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.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Rare or under recorded …

Guepiniopsis buccina






The tiny and rarely recorded G. buccina (Dacrymycetales: Dacrymycetaceae). Only 14 records are currently listed on the FRDBI database and 17 on the NBN Atlas [26 November 2017]. The above specimens were recently recorded and photographed at two sites in West Sussex and are new county records. My thanks to Nick Aplin for confirming identification and for the above photomicrographs which show the tuning fork shaped basidium in the left hand image and basidiospores in the right hand image.

References:

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The flea with green ears …

Flea’s Ear (Chlorencoelia versiformis)

What a great name ...



C. versiformis (Helotiales: Hemiphacidiaceae) is a rare saprotroph [an organism deriving nourishment from decaying organic matter] with a restricted range on dead wood of broadleaved species. It is critically endangered in Britain having declined by more than 50% both pre and post 1960.

References:

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Variation in concept …

Sowerbyella radiculata

Until someone calls it something else …




The British Mycological Society records 124 British records of S. radiculata (Pezizales: Pyronemataceae) on its FRDBI database [18 October 2017] with just 5 from Sussex; the most recent being in 1957 from Friston Forest, East Sussex. There are two early records, one dating back to 1876, from Stopham, West Sussex. However, S. radiculata has also been recorded from Lullington Heath, East Sussex, where it was first recorded in 2014. There is also a modern record from Ashdown Forest, East Sussex (M. Allison, 2017, pers. comms., 14 October).

Buczacki et al. (2012) state, ‘usually in small trooping-tufted groups’ and ‘on soil with conifers.’ Sterry et al. (2009) state, ‘solitary or in small groups in coniferous woodland.’ The above specimens were found amongst coastal chalk grassland in East Sussex; so quite distinct in habitat from that described. There is a lot of variation in the current concept of this uncommon species, including a few ‘varieties’, which will no doubt be described as separate species in the future. Apart from the untypical habitat in which the above examples were found, the spores are quite wide and have a nice dense reticulate ornamentation; shown above dyed with Cotton Blue.

My thanks to Nick Aplin for the above photomicrograph and his considered opinion.

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.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 324, fig. p. 325.

Monday, 16 October 2017

The force awakens …

Collared Earthstar (Geastrum triplex)







Although an infrequent and rather localised species, G. triplex is probably the most commonly found of the British Geastrum species.

Initially appearing as a part-buried ball with a prominent beak, the mature fruiting body eventually comprises of an outer star, an inner saucer-like collar (sometimes), and a central spore sac. The onion-shaped fruitbody splits open at maturity and 5 to 8 creamy-buff outer rays fold back, splitting to sometimes leave a fleshy collar as the remainder of each ray folds downwards and the tips curl partway under the body. A pointed hole, known as a peristome, situated on top of the sac releases spores when the wind blows across it or raindrops impinge upon its surface. The sides of the peristome are fibrous and appear rather ragged but not regularly striate. A fuzzy ring surrounds the peristome, which is slightly paler fawn-brown than the rest of the outer surface of the spore-sac.

With their extraterrestrial appearance members of the Geastraceae are always a pleasure to find …

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. 440, fig. p. 441.
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. 305.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 335, figs. f and g.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 270, fig. p. 271.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Helvella …

Felt Saddle (Helvella macropus)


A somewhat uncommon find, probably exacerbated by its form and rather drab and discreet colouring, H. macropus is nevertheless widespread across Britain and Ireland. It is one of several 'saddle fungi' that appear in forests, particularly beside footpaths. The mature fruiting bodies, as pictured above, appear as shallow cups perched on delicate stems. Like their close relatives the morels, saddle fungi may have the capacity to form mycorrhizal relationships with woodland trees, but it is also clear that they can live as saprobes, feeding on woody debris.

