Sunday, 9 October 2016

Not working at the work party

The monthly conservation work parties started again today at Butterfly Conservation's Park Corner Heath and Rowland Wood reserves in Sussex. Michael was going, so I tagged along. It's a nice chance to see some familiar faces and snaffle a slice of Carolla's amazing ginger cake.

It's also UK Fungus Day today, which seemed like the perfect excuse to slack off and go looking for mushrooms.

I headed for the Big Beech, which I've talked about before, to see if Time had brought any new species to this dead wood Goliath.

The bark is now well-covered with Woodwart, a Hypoxylon species, and in many places the bark is breaking off to reveal the bare wood underneath.

I was fascinated to see these tiny grey fruit bodies bursting through the bark, underneath one of the huge fallen limbs.

More searching revealed some larger fruit bodies growing along the side.

I feel like I should be able to sell this colour palette to Farrow & Ball, or one of those other posh paint companies.

The light grey caps were dripping with a clear slime. I reckon that makes this a young Porcelain Fungus Oudemansiella mucida, which grows in clusters on dead Beech. The Collins Complete (photographic) Guide says this species is sometimes greyish when young.

I didn't see much else new happening around the Big Beech. The Schizophyllum commune looks like it's had its day; there are just some dried out and mollusc-eaten remains where I saw it growing in February.

A Bolete poked its cap up through the grass nearby. I think this may be Brown Birch Bolete Leccinum scabrum, but it looked so at-home I didn't want to start interfering with it to confirm the ID. I thought I'd leave it for others to enjoy.

Back on Park Corner Heath I saw a few other species...

This looked like a good match for Deer Shield Pluteus cervinus, growing up from a decaying (broadleaf) tree stump.

I had my first encounter with the Pluteus just the other day, so I thought I'd better get a good look at it to be sure. