Monday, 27 March 2017

Looking beyond the obvious …

Phacidium lauri




The tiny ascomycete fungus P. lauri (Helotiales: Phacidiaceae) found in West Sussex and photographed on the decaying leaves of Ilex aquifolium.

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

References:

Crous, P.W., Quaedvlieg, W., Hansen, K., Hawksworth, D.L. and Groenewald, J. Z. (2014). Phacidium and Ceuthospora (Phacidiaceae) are congeneric: taxonomic and nomenclatural implications. IMA Fungus, 5(2), pp. 173-193.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Ready to strike …

European Adder (Vipera berus)


The Adder Vipera berus is the only venomous snake in Britain. It is easily recognised by the dark zigzag stripe running down the length of the spine. There is also a row of dark spots along each side and a V or X shape on the back of the head. It has red eyes and is the only native reptile with a vertically split pupil. Background colours vary from grey-white in the male to various shades of brown or copper in the female. On occasion, completely black specimens are described. Males grow to around 60cm in length and the females to around 75cm. Both sexes tend to have a rather stocky appearance.

V. berus is found throughout Britain right up to the north of Scotland. In Scandinavia its range extends into the Arctic Circle. It is not, however, found in Ireland. It likes open habitats such as heathland, moorland, open woodland and sea cliffs, and rarely strays into gardens.

The best time to see V. berus is during early spring when they emerge from their hibernation sites. By mid April, the males have shed their dull winter skin and are ready to mate. On warm humid days there is a lot of frenzied behaviour, with males looking for females and occasionally dueling with other males for territorial supremacy. The males writhe around each other in an impressive way, often covering the ground at great speed. It is an impressive site if you are fortunate to witness it.

References:

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Peziza ...

Anything but straightforward …








During a recent search of old parkland in West Sussex I found a small colony of the above cup fungi, which I believed to be a Peziza species. They were growing amongst a chipped softwood mulch at the base of a large cedar tree.

Cup fungi, the brown ones in particular, are especially difficult to identify with certainty. Having photographed a representative selection of the specimens, I collected several samples and later passed them to Nick Aplin, the county recorder for ascomycetes, for his opinion. Nick has tentatively identified them as Peziza varia s.l. Species delimitation in this group is quite controversial and there are several undescribed species, which could be a good fit as the spores from my collection were just a bit large for P. varia. The samples have been dried with view to DNA barcoding and further study later in the year. My thanks to Nick for his time and opinion and for the above photomicrograph.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Aroma-dentity ...

Fragrant Funnel (Clitocybe fragrans)




Widespread and common throughout much of Britain, C. fragrans can be found in both deciduous and coniferous woodland, often amongst mosses and grasses, and also on woodchip mulch in gardens. Although superficially resembling many other ‘brown’ fungi it has a sickly-sweet anise scent [along with a number of other species], which forms an element of the characteristics of this species. The above specimen was recently photographed in a mature conifer plantation in West Sussex.

My thanks to Nick Aplin of the Sussex Fungus Group who kindly confirmed the identification.

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. 168, fig. p. 169.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 92, fig. p. 93 (c).
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 118, fig. p. 119.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Your challenge is to find them somewhere else …

Spring Hazelcup (Encoelia furfuracea)






Having eagerly jumped at Clare’s proposition, “Your challenge is to find them somewhere else now”, I then stopped and really thought about it in more detail. Just how hard was this going to be? Did I stand any chance? Well, as luck would have it, fortunately not too hard as after looking at more Common Hazel Corylus avellana than I care to remember and, fortunately just a short drive down the road from where I live, I managed to find four small groups in private woodland on the outskirts of Kirdford, West Sussex.

As with many things in life, once you know what you are looking for e.g. its size, shape, colour, habitat, season, etc., things start to get a little bit easier. However, although widespread, E. furfuracea 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 C. avellana it has occasionally been recorded on Common Alder Alnus glutinosa.

My thanks to Clare, Jim and Dawn for their guidance in the first instance …

References:

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

Saturday, 11 March 2017

A welly full of water …

Bog Beacon (Mitrula paludosa)





Early spring and summer is the time to look for M. paludosa. This saprotrophic [feeding on dead organic matter] earthtongue is usually found on the remains of higher plants, mosses and algae in areas of seeping or standing water including streams, ditches and pond margins. Although widespread in Britain it can be difficult to find and is generally uncommon. Despite its bright yellow-orange head and its gregarious behaviour, it is easily overlooked. You will not find M. paludosa where the habitat is unsuitable, but neither should you assume that where the habitat is suitably boggy with plenty of decomposing vegetation it will appear - more often than not it doesn't.

Be careful of the depth of the water though …

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. 385.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 367, fig. p. 366 (h).
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 304, fig. p. 305.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Wet woodland on a winter’s day …

Scarlet Elfcup (Sarcoscypha austriaca)





The stunning S. austriaca, commonly referred to as Scarlet Elfcup, is widespread but generally only occasional throughout Britain and Ireland. It appears in winter and early spring on dead hardwood twigs in damp, shady places, usually partly buried amongst moss and leaf litter. The fruiting body is cup-shaped with a smooth scarlet interior. Of course identification is never as easy as it may first seem as the macroscopically almost identical S. coccinea, the Ruby Elfcup, occurs in similar environments. The two can only reliably be identified by DNA analysis or, to those of us without such facilities being readily available, microscopic examination of the tomentum [microscopic hairs on the outer surface of the cups] and spores.

The above images show a small selection of specimens recently photographed in West Sussex. My special thanks to Nick Aplin of the Sussex Fungus Group who kindly supplied the photomicrograph and confirmed their identification by observing the distinctive ascospore germination and the depressed spore poles which separate S. austriaca and S. coccinea.

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. 608, 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, pp. 21, 62, 309 and 387.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 367, fig. p. 366 (i).
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 326, fig. p. 327.