Sunday, 16 November 2014

Tripe Yesterday, Poison Today.

A free afternoon, yesterday, so I walked up to Gwaun Helen, the area of forestry above Cwmbach and Cefnpennar. I had nothing in mind, which was just as well, because apart from four crossbill, a kestrel and the odd raven, I saw next to nothing, as far as birds were concerned.
On a rock face up there, the large, distinctive lichen called Rock Tripe (Lassalia pustulata) was drying out after the overnight rain, showing the difference in appearance of the moist and wet states really well.

Rock Tripe. The dry, pale state at the top,
the moist, green state at the bottom

It is regarded as a survival food and I have tried some, out of curiosity. The texture is somewhere between overcooked omelette and inner tube, while the taste isn't! A true survival food in that you would only eat it if the alternative is never eating anything again.

This morning I found myself in the upper reaches of Cwm Cadlan, hoping for hen harrier, maybe, but having a pretty lean time of it, bird-wise. Just after Martin had passed my car (I saw you slowing down to admire it), I heard a wader of some sort, calling, but I couldn't identify the call, neither could I locate the bird.
I wondered whether to check Garw Nant for shrike or check the res, but had an urge to go to Llyn Fach instead, so not knowing that there were GND on Llwyn-on, I headed for there. Parking by the entrance to Tower forest, I checked the sallows below for Cobalt Crust and finding some on a dead sallow twig.
I walked in, along the main forest ride, which is being improved in readiness for the lorries that will be bringing in the sections of the wind turbines. Some bullfinches were calling in the sallows closer to Tower colliery and a charm of around twenty goldfinches flew out of conifers. Little else was seen, apart from a couple of woodcock and a flock of fourteen crossbills, in the spruce trees, on the morains, below Llyn Fach.
Checking the seed heads of the purple moorgrass, as I walked in and at Llyn Fach, I found quite a lot of the fruiting bodies of the deadly fungus Ergot (Claviceps purpurea). I have also seen it in the seed heads of Cock's-foot grass, but it is when it grows in the seed heads of cereal crops that it gets ground up with the flour and eaten by humans, leading to a potentially deadly form of poisoning, called ergotism.

According to Roger Phillips' 'Mushrooms', it is deadly poisonous, with symptoms including burning pains and gangrene in the limbs, or hallucinations and psychosis, usually leading to death.

Just as I was leaving lovely Llyn Fach, the rain started and I had a wet hour's walk back to the car.

1 comment:

  1. Great read Mark and i see you did not try the Ergot claviceps purpurea and may have seen more birds or pink elephants.I have so it and just thought it was dirt on the seed.