Red and White Polka Dots: A little bit of Magic under the Oak Trees

Near my house is a grove of oak trees which is simply glorious at this time of year. I love gathering fallen twigs of crimson and greeny gold to decorate my kitchen and scuffing through drifts of toasty brown leaves as I make my way to the lake. Cockatoos and ducks meet and mingle in patches of sunlight in this shaded space.  The sky pokes through a mesh of almost bare branches and fairy spotted toadstools sprout magically from the damp earth.

You have to be quick to catch them at their most beautiful…as I discovered when I went back a day later to photograph a stunning  large specimen (as flawless as Big Ears the Brownie’s house in the Noddy books) only to find it had flattened and paled from deep magenta to dark orange overnight.  These toadstools  like the oak leaves around them remind us that life is fragile and ephemeral.

There are a myriad of these mushrooms at every stage of the life cycle. Sturdy pixie stools in pillar box red sprinkled with snowy freckles,  brand new babies poking their cherry bright heads cheekily out of a carpet of Autumn leaves,  sad flat cracked roofs aging into faded apricot and the decaying tumble of black fungus  slowly disintegrating into the soil.

The sight of these mushrooms catches at a childish part of my heart. That  splendid startling  red speckled in white, the smooth shiny caps, the feathered gills, the way they huddle together or stand proudly apart, the perfect size and shape of them for mini foot stools, tiny  tea parties,  and dinky little cottages…their  enchanting sudden presence under the oak trees. …

Where have they come from?

Research tells me that  they are Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita, one of many in the genus Amanita.  My scientific husband explains that their prolific appearance is probably due to a recent spot of heavy rain.

I read about their properties. I check out images of them on the internet. None of this changes the feeling of child like glee that overwhelms me at the sight of them. They might be Amanita muscaria but a part of me knows that red and white polka dots are what fairies love best …

© Anita Patel, 2016

2 thoughts on “Red and White Polka Dots: A little bit of Magic under the Oak Trees

  1. I tried to grow them once. Collected the spores and set them in a little mossy/earthy mixture. Nothing. Only many years later I discovered that the amanita fungus is a symbiote. The pretty mushroom is its fruiting body, but the main fungus lives deep under the ground with its host: the root system of the oak tree (it also grows with pine, birch, cedar and a few other non-natives). They also have psychotropic properties if ingested, but don’t because you can also make yourself very sick. You might possibly see fairies though…

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  2. Thanks for that information…I did read that they grow under deciduous trees. I wasn’t planning to ingest them – I just enjoy their prettiness and the fairy magic that is evoked by their presence. I am impressed that you tried to grow them. 🙂

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