Ebernoe Common is well recorded for fungi so it was nice to add a new species to the reserve list. My thanks to Ann for pointing me in the right direction …

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.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 310, fig. p. 311.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Sweet smell of decay …

Common Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)










P. impudicus is the commonest of the British stinkhorns, with a smell that is typically detected long before the fungus is actually found. However, detecting their pungent odour does not necessarily guarantee finding them - though following your nose will often reap rewards. They are saprobic and usually gregarious; so where you find one you will often find others.

The ‘eggs’ can be found at any time of year but they usually lie dormant until the summer months. Within the egg the fruitbody develops. In the above picture of a dissected egg the stipe material is in the central column and the olive-green gleba, which bears the spores, surrounds it. The developing raised honeycomb structure of the cap beneath the gleba is also visible. As soon as the cap emerges from the egg, insects, attracted by the putrid odour, are drawn to it and eat the gelatinous gleba exposing the raised honeycomb structure. Some of the gleba adheres to the legs of insects and this is how the spores get carried from one location to another.

To find specimens in pristine condition you ideally need to visit suitable locations at dawn, as nasal senses are heightened and before their devourers have discovered the phallus-shaped newborns that have erupted from their embryonic form during the night.

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. 446, fig. p. 447.
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. 302.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 338, fig. a.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 244, fig. p. 245.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

20,000 leagues …

Anemone or Starfish Stinkhorn (Aseroë rubra)








The aptly named Anemone or Starfish Stinkhorn Aseröe rubra is arguably the most striking of all stinkhorn species found in Britain. It is a non-native species, having been first imported to England from Australia, probably via the Netherlands, in around 1829, when it was first observed in Kew Gardens, in Surrey. To date, 2017, all other known recorded sightings in Britain have been from a few closely linked locations in the county of Surrey. A. rubra remains a restricted and very rare find in Britain. Fairly common in parts of southeast Australia, A. rubra occurs as a native species in Tasmania, New Zealand, South Africa and on several isolated islands in the Pacific. From its natural habitat it appears to have travelled to other parts of the world in garden or soil related products.

Like the other members of the Clathraceae, A. rubra emerges from a partly buried, gelatinous, egg-shaped, volva. As the ‘egg’ ruptures, its delicate, pinkish, cylindrical stem rises and expands from which 5-11 starfish-like red arms extend outwards from a flattened central platform coated with a sticky, dark greenish-brown gleba [fleshy spore-bearing mass of certain fungi]; designed to attract flies which are the principal agents of spore dispersal.

My thanks to Nick Aplin for the above photomicrograph showing the oval-shaped 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. 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. 303.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 339, fig. e.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 244, fig. p. 245.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Beauty and the beech …

Another world ...


Although their appearance might suggest that slime moulds are fungi, they are neither fungi nor moulds; though they often form spore-bearing structures that resemble those of true fungi. Most slime moulds are generally deemed by taxonomists to be protists; the oddities of the natural world that don't seem to fit in with the rest of our global taxonomic grouping system - though this classification is still open to some debate.

Although
 many species fruit on decaying wood, they do not form penetrating and absorptive masses of hyphae in the woody
 substrate. Instead, slime moulds form structures called
 plasmodia, which are naked [i.e. without cell walls] masses of 
protoplasm [a colourless material comprising the living part of a cell], which can move about and engulf particles, in an 
amoeboid-like manner, in order to maximize the nutrients they can draw from their food source. The plasmodia creep about over 
the surfaces of resources, consuming bacteria, fungal spores, plants, protozoa, and small particles of non-living organic
 matter. When conditions become unfavorable the plasmodia convert into spore-bearing structures known as sporangia [clusters of spores]. Spores from the sporangia are then dispersed to new habitats and the life cycle begins once again. The young sporangia, of what I believe to be Tubulifera arachnoidea, formerly Stemonitis ferruginosa, is pictured above living on a heavily decayed beech tree; this particular mass having a diameter of no more than 10mm.

Slime moulds are strange and wonderfully varied in appearance. When magnified through the eye of a macro lens another world is entered …

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, pp.78-79.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 334-335.

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.