Sunday, 20 May 2018

Commemorative porcelain

I decided to go and explore the woods around Henley, West Sussex, yesterday and take advantage of the royally nice weather.

Heading west from Bexleyhill, the wide sunny rides of Verdley Wood were abuzz with insects. But the predominantly coniferous woodland didn't present much mycological interest. On Henley Common the path emerges into an area of semi-natural ancient woodland, and it was here that I came across a large windblown Beech tree.

A solitary Porcelain Mushroom Oudemansiella mucida was growing on one of its huge boughs: a fitting piece of commemorative porcelain, as the Duke & Duchess of Sussex had just made it official over in Windsor Castle.

The trunk was adorned with some very grand and fresh-looking brackets one of the Ganoderma species (G. applanatum or G. australe).

You can see their cocoa-coloured spores lightly dusting the trunk below.

As I walked on through the mixed woodland of Northpark Copse, I spotted a few dried-out old Birch Polypore Piptoporus betulinus and some ancient Turkeytail Trametes versicolour covering the odd log stack. That was pretty hard to get excited about.

Heading back through the southern part of Northpark Copse I found some more big old Beech trees, including several fallen trunks. One of these was well covered in bracket fungi.

Their uppersides were zoned in shades of cream and brown, stained green with algae.

The undersides displayed distinctly elongate pores.

This confetti-strewn pair reminded me of Meghan and Harry: the happy couple.

I think these must be Lumpy Bracket Trametes gibbosa, because of the elongate pores. Although they don't look very lumpy.

Further on I passed through some old Sweet Chestnut coppice and spotted this by the side of path.


We've evidently been having some great weather for Chicken of the Woods Laetiporus sulphureus.

For the record
Date: 19/05/2018
Location: Henley Common, West Sussex
Grid ref: SU890260 (O. mucida & Ganoderma sp.), SU8825 (T. gibbosa & L. sulphureus)

Sunday, 13 May 2018

A trudge around Friston Forest

I found myself at the Seven Sisters Country Park yesterday, with a few hours to kill – waiting for Michael to get off work. So I decided to take myself off for a walk around Friston Forest. In the rain. 

I headed from West Dean towards the old waterworks at Friston, and was pretty underwhelmed when the first hour and half produced some Jelly Ear Auricularia auricula-judae and some tiny stubby-looking Candlesnuff Fungus Xylaria hypoxylon.

L: Jelly Ear Auricularia auricula-judae, far away. R: Candlesnuff Fungus Xylaria hypoxylon, up close. It was raining too hard to get good photos.
Walking along the lush verdant rides with their rabbit-cropped grassy edges, I started to wonder if I should turn my attention to botany instead.

But then, as I turned into an area of mature Beech woodland walking back in the direction of West Dean – I spotted something more interesting.

A pale fruit body standing proud from the leaflitter. Evidently pretty old, as algal growth had begun to give it a hint of green.

Underneath: an ochre / cinnamon-coloured pore surface. And a long back stipe connected the fruit body to the old twig it had been growing on.

I think what I have here is an old Blackfoot Polypore Polyporus leptocephalus. A species I've possibly come across before, but never been 100 % sure.

After trudging on for another hour through the rain, I was very excited to spot some mushrooms clustered on a rotting stump.

Getting closer, I realised they'd seen better days. But I was hopeful they were still in good enough condition to confirm an identification.

The ring around the stem would surely be a clue to their identity...

The gills were the colour of dirty dishwater – a grey-brown colour. And, later, produced a brown spore-print.

These mushrooms seem a good match for Poplar Fieldcap Cyclocybe cylindracea (previously Agrocybe cylindracea). Kind of a new one for me, although we did find an atypical-looking specimen which we identified as C. cylindracea on the Sussex Fungus Group foray at Seaford Head last year

You've got to work hard for your mycological thrills at this time of year.

For the record
Date: 12/5/2018
Location: Friston Forest
Grid reference: TV5399

A spring foray at Burton & Chingford Ponds

Looking out onto Burton Pond from Sussex Wildlife Trust's nature reserve.

I took myself off to Burton & Chingford Ponds last Saturday, to see what I could see and make the most of the gorgeous weather.

I spotted these on the left as I set off through the Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve.

I think they must be Dryad's Saddle Polyporus squamosus – you can just about make out the net-like pore surface, where the slugs and snails have eaten away at the flesh.

Further on, I spotted a scattering of mushrooms on the grass verge, not far from where I found the Deathcaps Amanita phalloides last summer.

These mushrooms looked familiar from my recent forays around my village.

White, crowded, sinuate gills. A flour-y smell.

