Wednesday, 11 April 2018

A case of mistaken identity …

Common argus / Brown blue !!!






When out and about I often hear comment from inexperienced observers on the difficulty in separating the Brown Argus Aricia agestis (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) from the ‘brown’ form of the female Common Blue Polyommatus icarus (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) in both field and photographic situations.

The blue present in female P. icarus is highly variable, with individuals ranging from almost completely blue through to almost, though extremely rarely, completely brown. In icarus some degree of blue scaling is typically present on the body, around the bases of the wings, and along the hindwing margins. It is this ‘brown’ form that causes the most confusion. A. agestis has no blue scales but may, in certain light, give off a bluish-green sheen from the upperside of its wings and the hairs found on the thorax and abdomen. Upperside diagnostic features include (i) the prominent dark discoidal spot normally found in the centre of the forewings of agestis, which, if visible, is usually much reduced in icarus, (ii) typically strongly marked orange lunules along the wing edges in agestis, and (iii), the outer margin fringes of the wings which generally appear as a light two-tone fringe in icarus typically appearing more whitish in agestis. A small dark extension of the venation into the border fringe is also characteristically present in agestis and, where present in icarus, typically much reduced.

Differentiating icarus and agestis from their undersides can be more problematic and here we need to resort to the pattern of spots. We have two main distinguishing features and a third less obvious. These are (i) icarus has a spot on the underside of the forewing that is absent in agestis, though this is not always visible if the wings are not fully open, and (ii), two of the spots on the leading edge of the hindwing are relatively-close in agestis, almost forming a figure of eight, but are more spaced apart in icarus. This second feature is particularly useful if the full underside of the forewing isn't visible. A third guide to determination, as per the upperside, is that the outer margin fringes of the wings which generally appear as a light two-tone fringe in icarus typically appear whitish in agestis; the small dark extension of the venation in agestis is also typically present.

Finally, and one mistake that many people make, is jumping to conclusions and thinking they have a brown ‘female’ icarus without first checking the abdominal length and form. If the specimen clearly shows an abdominal structure that is male, long and slender and extending just beyond the wing margin, as opposed to being more rounded and pointed in form and typically not extending beyond the hindwing margin, then it can’t possibly be a ‘brown’ female icarus.

The above images (top to bottom) show (i) a female agestis upperside, (ii) a female ‘brown’ icarus upperside, (iii) a strongly blue form female icarus, (iv) female agestis underside, and (v), a female icarus underside.

More at:

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Getting your eye in …

Alder Goblet (Ciboria caucus)




Found solitary or in small groups on the fallen male catkins of the Common Alder Alnus glutinosa or willows, C. caucus is a widespread species though one that is easily overlooked due to its small size and wet habitat.

References:

Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 369, fig. f.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 326, fig. p. 327.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Auricularia ...

Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae)


The gelatinous and often ear-shaped A. auricula-judae (Auriculariales: Auriculariaceae) is a widespread and common species. It can be found on living or dead branches of a wide variety of hardwoods but especially those of Sambucus nigra, the Black Elder. The above example, one of a small group, was recently photographed at Ebernoe Common in West Sussex.

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. 592, fig. p. 595.
Kibby, G. (2017). Mushrooms and Toadstools of Great Britain & Europe, Volume 1, pp. 100-101.
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. 298.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 290, fig. p. 291.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Signs of spring …

Spring Hazelcup (Encoelia furfuracea)




Although widespread, E. furfuracea (Helotiales: Sclerotiniaceae) is generally regarded as an uncommon find in Britain. This irregularly shaped cup fungus can be found during the winter and spring. Typically clustered in small groups on the dead wood of Common Hazel Corylus avellana it has occasionally been recorded on Common Alder Alnus glutinosa.

References:

Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 308, fig. p. 309.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Little brown jobs …

Cortinarius pratensis




There are just fourteen records for Cortinarius pratensis currently listed on the FRDBI database [February, 2018]. The above specimens were located in a West Sussex sand dune system during a detailed search of the area in December 2017. My thanks to Nick Aplin of the Sussex Fungus Group for confirming their identification. It’s a fairly nondescript brown toadstool but certainly one to look out for if you enjoy little brown jobs …

References:

Edwards, A. and Leech, T. (2017). Evidence for an interesting association between Cortinarius pratensis (Section Dermocybe) and Sand Sedge, Carex arenaria. Field Mycology, 18(3), pp. 78-81.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Fungi that bite ...

Velvet Tooth (Hydnellum spongiosipes)




H. spongiosipes (Thelephorales: Bankeraceae) is an uncommon stipitate hydnoid fungus. These are a group of ‘tooth fungi’ [fungi that release their spores from tooth-like structures], which have a short stalk or 'stipe', hence the name 'stipitate'.

Stipitate hydnoid fungi are ectomycorrhizal; forming close symbiotic relationships with trees and deriving some of their nutrients from the tree's roots. This aids them in obtaining nutrients where soil quality is poor and means they are always found in association with trees. H. spongiosipes is typically associated with oak, sweet chestnut and, less frequently, beech; this provides a useful, but not necessarily accurate way of distinguishing between this species and H. ferrugineum, which occurs mainly under pine.

References:

Ainsworth, A.M., Parfitt, D., Rogers, H.J. and Boddy, L. (2010). Cryptic taxa within European species of Hydnellum and Phellodon revealed by combined molecular and morphological analysis. Fungal Ecology, 3(2), pp. 65-80.
Dickson, G. (2000). A field key to British non-resupinate hydnoid fungi. Field Mycology, 1(3), pp. 99-104.
Kibby, G. (2017). Mushrooms and Toadstools of Great Britain & Europe, Volume 1, pp.40-41.
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. 203-205.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, pp. 323-327.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, pp. 296-301.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Neottiella ...

Neottiella (Octospora) rutilans




Despite its rich peach-orange appearance N. rutilans (Pezizales: Pyronemataceae) is a small ascomycete fungus that can easily be overlooked where it grows, buried amongst Polytrichum mosses on heathland or in light sandy soils. The shallow cup or disc-shaped fruiting bodies, growing to around 5-15mm across, may become undulating and somewhat contorted where several fruiting bodies are condensed and crowded together. The above examples were recently photographed in a Sussex dune system.

References:

Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 367, fig. p. 366, e.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 314, fig. p. 315.