Sunday, 11 September 2016

Here comes the rain

Another day out with the Sussex Fungus Group yesterday, to Stedham Common near Midhurst – coinciding perfectly with the arrival of the Autumn rain. 

Stedham Common has an interesting mosaic of habitats including birch woodland, coniferous woodland and heath. Apparently the group's last visit generated a list of around 100 species for the site, including a first-for-Britain on the cattle dung, but we didn't expect to see as many this time. It has been so dry.

From the car park you enter a mixed woodland of birch and conifers. Here we saw a few small, well-nibbled Chanterelle Cantharellus cibarius growing amongst the leaf litter. The colour of the cap and the decurrent gills which run down the stipe make this species quite distinctive.

Alongside the main track which runs from the car park we saw a huge Chicken of the Woods Laetiporus sulphureus. This species is beginning to feel familiar as I've seen a few this year, starting with that gorgeous young one at Woods Mill in May.

Further down the main track – a treat for me as I've never seen one before
– we spotted this Cauliflower fungus Sparassis crispa. This one's a little past it's best.

Heading into a patch of coniferous woodland, I found this bracket fungus growing on pine. Nick Aplin identified it as a rather aged example of Purplepore Bracket Trichaptum abietinum. I think I've seen this before at Rowland Wood and not known what it was.

I gave up taking photographs after this, as the rain fell harder.

We got a few different species in a grassy, heath-y glade where the trees had been cleared. Four or five moderately-sized inkcaps grew around the edges of a small fire site – probably Coprinellus angulatus as these are burnt ground specialists. Two faded Plums and Custard Tricholomopsis rutilans poked out from behind a decaying tree stump – presumably pine. And a troop of Spotted Toughshank Rhodocollybia maculata grew under a conifer at the edge of the glad. 

We passed a few Brown Birch Bolete Leccinum scabrum on our way around. I have to confess I paid these scant attention as boletes still look all rather-the-same to me.  

Common earthballs Scleroderma citrinum were plentiful through the woodland at the eastern side of the reserve. Although I haven't figured out how you separate them from other species like Scaly Earthball S. verrucosum.

Nick also pointed out a new species for me from the same family as Turkeytail
Lumpy Bracket Trametes gibbosa, growing on a decaying tree stump.

And here's a photograph of Sussex Fungus Group folk. Wet, but with spirits undampened by the rain.

For the record
Date: 10 September 2016
Location: Stedham Common
Grid reference: SU856219 (site centroid)

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Mushrooms on the verge

Spotted these mushrooms growing on the verge on my way home from work this evening.

With these dusky pinkish-brown gills, ...

this stem which tapers towards the base, ...

And that fugacious ring, ...

I reckon it's a Field Mushroom Agaricus campestris.

For the record
Date: 8 September 2016
Location: Small Dole (verge adjacent to the Shoreham Road)
Grid reference: TQ214131 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Birchden Wood

Had my first trip out with the Sussex Fungus Group on Saturday at Birchden Wood, near Groombridge.

I rarely venture this far into the north of East Sussex but the journey made me feel I should come more often. Past Maresfield, I took the scenic route through Fairwarp, Duddleswell and Hartfield, enjoying the views across Ashdown Forest.

Having been too disorganised to bring lunch, I hoped there'd be a bakery when I got to Groombridge and I wasn't disappointed.

The Village Bakery furnished me with a 'Sussex pasty' and I pressed on to Birchden Wood and my rendezvous with the Sussex Fungus Group.

Over the course of this year, as I've laboured over identifying (or trying to identify) each mushroom I've found, I have occasionally wondered how I'll cope when the main season hits. How will I make sense of the autumnal abundance of fungi?

I don't have a head for lists, so trying to remember the name of every species that's pointed out to me is hopeless. Making the observation is the interesting bit for me: learning something about what I'm looking at. I decided I'd focus on getting my head around the different families of fungi and not worry too much about remembering the species names. If I could remember a few of the more distinctive species so much the better.

Arriving at car park I found Nick Aplin and Martin Allison were there to lead the foray. Once everyone had arrived, we were seven, and we headed into Birchden Wood.