I decided these must be more St George's Mushrooms Calocybe gambosa.

As the path skirted round the back of Burton Pond, I spotted some more mushrooms tucked away on a mossy stump.

With a slightly green-ish tint to the yellow gills, and a faint ring-zone – made dark by a covering of fallen spores – I'm saying this is Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare.

Some old, hollowed-out Birch Polypores Piptoporus betulinus adorned the birch logs lying by the path.

And on a big old tree trunk, I came across a patch of Oak Curtain Crust Hymenochaete rubignosa.

That was about it as far as fungi goes. It will be interesting to hear what the West Weald Fungus Recording Group picks up on its foray there today.

For the record
Date: 5/5/2018
Location: Burton & Chingford Ponds
Grid reference: P. squamosus SU977179; C. gambosa SU972176; H. fasciculare SU979177; H. rubignosa SU980174

Spring fungus finds around the village

Remember that period of incessant rain as we headed towards spring? The jelly fungi were loving it.

A trip to Hoe Wood on 15 March produced a good haul of Tremella and Exidia species.

Clockwise from top left: Leafy Brain Tremella folicea, Witches' Butter Exidia glandulosa, Yellow Brain Tremella mesenterica and what-I-think-is-probably White Brain Exidia thuretiana.

And it felt like wherever I found Elders, I found Jelly Ear Auricularia auricula-judae soaking up the atmosphere.

Jelly Ear Auricularia auricula-judae

On a trip to nearby Horton Wood on 8 April I found baby 'ears' popping up all over the place...

Young Jelly Ear Auricularia auricula-judae
... With Wild Primrose Primula vulgaris carpeting the woodland floor, it felt like spring was finally getting going.

Over on the other side of the village, the Wood anemones Anemone nemorosa put on an equally impressive show in the public part of Hoe Wood, at Woods Mill.

Hoe Wood, 18 April 2018

I had a rootle around for Anemone Cup Dumontinia tuberosa but didn't managed to find any.

Three weeks went by before I managed a return trip to Horton Wood, and by this time yellow had given way to blue as the Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta took centre stage.

I had a close encounter with a Hornet Vespa crabro. But Horton Wood didn't seem to have anything new to offer in the way of fungus interest.

Wandering back towards the village, some splodges of white beneath a roadside hazel hedge caught my eye.

I collected one of the fruit bodies, so I could get a closer look at its features. I thought I could detect a vaguely flour-y smell (but have limited confidence in my olfactory skills).

With its white, sinuate gills, I reckon this is a pretty good bet for St George's Mushroom Calocybe gambosa. It's a spring species – and a new one for me!

Over on the other side of the village, our old faithful Chicken of the Woods Laetiporus sulphureus was putting an another cracking show. It's at least the third year in a row that it's fruited on this log pile. (Here is is in 2016 and 2017.)

It wasn't until I got home that I spotted some distinctly mushroom-y looking things at the bottom left of the frame and it's been annoying me that I never found out what they were. Anyone care to hazard a guess? Glistening Inkcaps Coprinellus micaceus are very common at Woods Mill, so I thought they might be that. But the caps look a little too round, and insufficiently glistening.

Over in Hoe Wood I found more Witches' Butter Exidia glandulosa among the bluebells.

And I got thoroughly confused by this bracket fungus which looked to be putting on a growth-spurt on the railway sleeper bridge at the edge of valley field.

It looks quite distinctive with its cinnamon colouring and large pores, but it has completely defied my attempts at identification.

The frustrating thing is, I think it got determined to species on the Sussex Fungus Group foray last year – but I haven't been able to tie up my notes well enough to figure out what we decided it was.

For the record
Location: Hoe Wood, Small Dole [private site]

Date: 15 March 2018

Location: Horton Wood, Small Dole
Grid reference: TQ208127 (site centroid)
Date: 8 April 2018

Location [Calocybe gambosa]: New Hall Lane, Small Dole
Grid reference: TQ214132
Date: 29 April 2018

Location [Laetiporus sulphureus]: Woods Mill, Small Dole
Grid reference: TQ217137
Date: 29 April 2018

Location [Unidentified bracket]: Woods Mill, Small Dole
Grid reference: TQ219133
Date: 29 April 2018

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Oyster Mushrooms on Rowan

I noticed back in January that one of the street trees in the village was sporting a fine crop of oyter mushrooms (Pleurotus sp.)

I tend to get rather confused by descriptions of the various Pleurotus species in my field guides. It never sounds like there's much to separate them.

I'm pretty sure I've never seen the Branched Oyster Pleurotus cornucopiae as that species has a distinctive – yup, you've guessed it: branched – growing habit.

