Monday, 18 March 2019

Guess the species

Got this text from my mum at the weekend. Can you guess what she'd found at the bottom of the garden?

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A fine False Morel Gyromitra esculenta!

For the record
Date: 16/03/2019
Location: Haslemere

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Spring zing

Had a free morning and the sun was out, so seemed like a good opportunity for a poke around my local patch.

The Spring Hazelcup Encoelia furfuracea are out again. I find them around here every year.

Some patches looked like they'd been out for a while.

In the woods there is a windblown Ash which is home to a Ganoderma and King Alfred's Cakes Daldinia concentrica. Growing in the cracks of the bark, on the horizontal trunk, I came across a Peziza-type thing.

The outer surface is rough, with dark scales around the opening.

Expect I'll need to put some work into getting an ID on this one.

This rotting (birch?) log was home to some very intriguing fungi.

The bright tan caps of these little mushrooms were shrouded in a thick white veil, with a covering of gingery-brown scales, especially towards the top.

When I pulled one out for a closer look, I noticed patches of fine ginger threads growing over the substrate...

... Ah hah! I thought, I have seen this before: it looks like the gingery mat – or 'ozonium' – of Firerug Inkcap Coprinellus domesticus.

Except mycology is rarely so simple. The Collins Fungi Guide (Buckzacki) explains there are three other species which can be confused with Firerug Inkcap Coprinellus domesticus and also arise from an ozonium: C. ellisii (considered by some authors to be synonymous with C. domesticus), C. xanthothrix and C. radians.

Turning to Funga Nordica (Knudsen & Vesterholt), C. ellisii is included within the species concept they follow for C. domesticus. And it looks like C. domesticus, C. xanthothrix and C. radians can be separated on spore shape and size. I shall have to see if I can get some mature spores from my collection...

UPDATE 18/03/2019 - my collection has matured a bit and I have managed to obtain a spore print. 

Here are the spores, mounted in water at 400x magnification.

Spores from spore print. Mounted in water. 400x magnification.
My measurements make them 6.4-7.5 x 3.6-4.4 microns {based on 10 spores}. Funga Nordica gives a spore size for C. domesticus of 6-9 x 3.5-5 microns, so my collection is within that range (the other two species, C. radians and C. xanthothrix, have larger spores). It looks like the spore shape is about right too.

Illustration of C. domesticus spores, from Funga Nordica.
Close up of my micrograph, showing "ellipsoid to phaseoliform" spore shape and large central germ pore.

Let's call this one C. domesticus.

Near there, I came across a rotting stump covered in what-I-think-are Glistening Inkcap Coprinellus micaceus, pictured at the top of this blog. (Although I've since read that this is another species which can be confused; I didn't take a specimen, so can't check the finer details.)

In one of the more remote corners of the wood, my head was turned by a rather lush looking plant.

Stinking Hellebore Helleborus foetidus. The Flora of Sussex describes this as "native in chalky woodland and scrub" and "always rare as a native in Sussex". I would think it's likely my find is a native plant as it was in a chalky woodland, well away from any houses.

I love the touch of purple.

I didn't see too much else of note.

By the gate there is a dead Elder tree. I liked how the Jelly Ear Auricularia auricula-judae is growing from the spiralling cracks in the grain.

And in an old stand of Hazel I spotted this round silver-y mass: the hardened fruit body ('aethalium') of False Puffball Reticularia lycoperdon, a slime mould. Just doing its thing. 

For the record
Date: 17/03/2019
Location: Horton Wood
Grid reference: TQ208127 (site centroid)

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Bonfire of the rarities

I saw some information on Twitter about Multiclavula vernalis the other day and wondered if the wet heathy habitat at Sussex Wildlife Trust's Graffham Common reserve might be a good place to look for it...

... So I went and had a good poke around in the wet bits yesterday. Didn't find any M. vernalis.

I did find these though, some very small young fruit-bodies emerging from a lichen- and algae-covered bank. 

The larger one at the top had a slightly striate cap...

... and beautiful decurrent gills.

