Chickens in Trees

For the past 8 years I’ve been visiting a large grey poplar tree to have a look at the chickens roosting up in its boughs and clawing to its trunk. Normally I see such chickens doing their thing in/on willow, sweet chestnut, oak, yew, cherry and false acacia. Here’s a picture of the latest chicken I’ve been watching:

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So, yes of course, I’m not talking about actual chickens but about the wonderful fungus Laetiporus sulphureus, a k a chicken-of-the-woods or sulphur polypore. In this tree, one large mother fungus tends to grow every other year (occasionally in consecutive years) with several satellite fungi dotted around the trunk. This year I’ve just focused on documenting its growth. Alas, I missed the fungi’s very first appearance. But, fortunately, whilst out and about, I discovered another huge old and dried one on a willow, still firmly attached, from last year. I removed it all as I’ve discovered that doing so is more likely to encourage it to fruit in subsequent years. This year grey poplar COTW, next year weeping willow COTW, perhaps!

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Fergus Drennan is a wild food experimentalist and educator, runs regular full day total immersion foraging courses for the general public and privately, he has written regularly on wild food and foraging for many international magazines and publications.

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