The first section we came across was mixed woodland. Nick, who has an eye for the small stuff, quickly turned up Twig Parachute Marasmiellus ramealis among the leaf litter.

Not far away, he also found Marasmius rotula, a rather similar-looking species except M. rotula has this collar around the stem. Apparently, Marasmiellus species never have a collar, so that's one way to tell which family you're in.

Marasmius rotula with its distinctive collar.

In the same stretch of woodland, Martin found an interesting Cortinarius (or 'Webcap') species, with Poplar.

I don't think I've knowingly seen a Cortinarius before. Here's Martin showing me the web-like strands which cover the gills of the young mushroom.

Nick found another specimen showing the cobweb-y veil at the top of the stipe which has caught the rust-coloured spores.

It wasn't possible to identify this Cortinarius to species in the field, so Martin took a specimen to determine at home.

As we walked through the woodland, we saw a few Russulas poking up through the leaf litter. I'd rather got the impression that Russulas are impossibly hard. But Martin said he finds them fairly easy. Well, I guess everything's easy when you know how, but I can see what he meant – there's a logic to identifying Russulas.

Martin carried with him an iron sulphate crystal (more fungus-hunting paraphenalia!) rubbing this against the stipe creates a chemical reaction which colours differently in different species. The extent to which the cap peels away is also a key feature. And taste, although I wasn't quite brave enough to try this.

From the mixed woodland, we crossed a large patch of sphagnum and headed into birch woodland. Not a great deal of fungus on display here, but Martin did find an impressive Chicken of the Woods Laetiporus sulphureus which I recognised immediately as the same thing I'd seen at Woods Mill earlier in the year. I embarrassed myself at this point, blurting out, "Turkeytail!" as my brain had made the wrong poultry connection. Thankfully people were very understanding and a conversation ensued about the surprising number of fungus species with poultry-related names  (see also, Hen of the Woods).

Around here we saw quite a few Common Earthballs Scleroderma citrinum.

These were considerably bigger than the earthballs I've seen previously (see here and here) which makes me think I've been misidentifying them.

Emerging from the birch woodland, we strolled down a dirt track with a narrow grassy strip at each side. As we approached a junction, I saw some large-ish mushrooms poking up through the grass.

It turns out these were a Melanoleuca species (or 'Cavaliers'). I was surprised to note these mushrooms with their flattish beige caps, creamy white gills and tall stems so-slender it's a wonder they can hold the cap up drew surprisingly little enthusiasm from our group of forayers.

Here we are, being not-very-enthusiastic:

Nick explained that, as a group, the Melanoleuca are not well-described and the species concepts are often ambiguous or conflicting. So it's hard to identify these to species level with real certainty. After some hesitation, Martin decided he'd rise to the challenge and took a specimen home for further examination.

At the top of the slope, we came to a beech woodland (with so many habitats to choose from, I was beginning to see why this had been chosen as a foray destination). Here we came across a few species I recognised: Blushing Bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa, Yellowing Curtain Crust Stereum subtomentosum (although I took it for Turkeytail at first), Dead Man's Fingers Xylaria polymorpha and Green Elfcup Chlorociboria aeruginascens, fruiting rather splendidly.

Emerging from the beech woodland, I was rather delighted when we came across this Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus, growing in association with a beech root.

Here it is in all its glory.

From there we headed down through a conifer plantation, where it was rather too dry to find any more fungi, back to the car park.

That is the end of my first foray with the Sussex Fungus Group.

But, if you remember, I had a pasty to eat. So there is a minor post-script to this story as I wandered in the direction of Harrison's Rocks to find a nice place for a spot of lunch.

Atop one of the sandstone outcrops, I spotted something.

A handsome bracket fungus growing on the broken trunk of a beech tree.

 It's one of THESE!

Either Southern Bracket Ganoderma australe or Artist's Bracket Ganoderma applanatum.

And, in case you're wondering, the pasty was one of the best I've ever had. 

For the record:
Date: 3 September 2016
Location: Birchden Wood
Grid reference: TQ5336 / TQ5335

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Mushrooms, thousands of 'em

Entering Hoe Wood, I noticed a small cluster of mushrooms nestled between the roots of an oak tree up ahead.

