Monday, 5 December 2016

Strange case of the buried brain …

Scarlet Berry Truffle (Paurocotylis pila)






It is always nice to find something new even if at the time of finding it you didn't realise it was going to turn out to be a new county record; which is exactly what happened recently whilst hunting for Sussex fungi with good friend Colin Knight.

In its native range of New Zealand, the brain-like P. pila grows under Podocarpus and has evolved to imitate the plant's fruit. Its spores are dispersed by large birds, which eat the fallen fruits and are cunningly fooled into also eating the fungus. Taxus baccata, the tree species under which the fungus was discovered, and Podocarpus fruits are rather similar in appearance and are both bird-dispersed. It is therefore quite possible that P. pila has found a parallel ecological niche halfway around the world. Apparently there are many Antipodean fungi that have co-evolved with large birds to be truffle-like and imitate fruits but there is already evidence that these same species are evolving 'back' to be non-truffle-like following the extinction of many of these species, such as Dinornis the Giant Moa.

P. pila is a scarce find in Britain with currently only 35 records listed on the British Mycological Society’s Fungal Records Database of Britain and Ireland (FRDBI), with most of these coming from northern England and Scotland. The above images show a selection of the specimens we located emerging from the bare soil. In addition, Nick Aplin of the Sussex Fungus Group has kindly supplied a photomicrograph of the large spherical spores.

My thanks to Colin for finding it in the first place and to Nick for much of the information above and for providing the definitive identification.

References:

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Anatomy ...

Hare’s Ear (Otidea onotica)






Favouring deciduous woodlands, although occasionally located beneath conifers in mixed woodland, O. onotica often fruits in small clustered groups. Notwithstanding its modest size, where present and observed in good light, its beautiful pink-tinged, yellow-orange colour and distinctive ear-like form makes this a relatively easy fungus to detect. However, despite this and although fairly widespread throughout Britain and Ireland, O. onotica is an uncommon find in its woodland home.

The above images from a mixed deciduous woodland …

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 606, fig. p. 607.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 311.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 364, fig. c.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 324, fig. p. 325.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Alien invader …

Devil’s Fingers (Clathrus archeri)









The aptly named Devil’s Fingers, only rarely seen in southern Britain, is a striking species, which reached Europe from Australia or New Zealand at the start of World War I (1914). It was first recorded in Britain from Cornwall in 1946.

Like the Common Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus) and the Dog Stinkhorn (Mutinus caninus), C. archeri emerges from a partly buried, gelatinous, egg-shaped, volva. As the ‘egg’ ruptures, the fruiting body rises and expands and is typically comprised of 4-6 starfish-like red arms, with a sticky, dark greenish-brown gleba [fleshy spore-bearing mass of certain fungi] spreading along the inner surfaces; designed to attract flies which are the agents of spore dispersal.

As global warming advances this exotic species may become more common in Britain. One thing is for sure, its appearance and rancid smell guarantee that it will not go unnoticed for long …

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 448, fig. p. 449.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 304.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 339, fig. f.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 244, fig. p. 245.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Parasol ...

Parasol (Macrolepiota procera)





M. procera, the Parasol mushroom, is a large saprobic basidiomycete fungus with a conspicuous fruiting body resembling a parasol once fully expanded. Two forms are currently recognised. The nominate form, var. procera, is illustrated above. M. procera var. pseudo-olivascens, was defined in 1987 and is generally found under conifers; it differs visibly in developing olive stains on the cap surface. They can be found in woodland clearings and in grassy areas adjoining woodland, growing singly or in small scattered groups; also occasionally in permanent pasture and in stable sand dunes as well as, although less frequently, on disturbed ground such as in gardens and allotments. They are common in southern Britain and Ireland, though less common in northern England and Scotland.

The above specimens are examples from a Sussex woodland clearing; the largest located having a cap diameter of 24cm …

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 66, fig. p. 67.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 362.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 127, figs. c and d.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 80, fig. p. 81.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Phleogena ...

Fenugreek Stalkball (Phleogena faginea)



P. faginea is an infrequent to rare find in Britain with currently only 286 records listed on the British Mycological Society’s Fungal Records Database of Britain and Ireland (FRDBI). The images above are from a small colony I recently discovered in West Sussex on 6th November 2016; the fruiting bodies being located within the cracks between the bark of a living oak tree. Possibly overlooked due to its small size and nature, the NBN Gateway suggests this is predominantly a southern species.

Certainly one to look out for if you like them small …

References:

Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 338, fig. p. 339.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Middle-earth …

Green Elfcup (Chlorociboria aeruginascens)



C. aeruginascens is a widespread and common ascomycete fungus whose non-fruiting presence is evidenced by the conspicuous blue-green mycelium stained timbers. The beautiful cup-shaped fruiting bodies, generally 2 to 5mm across, are far less frequently encountered. Mainly fruiting during the autumn-winter period, it is always a pleasure to find fresh specimens of this tiny fungus ...

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 604, fig. p. 605.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, pp. 92-93.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 377, fig. g.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 308, fig. p. 309.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Life at the bottom …

Literally …




Many organisms perform a vital role in the nutrient cycle, particularly in assisting with the conversion of animal dung into humus. The organisms featuring most prominently in this role are insects, mainly flies and beetles, and various species of fungi.

Cowpats are home to a host of micro and macro fungi, but one of the early colonisers of cowpats, moving in as soon as there is a surface crust, is the tiny disc-like ascomycete fungus Cheilymenia (= Coprobia) granulata. They appear as flat or shallow concave discs, typically 1 to 2mm across and 0.5 to 1.5mm tall; yellowish-orange when fresh but drying darker; sessile; usually in groups and sometimes occurring in huge swarms. The fertile [upper] surface is bright orange, smooth in the centre but granular near the rim. Although probably overlooked by most people, this colourful ascomycete is a very common sight on animal dung throughout Britain and Ireland.

The key to identifying to species level the various species of Cheilymenia and Scutellinia (the other main group of eyelash-fringed disc fungi) of which there are close on 50 known in Britain and Ireland, is by microscopic examination of asci, spores and any hairs or 'lashes' that cover the infertile surface.

I have to say they remind me of sliced carrots ... !

References:

O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on Earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 372.
Skidmore, P. (1991). Insects of the British cow-dung community. Shrewsbury: Field Studies Council. Occasional Publication No. 21.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 344, fig. p. 345.