Botanical Mountain Biking part 2 - late summer and autumn

During the pandemic I've been doing quite a lot of cycling on my own in the woods near to Wageningen. Earlier this year, I discovered that a great way to liven up the rides is to try and look out for a new plant to photograph every time. As we got into summer and then autumn, that got progressively harder. In August, there was still quite a lot in flower, like the Galium mollugo in the photo below, but by September it was definitely getting more difficult. The Galium is a nice example of a tiny flower which normally you might not give a second glance to, and might even look a bit scruffy, but in close up has an exquisite beauty.

Gallium mollugo

As the autumn arrived, we were treated to an incredibly large amount of fruits from trees and shrubs like beech, oak and hazel (the photo below). Actually that photo is a bit of a cheat because it was taken in my garden, but it is a native plant that found its own way there. Although trees like the oak do have some acorns every year, every few years it is a 'mast year' and they have large numbers of nuts. The evolutionary advantage is that in those years they produce so much food that animals like wild boar and jays  cannot manage to eat them all, so there will be some left over to make seedlings. If they did that every year, it would be too big a drain on resources and also the animal populations would just increase in size until they could eat all the acorns. 'Mast' in this sense is derived from an Old German word meaning food, and the Dutch word is the same.

Once the spring and summer flowers were finished, it got harder to find a new species each ride. That means that I had to turn my attention to groups like grasses and rushes. When cycling past a rush plant, even at the moderate pace that I tend to go at, it is not so easy to see what the species is and I'm 100 meters past it by the time I've had a chance to think about it. However, seeing a lot of my rides have, by necessity, been along much the same tracks, I developed the trick of making a mental note of where something looked interesting and then going that way the next day. The rush below was a good example of that. It turned out to be Juncus tenuis. That is a species which is native to North America and wasn't found here (in Holland) until 1821. Nowadays it is not uncommon and typically found in open dry disturbed areas like in the photo below.

Although the autumn doesn't have so many flowers, there has been plenty of spectacular oranges and reds this year. The American Oaks which are abundant in parts of the woods here have been especially impressive.

Autumn leaves

Modern botanists don't count fungi as plants, having given them a kingdom of their own, but back in the Dark Ages when I was a student, they still counted as plants. This autumn the toadstools were a little late coming, due to the drought, but once they came we had a lot. Oudemansiella mucida (= Mucidula mucida) is called porcelain fungus in English (and in Dutch as well), for obvious reasons when you look at the photo below. When I was taking the photo a little girl came up and said how pretty it was. Her father then came up and commented that the fungus was nice, but that he thought that my bike looked even better! 

Oudemansiella mucida

Most of the trees in the woods near here are relatively young. However, every so often I come across an old one like the Beech below, with a huge girth, which was growing next to the Amerongen mountain bike route. Very impressive and it had incredible textures on the bark. 

As the autumn comes to an end and winter comes on, it is going to be considerably harder to keep up finding a new species each ride. A challenge!

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