As I walked further on I realised, these same mushrooms were... everywhere.

Tight clusters of them pressed up against the oak trees.

In fact most of the oak trees in the wood had mushrooms for company.

I think these are Spindle Toughshank Collybia (Gymnopus) fusipes, a common mushroom which grows at the base of deciduous trees, especially oak.

They grow in tightly fused clusters and the stipe tapers down to the root base. Like a spindle (if anyone knew what a spindle looks like any more).

The Collins (illustrated) Fungi Guide describes the gills as "crowded", while the Collins Complete (photographic) Guide describes them as "very distant". So that's not very helpful. Both books say the gills are rather irregular.

Well, I'd say these are rather irregular. And more distant than crowded.

The time of year is right for Spindle Toughshank Collybia (Gymnopus) fusipes too.

For the record
Date: 22/06/2016
Location: Hoe Wood, Small Dole [private site]
Grid reference: TQ2113 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Some like it hot

Thought I'd nip across to Hoe Wood at lunchtime, see what's happening.

Spotted this on the way there a bracket fungus growing on a fallen bough of a big old willow tree.

Wasn't sure what it was at first, but the Collins Complete (photographic) Guide has a handy section at the back highlighting species to look out for in particular habitats. Blushing Bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa is one of the species it says to look out for on willows.

I have seen Blushing Bracket before in almost exactly the same spot, but only in its old age when the brackets turn a deep beetroot colour.

These young Blushing Brackets are all shades of white and beige. You have to give them a squeeze to make them blush, and then the underside turns a deep reddish brown.

My thumb print.

I think these must be very fresh. When I brushed away a fallen leaf from the surface, I noticed the fungal tissue had grown up beneath it, creating a perfect impression.

It will be interesting to see how long they stay this white.

Despite lingering a while by these Blushing Brackets, I did make it as far as Hoe Wood today where I was surprised to find yet more things were happening in the fungal kingdom, in the dry heat of August.

Unfortunately my camera battery didn't make it that far. So that story might have to wait until tomorrow, and another lunch break.

For the record
Date: 17/08/2016
Location: Woods Mill
Grid reference: TQ218136

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Smooth and elegant

I fancied a stroll after work this evening and headed north out of Small Dole towards Oreham Common. At the edge of the public footpath, as I approached Oreham Manor, I happened to catch a glimpse of these.

Sprouting from a well-rotted log, beneath some scrubby trees and surrounded by lanky-looking light-starved nettles, was a colony of... well... what?

I imagined they'd be some kind of oyster mushroom. But a quick up-stipe shot revealed... no gills!

By now I was flicking frantically through the pages of my Collins Complete (photographic) Guide, looking for mushrooms with (a) no gills, and (b) no visible pores. No joy.

At this point I decided to phone Michael, who has been very supportive of my fungi-finding exploits, and ask if he would come and meet me, bringing a copy of the Collins (illustrated)  Fungi Guide, which I'd earlier decided was too heavy to put in my rucksack.

Perusal of the Collins (illustrated) Fungi Guide convinced me I must be somewhere in the genus Polyporus – stemmed polypores with a "toadstool-like fruit body; often with excentric or lateral stem; on wood". But I couldn't match what I was looking at to any of the species described in the book, so I took a small specimen for closer examination at home.

Here it is:

What to say about it?

The elegant outline is perhaps its most striking feature making stipe and cap one seamless sweeping structure,  finished off with a thin and perfectly-rolled rim.

The underside of the cap is an attractive chalky-white colour, with a gradual transition through shades of mousy-brown to the base of the stipe.

The mouse-brown cap has a slightly waxy finish and the underside appears perfectly smooth. Even with a hand lens, I can't make out any pores.

And it has a pleasant mushroomy smell.

The closest match I can find in the Collins (illustrated)  Fungi Guide is the Fringed Polypore Polyporus ciliatus, which fruits in Spring to late Summer widespread but uncommon. (This species isn't included in the Collins 'Complete' (photographic) Guide.)

