, this is a small tree and the limbs are rather upright, else it’d have a much greater risk of failure.

Apple tree #3

Right adjacent to the second apple tree, sat this fine creature. A very sprawling and thin crown, complete with fungal decay along one of the stems.
Entry would have come either from a pruning wound or from storm damaged limbs. We can see a pruning wound at the end of this limb, though given the apple’s age it’d be impossible to diagnose the exact cause. Inonotus hispidus is an unspecialised opportunist, making it a fungus that invades exposed sapwood, so either cause of wounding would suffice.
A closer view shows it growing around many small twigs!

Apple tree #4

Another apple tree that has endured the throes of winter, many times over. This one has a great crop of apples, too.
And, again, no escape from the ravenous hunger of Inonotus hispidus.
The sporophore sits directly adjacent to an old wound – an excellent entry point, for the spores.
Looking up-close and personal, we can see how this sporophore has blackened in maturity (though looks fresh enough to be from this year), and is probably now completely inactive.

Apple tree #5

Right by the stalls, sat this magnificent apple tree. Remains of butchered pomes can be seen on the stack of bramble, cow parsley stems, and grass. The stuff of nightmares – p(h)omicide.
No less alarming, for the tree, was the presence of this Inonotus hispidus. Remarkably fresh for this late on in the season, so obviously we have a late bloomer here.
Utilising the zoom feature on my new camera.
And once again! Note the small yellow threads on the underside, which can often be seen on the crevices beneath a fresh sporophore of Inonotus hispidus.
And one from probably a year (or three) ago, can be seen on the other large limb.

Apple tree #6

If you look closely, you can spot two different species of fungus on this apple tree!
One can be seen here, and it is…
…probably Ganoderma australe! The ‘press-test’ resulted in me not being able to push through the upper surface with my finger, even with quite a lot of pressure, thus suggesting it’s unlikely to be Ganoderma applanatum. The fact the stem is living also makes it far more likely to be the former, too.
The exposed context shows incredibly deep tube layers, which vary according to what phylogenetic type this fungus belongs to. For Ganoderma australe, there are at least 12 different types, each with different characteristics.
Quite the sublime tier, here!
And some Inonotus hispidus. Who would have expected that……..!?!?
The one on the left is lazy and thus is resting on a small twig. Cheeky.
Hopefully it washed its hands after, too.

Apple tree #7

The last tree we will be looking at here was free of fungal sporophores!
Just kidding – it had two.
We can see them both here, just about!
The one around 1.5m up the stem sits proud upon a wounded area.
As does the one lower down. We can spot a very occluded wound just to the lower left of the sporophore.
Fungal finds at a local Apple Day