Friday, 24 February 2017

Ecclesiastical fungi ...

Cedar Cup (Geopora sumneriana)







G. sumneriana is an unusual ascomycete fungus which is typically found partially buried in small groups beneath cedar trees in parks, gardens and churchyards. This relatively large cup fungus initially develops underground as a hairy orange-brown to reddish-brown sphere before breaking through the soil surface and opening up to form a crown-shaped cup. It is a widespread though generally uncommon find in Britain. The above examples, including two specimens growing through the cracks in a tarmac path, were taken recently in an ancient churchyard 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. 610, fig. p. 611.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 367, fig. p. 366 (b).
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 314, figs. pp. 314 and 315.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

We can’t get any further without microscopy …

I’ve heard that one before …



Back in October 2016, when I seemed to have a bit more time on my hands, I spent a number of days hunting for fungal delights in the rich and varied woodlands of Ebernoe Common in West Sussex. Over 1000 species have been recorded here including many that are nationally rare.

With a passion for the smaller things in life, on Monday, 31st October I photographed the above species. The off-white fruiting bodies of this tiny ascomycete fungus, approximately 1 to 1.5mm across, were found on a rotting piece of timber, possibly English Yew Taxus baccata. Lachnum and Dasyscyphella are probably good guesses, but unfortunately I won’t get any further without a sample [which I didn’t take] and microscopy.

I’ll be taking sample pots next time …

References:

Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 316, fig. p. 317.

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.