I felt fairly certain this would be Heath Navel Lichenomphalia umbellifera, which I recorded at Graffham Common in 2017 (here), and thought I'd just take a quick look at the spores to confirm.

Now I'm confused.

This is what the spores (from a spore print) look like at 400x magnification, mounted in water.

Spores in water. 400x magnification.

My measurements came out at 7.5-9.5 x 4.5-5.5 microns {based on 10 spores}; which is the right sort of ball park for L. umbellifera.

But I looked at the spore images on Malcolm Storey's bio-images site (here) and in his collections of L. umbellifera the spores are hyaline with big oil droplets (like this).

Spores in water. 1000x magnification.

My collection doesn't have any conspicuous oil droplets. I'm wondering if I might have a different 'omphaloid' species here, such as Omphalina pyxidata...? (Apologies about the darkness of the images, my microscope and angle-poise lamp are not cooperating today).

Moving on up the hill, I came across an old fire site.

I remembered that this was where I found an interesting-looking Clitocybe specimen in 2017 which after much deliberation – I ended up calling Clitocybe sinopica (read all about it here).

Looking closely, I saw this area was dotted with clusters of mushrooms with reddish-tan caps. Could this be my Clitocybe again?

Looking back at my notes from 2017, I saw that one of the features of C. sinopica which I was not able to detect then was a "strong mealy, farinaceous smell". I gave these fresh mushrooms a sniff and immediately recognised the mealy smell.

The fruitbodies produced a white spore-print, and masses of spores.
Spores in water. 400x magnification.

My measurements came out at 7.8-9.1 x 4.4-5.8 microns {based on 10 spores}. Looking closely at the spores, they are mostly ellipsoid.

Spores in water. 1000x magnification.
Spores in water. 1000x magnification (+ digital zoom).

My collection seems to fit the description of C. sinopica reasonably well (?), but would be nice to get it confirmed by someone who knows their Clitocybes...

Finally, while I was photographing the Clitocybe, I noticed some other mushrooms popping up across the fire site.

Some kind of Inkcap, with a wooly ('tomentose') white base.

There were some younger specimens as well...

These showed distinctive fibrillose veil remnants covering the cap.

My best guess with these is Bonfire Inkcap Coprinopsis jonesii (=Coprinus lagopides), based on descriptions in Phillips and here. The elliptical to subglobose shape of the spores would seem to support this. And I see Malcolm Storey recorded this speces down the road, at Lavington Common, in 2000 (here)...

Spores in water. 400x magnification.

... But then I am never very confident identifying 'inkcaps'.

An interesting little haul, even if I am left a little uncertain on the identifications.

For the record
Date: 9 March 2019
Location: Graffham Common
Grid reference: SU9319

Sunday, 10 February 2019

On second thoughts, maybe I won't start getting into Mollisia

These mushrooms caught my eye the other week, growing on a decaying branch of a tree by the stream at Woods Mill.

They looked oysterling-ish. But darker than the ones I usually see.

The fruit body I collected has been sat on my radiator for a couple of weeks, and I finally got around to taking a look at it today.

Masses of spores floated off my little slice of gill, mounted in ammonia.

Spores (in ammonia). 400x magnification.
My measurements of the spores came out at 8.5-10 x 5-5.5 μm{based on 10 spores}.

Having been all round the houses (and through the ID books) with this one, I'm now thinking it's probably an old Peeling Oysterling Crepidotus mollis? Although it doesn't look much like the young C. mollis I've recorded before at Woods Mill. Over on the British Mycological Society Facebook Page, Richard Shotbolt has suggested it could be Crepidotus calolepsis (considered by some authors to be a variety of C. mollis) which is differentiated by its covering of minute rusty-brown scales. Hmm.

Growing with these mushrooms, in the sheltered cracks of the dead branch, I caught a glimpse of something else. Some tiny little grey discs.

I collected a few of these yesterday. Here they are under the stereomicroscope.

I remembered a conversation with Brian Douglas about a small grey disc fungus, which he described as 'mollisioid'. I wondered if what I have here might be a Mollisia species of some kind.