But how to tell the difference between the other two: Oyster Mushroom P. ostreatus and Pale Oyster P. pulmonarius?

Over on the British Mycological Society Facebook Page, Andy Overall explained that, "P. ostreatus is highly variable but it is often a fleshy thing and more often around at this time of year. P. pulmonarius is in comparison a much less robust and less fleshy and almost always very pale." 

So Andy ID'd this specimen as Oyster Mushroom P. ostreatus.

My winter tree identification skills being what they are (i.e. very poor), I've had to wait until now to confirm what it was growing on.

Rowan Sorbus aucuparia. In leaf at last.

For the record
Date: 20/01/2018
Location: Small Dole
Grid reference: TQ214130

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Oh, Dacrymyces...

It's been bugging me that I haven't properly properly confirmed my record of Common Jellyspot Dacrymyces stillatus on that Big ol' Beech

I thought this would be easy because I'd just have to find some mature '3-septate' spores showing the cell walls separating the spore into 4 compartments (like I observed here).

Despite scanning through squashes for AGES, I haven't found any 3-septate spores. But I have found some interesting-looking bits and bobs. This figure, which I stumbled upon on ResearchGate has been very helpful in making sense of what I'm seeing.

Figure reproduced from Oberwinkler (2014) here. Life cycle of Dacrymyces stillatus. (a) Basidiocarps (b) Fructification with fragmenting hyphae (i). (c) Detail of hymenium and subhymenium. (d) Basidial ontogeny showing stages of nuclear divisions in basidia. (e) Basidiospores and spore germination. (f) Yeastlike budding of microconidia. (g) Spore germination with hyphae, illustrated from D. palmatus but also occurring in D. stillatus . (h) Fragmented hyphae producing microconidia. (i) Short-celled fragmentation of peripheral hyphae from anamorph fructification (b). Figures not to scale; originally from Oberwinkler (2012).
Basidiocarps (the fruiting bodies)

These are what I observed in the field.


This tangled, branching mass of hyphae matches nicely with the illustration of the hymenium. As far as I could tell, there were no clamp connections.

Basidia (the microscopic structures which bear the spores)

I've got basidia at various stages of maturity here.

This shows nicely a mature basidia with spores growing on the tips. At top left a larger spore has been cast off to begin a life of its own. I make it about 11.5 x 6.5 microns in size – smaller than D. stillatus. Perhaps it's still got some growing to do?

I'm not sure what I'm seeing here... Perhaps "nuclear divisions in basidia"?


I could find very few spores in this collection. This one was starting to approach the dimensions of D. stillatus which the Collins (illustrated) Fungi Guide (Buczacki et al) give as 14 - 17 x 5 - 6 microns. Most were a bit smaller, around 11.5 microns in length.

I haven't been able to detect any septate structure to the spores – they look to just be filled with oil droplets – which I fear leaves things rather inconclusive as to the species identification.

For the record
Date: 11/03/2018
Location: The Big Beech, Rowland Wood, East Sussex
Grid reference: TQ514150


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Moments of pleasure

I was back at the Big Beech in Rowland Wood on Sunday. Not expecting to find much new.

The woodwarts, brackets and mushrooms emerging from this great hunk of dead wood mostly looked familiar, as I've devoted quite a bit of time to this old tree in the last couple of months. So I turned my attention to this pale fungus spreading over the trunk: filling the cracks (or perhaps causing the cracks?) in the bark.

It was one of the 'resupinate' fungi which lie flat, fixed to a substrate, with their fertile surface facing out.

Looking closely, I saw that it was beaded with droplets of red-amber liquid.

This must be an example of fungal guttation a process whereby fungi exude beads of moisture (one of my fellow fungus enthusiasts of the internet has written a wonderfully illustrated blog about it here).

I've seen photos of this sort of thing, but never observed it myself. It seems strange seeing these bright pigmented droplets emerging from such a non-descript creamy-white fungus. And somehow beautiful.

On the northern, more-sheltered side of the trunk I found more of this fungus growing in large patches.

Looking in my copy of 'The Resupinates of Hampshire' (Hugill & Lucas, 2017), I wondered if this might be one of the Schizopora species. But I can't for the life of me find any mention of Schizopora guttating.

There are two similar-looking Schizopora species in 'The Resupinates of Hampshire' which are apparently easy to separate on spore size:
  • Schizopora flavipora 4 - 4.5 x 2.5 - 3.5 microns
  • Schizopora paradoxa 6 - 6.5 x 3.5 - 4 microns

So I thought I'd have a go at some microscopy.

