The woods near where we live are mainly birch & pine woodland, with some oak trees. On bright winter days they are lovely places to walk in for inspiration, with dappled sunlight through the trees & crisp leaves underfoot. This time I was also keeping my eyes open for fungi or other potential sources of dye colour.
Fallen birch bark is abundant & is a useful source of pink & tan shades, especially if one has the patience to separate the inner bark from the outer bark. The leaves of fir trees can be used for yellows & the fallen dried oak leaves give brown shades.
I think the lower bracket fungus is a birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus). I read recently that the Ice Man, whose body was discovered buried in ice in the Swiss Alps, after lying there for over 4000 years, was apparently carrying some fragments of birch polypore, attached to his clothing by leather thongs. It is thought that he was carrying these fragments for medicinal purposes, as birch polypore is considered to have anti-bacterial properties. In the past, it was also dried & used to sharpen razors, hence its alternative common English name, Razor-strop fungus. When we visited the Viking museum at Haithabu in northern Germany some years ago, I was interested to learn that the Vikings used walnut solutions as an anti-bacterial soak for their clothing.
These bracket fungi were very high up on the tree and somewhat out of reach of my camera. They looked quite spectacular, sitting together in splendid isolation above the forest floor.
The pleasure of exploring the woodland & coming across such treasures is a real inspiration during the winter months. The experience is enough in itself, whether or not I find useful sources of dye colour. Even without new “finds”, there will always be plenty to fill my dyepots & never enough time for all the experiments I’d like to do.