Strange sights

From ‘alien’ fungi and zom­bie bees to fright­en­ing-look­ing foods, the Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety is high­light­ing of some more un­usual finds you may come across if you’re for­ag­ing this au­tumn

Kentish Express Ashford & District - East Kent Property - - OUTDOORS -

Sweet­corn will have a rude awak­en­ing if smut in­vades. Smuts are fun­gal dis­eases that can af­fect leaves, stems and flow­ers. In the case of sweet­corn, af­fected plants are of­ten stunted and dis­torted and fea­ture grey and swollen ker­nels that burst to re­lease huge num­bers of black spores. Al­though con­sid­ered a del­i­cacy in some coun­tries, in most cases af­fected plants should be de­stroyed and the soil rested. Kicking up leaves this au­tumn? You might find these strange flower-like fungi which grow on dead or­ganic mat­ter, and are of­ten found in the leaf lit­ter be­neath conifers and de­cid­u­ous trees. These fas­ci­nat­ing fruit­ing bod­ies emerge dur­ing au­tumn when their bul­bous outer cas­ing folds out like the petals of a flower, cre­at­ing a star ef­fect. When rain or wind dis­turbs the earth­star, spores are re­leased through an open­ing at the top. A pupa is the stage be­tween the larva and adult of many in­sects. Some species of moth pu­pae are of­ten found in soil when tidy­ing up the gar­den. These brown cylin­ders, from 1cm to over 2cm in length, pointed at one end and ribbed, can wrig­gle when touched. They will emerge as adult moths come spring. Ei­ther re­turn them to the soil or place them in soil in a jar to ob­serve the moths. While the cater­pil­lars can cause some dam­age to plants, moths are im­por­tant pol­li­na­tors and cater­pil­lars are food for birds and other wildlife. Some pretty strange-shaped root veg come out of the ground at this time of year. Car­rots can ap­pear to have fangs, be split, curled, in­ter­twined or – best of all – opened out and flat­tened like a kip­per. Much dam­age, es­pe­cially kip­per­ing, is down to a virus in­fec­tion, but other dis­tor­tion is due to dam­age to the ten­der tip of the young root be­cause of con­tact with stones, dam­age from hoe­ing or weed­ing, or by mi­cro­scopic worms. Weird car­rots, al­though un­sightly to some, can of course still be eaten.

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