Thursday, 21 September 2017

Alien invader (revisited) …

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. As global warming advances this exotic species may well become more common in Britain. One thing is for sure, its striking 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, 15 September 2017

Frozen in time …

Bearded Tooth (Hericium erinaceus)


Despite its somewhat neutral colouring, H. erinaceus is, by any standards, one of the most striking and beautiful of all woodland fungi.

It is a rare tooth fungus of dead or damaged hardwood trees in old woodland where it grows mainly on beech and oak. Its delicate pendent spines giving it the appearance of a waterfall frozen in time. It is confined mainly to southern England and eastern Wales. H. erinaceus is of conservation concern across its European range. It is listed as one of only four non-lichenised fungi on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and is thereby accorded the highest level of protection for a fungus in the UK. It is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species.

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. 470, fig. p. 471.
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. 233.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 327, fig. e.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 280, fig. p. 281.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Coeur de Sorcière …

Red Cage (Clathrus ruber)






Rarely seen in Britain, C. ruber is a striking and unforgettable species, which was first recorded in Britain from the Isle of Wight in 1844 (British Mycological Society, FRDBI Database, 2017).

Like its close relative the Devil’s Fingers C. archeri, C. ruber emerges from a partly buried, grey-white, gelatinous, uneven, egg-shaped, volva. As the ‘egg’ ruptures, the fruiting body rises and expands to reveal a pale salmon-orange to reddish-orange, hollow, fragile, cage-like network of connecting spongy branches. They erupt and then collapse in little more than 24 hours. Within two or three days all signs of the fruitbody have generally disappeared. The inner surface is lined with a sticky, greenish, fetid gleba, smelling of faeces, carrion or rotten meat which is designed to attract flies, such as the Calliphora sp. in the top image above, which are the primary agents of spore dispersal.

In France this strange stinkhorn is known as Coeur de Sorcière, the Sorcerer’s Heart, which I must say I rather like.

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. g.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 244, fig. p. 245.
Stijve, T. (1997). Close Encounters with Clathrus ruber, the latticed stinkhorn. Australasian Mycological Newsletter, 16(1), pp. 11-15.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

A bird in the bush …

Fluted Bird's Nest (Cyathus striatus)

Or in this case a log pile …




The funnel-shaped fruitbodies of C. striatus are always a pleasure to find. However, although often clustered in large groups, they are easily overlooked because they are small and inconspicuous and because their habitat is typically dark, damp woodland.

They initially form as light-brown hairy inverted cones on decayed hardwood or woody debris. With age they become darker and a white protective membrane, the epiphragm, appears and opens, exposing a hollow interior containing a small number of silver-grey egg-like spore cases, or peridioles. Each peridium [nest] typically contains four or five flattened peridioles [eggs]. Whilst the outside of a peridium is covered with grey-brown to orange-brown hairs, the inner surface is hairless but fluted [striated] vertically - referred to in both the common name and the specific epithet. The peridia grow to around 15 to 20mm in height and 6 to 10mm in diameter with a steady taper outwards towards the rim. The individual peridioles are characteristically 1 to 2mm across.

My thanks to Nick Aplin of the Sussex Fungus Group who kindly supplied the above photomicrograph showing the basidiospores.

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. 442, fig. p. 443.
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. 307.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 337, fig. g.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 272, fig. p. 273.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Prima ballerina …

Silky Rosegill (Volvariella bombycina)



The balletic and rather beautiful V. bombycina is an infrequent to rare find in Britain and Ireland.

It typically emerges from knot holes and other damaged areas high up on standing deciduous trees. It is not parasitic, and even when observed on living trees it is invariably attached to dead wood. The fruiting bodies, shown in the above images, have appeared within the same hollow trunk of a rotting beech tree for at least the last two years.

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. 258, fig. p. 259.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 155, fig. g.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 162, fig. p. 163.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Is this what I think it is …

It sure is ...

Tiered Tooth (Hericium cirrhatum)






H. cirrhatum is a very rare tiered tooth fungus of dead hardwood trees in old woodland. It has been reported from several sites in southern England, notably the New Forest, but nowhere is it common. The above images, of a selection of fruiting bodies found on a fallen beech, are from Sussex. This remarkable fungus and other members of the Hericiaceae are distinguished by their icicle-like spines. H. cirrhatum produces irregular cream fruitbodies with little or no real stem. The whole fruitbody is usually 5 to 10 cm across, often occurring in tiered groups covering a large area. As they develop they often overlap and form fused groups.

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. 470, fig. p. 471.
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. 233.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 327, fig. g.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 280, fig. p. 281.

Monday, 3 July 2017

1976 (and other hot summers) …

How times have changed …


The prolonged spell of extremely hot weather in 1976, from mid June to the end of August, including fifteen consecutive days where a maximum temperature of 32°C or more was recorded somewhere in the UK, was one of the most protracted heatwaves within living memory. Below average rainfall was notable from May 1975 through to August 1976 resulting in one of the most significant droughts on record.

Apart from the unbearable temperature, the one thing I will always remember from the summer of 1976, in addition to sitting my final exams at school, was the abundance of Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) in Worth Forest, my local Sussex woodland. Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria euphrosyne) and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (B. selene) were also abundant to the point where we took them for granted; after all they would always be there - or so we thought. A. paphia is fortunately still present in many Sussex woodlands but our smaller woodland fritillaries are sadly now absent from most of their former haunts. B. selene, which became extinct in Sussex in 2013, is now the subject of a reintroduction programme to its former stronghold.

A warning to value what we have and not take things for granted.

More at:

Blencowe, M. and Hulme, N. (2017). The Butterflies of Sussex. Newbury, Berkshire: Pisces Publications on behalf of Butterfly Conservation (Sussex Branch), pp. 136-145, 146-151 and 152-157.
Pratt, C. R. (2011). A Complete History of the Butterflies and Moths of Sussex. Peacehaven, East Sussex: Colin R. Pratt, 2, pp. 257-261, 261-265 and 275-278.