Various conifer cones

Pine cones

Maturing cones from a couple of conifers. The first two pictures are from an example of an ornamental species in a roadside garden near Rudge Heath. The others are of one of the trees next to the West Park Conservatory.

Pine cones

Pine Cones

Pine Cones

Sandy stiltballs – a rare find

Sandy stiltball

The fungi pictured here are sandy stiltballs (Battarraea phalloides) which is a very rare fungus in Britain.

Sandy stiltball

It is not in fact a conventional “toadstool” type fungus, with gills or pores under the cap for dispersing the spores. Instead, it is related to puffballs – it is a puffball on a stem.

Sandy stiltball

Its preferred habitat is sandy soil. The lighter sprinkling which can be seen on the “cap” of some of the fresher specimens is not, as I thought, sand from the soil. It is spores.

Sandy stiltball

New fruiting bodies were growing with others which seemed to be several days old.

Sandy stiltball

These more mature fruiting bodies had a more bleached appearance, as often with fungi.

Sandy stiltball

I noticed some of these fungi while cycling down a quiet country lane in south Shropshire.

Sandy stiltball

It’s only the second time sandy stiltballs have been recorded in Shropshire.

Sandy stiltball

The other known site is only a few miles away from this one.

Sandy stiltball - mature specimen

Sandy stiltball

Roy Mantle, Shropshire County Recorder for Fungi, and Jefny admire one of the clumps of fruiting bodies.

Sandy stiltball

Thanks to Jefny for identifying the species, and Roy Mantle for an interesting afternoon when we went to visit the site.

West Midlands Pools

Bracebridge pool

There is something soothing about large pools of still water. The more so when, like these, they are in green oases in built-up areas. Bracebridge Pool (above) is the largest stretch of water in Sutton Park, while Swan Pool (below) is the highlight of Sandwell Valley.

Swan Pool, Sandwell valley

Butter Cross, Alveley

Butter Cross, Alveley

This is a medieval stone cross a long way outside the village on a road which just leads past a few isolated houses before circling back to the village. Noone really knows why it’s there. It looks more like a Cornish roadside cross than anything else.

Butter Cross, Alveley