Autumn at Belfairs

Autumn is a spectacular time of great change here at Belfairs. Here are 5 things in particular to look out for:

Fungi

As summer draws to a close, many of the fungi of Belfairs start to send forth their magnificent mushrooms. With a plethora of interesting colours and shapes, and often with fabulous sounding names, getting out, looking for, and identifying mushrooms is an excellent way to welcome in the autumn here at Belfairs. Particularly striking is the brightly coloured Fly Agaric, which looks to have come straight out of a fairy-tale. It is highly poisonous and gets its name from the fact that people used to break it up into milk in order to poison flies.

Fly Agaric

Fly Agaric

Autumn Colours

In addition to the flashes of colour provided by our mushrooms, in October we are treated to a spectrum of browns, yellows and reds, as the trees of Belfairs lose their leaves. At the same time we have a variety of fruit hanging ripe on the trees, providing an extra splash of colour.

Belfairs Autumn Oaks

Belfairs Oaks in Autumn

Guelder Rose

One species looking particularly attractive at the moment is the Guelder Rose. Currently these bushes are full of bright red fruit, and the leaves are beginning to turn red too. The red of the leaves comes from anthocyanins, pigments that are actually produced de novo in the autumn. It is possible that this is done as a “Fruit Flag”, making the plant very conspicuous and thus attracting in animals to eat the fruit and disperse seeds.

Guelder Rose

Guelder Rose

Service

Another plant that possibly employs this “Fruit Flag” technique is the Wild Service tree. Service is quite rare in the UK; being largely restricted to ancient woodlands like ours. Through October, many of our Wild Service trees will have an abundance of small, green/brown fruits, which are eaten by a variety of birds and small mammals. The fruit is hard and astringent unless bletted, but historically was used to flavour beer.

Autumnal Wild Service leaf

Autumnal Wild Service leaf

Cherry

A final tree adding vibrant reds to the Belfairs palette through October are our Wild Cherries. Like the Guelder Rose and Wild Service, the red pigments in Cherry leaves in autumn are anthocyanins, which are produced specifically at this time of year. However, unlike Guelder Rose and Service, Cherry does not have fruit to advertise at this time of year. It is thought that these red colours are actually produced to counter herbivory. A number of aphid species use Cherries as a host in winter, and studies have shown the intensity of redness is negatively correlated with aphid number.

Autumnal Cherry leaves

Autumnal Cherry leaves