But I read somewhere else that Polyporus ciliatus is so called because it has fine bristly hairs on the cap and margin. Even looking down the microscope, I can't see any hairs. The rim just looks, well, smooth.

Might share this one on the Sussex Fungus Group forum and see what they think.

UPDATE 05/09/16

I got a second opinion on this Polyporus from the Sussex Fungus Group. The consensus there was it's likely to be a young example of the Bay Polypore Picipes (=Polyporus) badius, but I'd have to get a look at a mature specimen to be sure. 

On Thursday evening I headed north again, out of Small Dole, to get another look at these mushrooms. 

More than two weeks had passed since I last set eyes on them, and this is how I found them: brown, leathery and wavy.

On these fresher specimens, you can see the darker centre to the bay-brown cap, which is indicative of Bay Polypore Picipes (=Polyporus) badius.

On the underside, miniscule pores are just visible to the naked eye and the stipe is a dark chocolate brown colour. 

The Collins Complete (photographic) Guide says there is another species, the Blackfoot Polypore P. leptocephalus (=P. varius), which is similar to P. badius. But in P. leptocephalus only the base of the stipe is black.

I thought at first the light brown dusting on the upper surface of these mushrooms was just dirt, but I think it's some kind of mould.

If I was a hardcore mycologist I'd try and ID this too. I'm not. (Not yet anyway.)

For the record
Date: 16/08/16
Location: Oreham Manor
Grid reference:

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Summer Fungi

With a heatwave around the corner, I was keen to get out and find some fungi this weekend before everything gets frazzled.

I decided to head for Horton Wood, a small corner of ancient semi-natural woodland near Small Dole.

Nestled amongst the dry leaf litter, I found these earthballs.

There are a few species of earthball which all look quite similar. I'm hazarding a guess that this is the Common Earthball Scleroderma citrinum as, according to the Collins (illustrated) Fungi Guide, this species is "attached at base to substrate with coarse whitish mycelial strands." I think I can see these strands in these in the photograph below. Although, at 3 cm diameter, it is a little on the small side for a Common Earthball.

 Here's what it looks like inside:

A little further on I found these. 

Having found Dead Moll's Fingers Xylaria longipes a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure if these are a stubby example of those, or a not-very-stubby example of Dead Man's Fingers Xylaria polymorpha.

Here's a better view of one of those 'fingers'. I'm thinking it's Dead Man's Fingers Xylaria polymorpha but I'm none too confident about it.

This Ganoderma species was looking lovely and fresh, emerging from the base of this windblown tree (possibly Ash?).

I'm desperate to know if this is Southern Bracket Ganoderma australe or Artist's Bracket Ganoderma applanatum. But I haven't figured out how to separate the two (something to do with the size of the pores and spores – beyond my ken). I looked for the tiny galls which would indicate Artist's Bracket. Didn't find any.

Towards the southern end of the wood, the leaf litter gives way to a different kind of litter as Horton Wood lies adjacent to Horton Landfill site (now closed).

It was here, among the bottle tops and food wrappers, I laid eyes upon this little beauty.

I believe this a Russula of some kind. As the Collins (photographic) Guide says, their colour is "often fugitive." So this delightful dusky mauve cap doesn't tell me much.

It had a surprise in store for me when I turned it over, as it was home to these tiny creatures.

Investigations in the internet suggest these may be Nemastoma bimaculatum, a kind of harvestman. Bimaculatum means "two-spotted" and you can just about make out two spots in one of my photographs, if you zoom right in:

I wish I'd had as much success identifying the mushroom. What I can tell you is:
  • It's surprisingly un-brittle for a Russula, given their common name – the brittlegills
  • The skin peels to about halfway up the cap
  • The gills are adnate (more of less)
  •  It doesn't smell of much
And I've got a bit sitting on a piece of glass on my desk, in the hope I'll get a spore print.

So far all these features are a match for the Charcoal Burner Russula cyanoxantha, a very common species which is found in mixed deciduous woodlands. But I don't think I can get away with saying it's that. 

For the record
Date: 14/08/16
Location: Horton Wood, Small Dole
Grid reference: TQ208127 (site centroid)