Alien circles and fairy rings

Black circle

On Monday we awoke to find a large black circle outlined in the back garden.  It has a diameter of approximately eight and a half metres (nearly 28 feet).  Of course we had to exchange all the “Martians landing” jokes but strangely there was an oily deposit on the grass which did look like spilled fuel!

Closer view of blades of grass

The grass was heavily covered with black globules.

I picked off this blade of grass to have a closer look at it but I could see no finer detail in the black globules.  After a quick check with the Royal Horticulural Society’s web page, it seems to be a slime mold probably Physarum cinereum or a closely related species.

New clover growing through

I had wondered if there would be any changes in it after a few days but slime molds are not exciting to watch.  After a few days it is still adhered to the edges of the new clover leaves which are growing from the inside and it is giving their edges a grey frill.  By now it has probably been  induced to form spores by the sunshine and these spores will be spread by the wind and anything that gets in contact with them.  As it is the first time they have appeared in the garden I am letting them take their course and hope that we will not get the appropriate weather conditions to welcome them again.  The garden is never water-logged and we get a high level of sunshine even in the winter time so I hope it will not be a frequent occurrence.

Fairy ring

On the other hand, the fairy rings are welcome.  They appear at the bottom of the garden (as I believe is the custom for fairies) and coincide with the advent of the cepes in the woods round about.

Closer view of the mushrooms

They range in size from about 1.5 to 5 centimetres and have a smooth cap that is raised in the centre.  When you pick them they have their own particular odour.  I find it difficult to describe but it reminds my neighbour Annie of the smell of almonds.  I think they are Marasmius oreades, or faux mousseron.

The underside an stem

The stem detaches easily from the earth so I use scissors to collect them so that I can keep them as clean as possible.  It is then recommended to snip off the stem.  After that I wash them gently in a bowl to remove any adhering soil and drain them on kitchen towel.  They are then ready to cook in any mushroom recipe.

The purists would probably just wipe the cap with a damp cloth and certainly if they are to be dried this is the method to follow.  They air dry very easily if you do not wash them.

I took the easy way out and made an omelette as I was on my own.  It is certainly not fast food as the collecting and cleaning takes time but I had the satisfaction that it was truly “local” dish as the eggs had been brought to me by Annie who is only 200 metres away.

Finished product!

I do not recommend anyone eating the mushrooms they might find in their garden as, unfortunately, there are many similar look-alikes that are not edible.  I would not have touched them but they were recognised by a friend who knows his mushrooms and I know they were gathered and eaten from the garden before we came here.

While I was collecting the mushrooms I saw something I would have otherwise have missed as it was so well-camouflaged.

Close-up of spider, perhaps too close?

These things do not appeal to me and if you feel the same please just skip the rest of the blog.

It was what it was carrying that amazed me!

Rear view to show grasshopper

This creature had caught a grasshopper and he was able to transport the body in a remarkably nimble manner.  I think that it is a Hogna radiata which is apparently quite common in France.

A swift departure

He seemed also capable of jumping and was most anxious that I might steal his precious bundle.  I am not sure whether to consider myself lucky to have seen it or unlucky as it was quite gruesome.


16 thoughts on “Alien circles and fairy rings

  1. Eek! That is one scary spider. You did very well indeed to get such superb photos. Are you getting on with your new camera a bit better now? These recent shots are certainly impressive,


    1. afrenchgarden

      I’m still not happy with the difference between the results and my Panasonic DMC-TZ18 (under £200) and the Canon EOS with a Kit Reflex EF-S 18-135 IS nearer 1K. In fact I go back to the Panasonic for some shots. Yes I have a greater range of controls but working in optimum lighting conditions I think the Panasonic is better. I know it is not a Macro lens but I had hoped for better definition so that enlargements would have been sharper.


      1. Amelia, have a try at setting different levels of sharpness on a still life to compare the settings… I’ve got all my Pentax rigs wound right to the line at the sharp end… and am still not happy! My brother shoots “Raw” mainly and then does the sharpening on the computer. He also decided that the Canon ‘kit’ lens… whilst convenient… was not up to the job and bought a wide to medium zoom with a larger front end to capture more light [I think it is around 28mm to 70mm]. And also a 100 to 400 zoom of high spec.

        Another problem might be where the point of focus on the ‘film’ is… the easiest way to check that is place a ruler horizontally on its side, on a table.
        Camera on tripod about 10 ft away… choose on a number on the scale… 10cm is quite good one… focus on the actual 10mm line.
        Take three shots at fully open, f8 and f16… see where the camera is in central focus…. on my Pentax K7 [the only one I can alter] it was way out and I’ve wound the ‘focus’ point setting to the maximum.
        This is still not spot on… but at f8 I usually get very good results now… still not happy with the fully open shots and now the light is getting poorer, will need to go for 400 or 800 ISO with the resultant grain!
        Experiment, now the days are getting longer in the tooth and we are forced indoors more.
        After all, initially the film is free… it is only when printing out nthe results that it cost money in paper and ink!
        I recommend using an LED light as the indoor source for the above setting… they are far closer to daylight than flourescent or tungsten.
        Also, in the computer, use Photoshop’s Smart Sharpen option if you have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements… it works very well.


        1. afrenchgarden

          Thank you for the tips. It is really something I want to get to grips with during the (I hope) quieter months in the winter. I use Picassa at the moment and Photoshop was another thing on my “to do” list for the winter. I am going back to the UK to visit the family now so it is all go.


  2. Pretty fairy rings – not finding the slime mould so attractive but fascinating in a way. Liking the spider as a photo on my screen but not in a hurry to meet a huge jumping spider. You were brave to get so close for us!


  3. Just found you Blog. I like it. Interesting spider though like you – a little scary to stumble upon when working in the garden. Here on the shores of Lake MIchigan in USA there are lots of spiders. Must be the moisture. However the beauty of the lake as a backdrop to the gardens more than makes up for the “scare” of those insects. Hope to see you soon. Jack


  4. Sue

    Very interesting; I haven’t seen anything like the slime mold circle, and never observed a spider carrying anything as big as a grasshopper. Nice finds!


    1. afrenchgarden

      I remember that post but I must admit I still had to look up the spider before it clicked. Mine is holding a large grasshopper and as for size it is too big for me. I was very glad it was at the bottom of the garden.


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