Comparing against photos on Malcolm Storey's site (here) the spore shape looks about right for Schizopora.

But my measurements average out at 5.2 x 3.2 microns. That doesn't help!

I looked to see if I could find any other distinctive features and spotted this thing with a knob on the end, which I think is probably a 'capitate cystidia'.

And I found some encrusted -looking things. Not sure what. Hyphae?

So I think I'm going to need some help with this one...

UPDATE 15/03/2018 - thanks to a lot of help from the good people of Sussex Fungus Group I've made some progress with this one.

Nick Aplin reminded me that there is another species of Schizopora which is not that dissimilar to the ones I've mentioned above: S. radula. The Resupinates of Hampshire gives spore dimensions for this of 4 - 5 x 3 - 4 microns, which tallies with my measurements.

Martin Allison agreed that this definitely appears to be a Schizopora species, but further investigation would be required to pin it down to a particular species. He pointed out that Fungi of Switzerland, Volume 2 (Breitenbach and Kränzlin, 1986) gives the spore dimensions for S. paradoxa as 4.5-6 x 3-4 microns which also tallies with my measurements. So we can't rule out S. paradoxa, which is very common all year round.

Ted Tuddenham then very helpfully shared with me a copy of the descriptions S. paradoxa and S. radula from Poroid fungi of Europe (Ryvarden and Melo). These indicated that the main difference between the species is in the characteristics of the hyphal system: is it monomitic (having just one type of hyphae), or is it dimitic (having two types of hyphae).

We were getting into pretty heavy stuff here, so Ted also sent me an illustration showing the difference between monomitic, dimitic and trimitic hyphal systems.

Image reproduced from Hyphal systems. See Pegler (Bull. BMS 7(suppl.), 1973). A, monomitic hyphal system, with thick-walled generative hyphae; B, dimitic hyphal system, with generative and ligative (binding) hyphae; C, dimitic hyphal system, with generative and skeletal hyphae; D, trimitic hyphal system, with generative, skeletal and ligative hyphae.
Time to have a go at some more microscopy.

I tentatively concluded that what I have here is a dimitic hyphal system, which Nick Aplin and Martin Allison were kind enough to confirm.

I think that gives me sufficient information to confirm my collection as Split Porecrust Schizopora paradoxa. Got there in the end!

I thought that was going to be my lot for this visit, until I spotted a small bracket growing on the southern side of the main trunk.

It was surprisingly squidgy...

... with ginger pores underneath.

I was completely stumped by this thing which seemed like a cross between a bracket fungus and a bolete until I came across a description of Cinnamon Bracket Hapalopilus nidulans.

As well as its white spore print (check), a key feature of this species is that it should turn purple or lilac when it comes into contact with ammonia or KOH. Let's try that shall we...


Look at that! Wonderful!

Species list for the Big Beech

  1. Splitgill Schizophyllum commune (14/2/2016)
  2. Beech Woodwart Hypoxylon fragiforme (14/2/2016)
  3. Possible Cosmospora arxii (14/2/2016) - not confirmed
  4. Porcelain Fungus Oudemansiella mucida (9/10/2016)
  5. Oyster Mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus (11/12/2016)
  6. Beech Jellydisc Ascocoryne sarcoides (11/12/2016) - not confirmed
  7. Bitter Oysterling Panellus stipticus (14/01/2018)
  8. Small Stagshorn Calocera cornea (14/01/2018)
  9. Jackrogersella cohaerens (14/01/2018)
  10. Turkeytail Trametes versicolor (14/01/2018)
  11. Birch Mazegill Lenzites betulinus (14/01/2018)
  12. Hairy Curtain Crust Stereum hirsutum (14/01/2018)
  13. Clitopilus hobsonii (14/01/2018)
  14. Wrinkled Crust Phlebia radiata (14/01/2018)
  15. Smoky Bracket Bjerkandera adusta (14/01/2018)
  16. Ganoderma sp. (14/01/2018)
  17. Winter Polypore Polyporus brumalis (11/02/2018)
  18. Exidia plana (11/02/2018)
  19. Possible Common Jellyspot Dacrymyces stillatus - not confirmed (11/02/2018)
  20. Possible Leafy Brain Tremella foliacea - not confirmed (11/02/2018)
  21. Crimped Gill Plicatura crispa (11/02/2018)
  22. Split Porecrust Schizopora paradoxa (11/03/2018) - confirmed 15/03/2017
  23. Cinnamon Bracket Hapalopilus nidulans (11/03/2018)
For the record
Date: 11/03/2018
Location: The Big Beech, Rowland Wood, East Sussex
Grid reference: TQ514150