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If Winter comes can Spring be far behind?

Winter Heliotrope, Petasites fragrans

Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote those memorable words in his Ode to the West Wind. Shelley's message is sometimes generalised as saying, 'If your opresent situation seems unbearable don't give up; hang on in there and things will get better.' Well, welive in hope...

But those of us who enjoy wildflowers don't have to wait for spring to arrive; winter also has a few floral features worth looking out for, and Winter Heliotrope Petasites fragrans is certainly one of these. Pale pink drooping flowers in a loose raceme can look rather bedraggled when viewed from a distance. To enjoy the full beauty of these turn-of-the-year tassels you need to get up close and personal - as you can see on our web page about this precocious member of the daisy family...

Winter Heliotrope is most common on damp disturbed grassland such as roadside verges.


Spore Prints - where Science and Art collide (and collude)

Spore print

When you want to know exactly which kind of mushoom, toadstool or other kind of fungus you have found, visual appearance (macroscopic characters, to use the technical term) are often not enough to provide species-level identification. Then you need to do some scientific detective work. Finding out the colour of the spores is the first crucial step in in the process, and for this you need to make a spore print. It's easy! Just follow our simple online guide to making spore prints...

Oh, and by the way: spore prints can be very attractive artwork, too.


Microscopy for Amateur Mycologists

Microscopy for beginners

It's amazing how much more you can learn about fungi if you have access to a microscope. Our no-jargon Online Guide to Mushroom Microscopy has all the essential information about choosing and using a compound microscope, selecting chemical stains, preparing slides etc to help you get started.

There are also examples of the microscopic 'characters' cited in identification keys. More details...

Focus on Ascomycetes

Asci of the Eyelash Fungus, Scutellaria scutellata

Ascomycetes are fascinating, especially when viewed with a microscope. Here the spores of the Eyelash Fungus Scutellaria scutellata can be seen packed in sets of eight into the asci tubes. The same image in higher magnification can be seen on our Eyelash Fungus page.

Pat O'Reilly's book Fascinated by Fungi contains a very useful introduction to fungal microscopy.


Clitocybe odora, a beautiful blue aniseed-scented mushroom

Blue is not a colour normally associated with mushrooms, but there are a few striking blue species. Pictured here is one that makes itself obvious in another way too: the Aniseed Funnel Clitocybe odora can be found by 'following your nose'! See our Sortable Fungi Index for pictures and identification details for more than 770 fascinating fungi species.


Common Blue butterflyAmanita muscaria - Fly AgaricEpipactis atrorubens - Dark-red Helleborine

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