My next step was to Google 'Mollisia key', which brings up a discussion on entitled, "Mollisia - is it impossible?", which makes interesting reading, if you're considering venturing into this dark corner of mycology. The answer's kind of, "Yes, but don't let that stop you having a go."

I don't think I will be able to mount a serious identification attempt on this, as I don't have any Lugols Iodine (and after seeing this article by Hans Otto Baral on 'Iodine reaction in Ascomycetes: why is Lugol's solution superior to Melzer's reagent?', I figured it wasn't worth trying with Melzers instead). But I thought I'd have a little play anyway. See what I could see.

Clockwise from left: Apothecia under the stereomicroscope; apothecia in cross-section, 100x magnification; spore (with small oil droplets?), 1000x magnification; asci and paraphyses, 400x magnification. All mounted in water.

I can say confidently this is definitely an ascomycete, with those spores lined up in long sacs (asci).

It's got pretty long thin spores: 10-13.5 x 3-3.5 μm. And I'm thinking the contents of the paraphyses are slightly refractive.

That's all I got. Hopefully I'm right on it being a Mollisia!

For the record
Date: 09/02/2019
Location: Woods Mill
Grid reference: TQ21761367

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Storm Erik brings a surprise

I stopped by Woods Mill this lunchtime, after Storm Erik had passed through, and came upon a scene of devastation.

An old willow by the dipping pond had blown over and taken out a section of the new dipping platform. I couldn't resist going in for a closer look at this wet woody mess.

Halfway up the trunk, in an area where the surface of the trunk had started to rot, I noticed some little brown clusters growing on old knots of wood.

I'd never seen anything quite like this before, so popped back later that afternoon with a penknife and a collecting box, to get a specimen.

Under the stereomicroscope, I could see that the clusters were made up of tiny round cup-shaped fruit bodies: pale on the inside, tobacco-brown on the outside. I thought they must be an ascomycete of some kind.

With some difficulty, as the individual fruit bodies were so small, I managed to get a thin section of one of the cups under the microscope.

Cross-section through cup. Mounted in water 100x magnification.

The cups are super-hairy on the outside!

Looking more closely, the brown hairs appear to become more translucent (hyaline) towards the tips.

Hairs. Mounted in water 400x magnification.

And I'm thinking they perhaps look slightly encrusted? Not completely smooth anyway.

Hairs. Mounted in water 1000x magnification.
Once I'd got a good look at the hairs, I started looking for asci – the long thin bags full of spores which are a characteristic feature of ascomycetes  on the inside of the cup... but, er, couldn't find any.

I got confused.

But then a vague memory of a cyphelloid fungus flashed across my mind. It didn't take long to track down what I was remembering: a photo on a wikipedia page that I was reading a few weeks ago, after I found that weird cyphelloid fungus on Ulva Island.

This photo in fact:

The clustered Merismodes fasciculata, USA. This image was created by user damonbrunette ©2009 at Mushroom Observer, a source for mycological images. CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
Reckon I'm onto a decent lead here...

The very clustered growth of my collection would be right for Crowded Cuplet Merismodes fasciculata (= confusa). But a quick search on the internet suggests that M. anomala can look pretty much the same. [Malcolm Storey has images of both M. fasciculata and M. anomala on his BioImages website, if you want to see what I mean.]

I see that some folks from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have published a simple key to Cyphellopsis (= Merismodes), in a paper on 'Two new species of cyphelloid fungi (Basidiomycota) from China'. This suggests spore size is a key feature when separating these two species.

I managed to find a few spores, by sitting my specimen upside-down on a glass slide for a while.

Two spores (top left and bottom right). Mounted in water at 400x magnification.
My measurements came out at 8-10 x 4.5-5 μm {based on measurements of 11 spores}. This is close to the quoted measurements for M. anomala (8-11 × 5-6.5 μm) in the paper I mentioned above; and I note that, like mine, Malcolm Storey's collection also came out a bit smaller on the width (8-9/4.5µm).

I think this is pointing towards my collection being Merismodes anomala.

For the record
Date: 09/02/2019
Location: Dipping pond, Woods Mill
Grid reference: TQ21781369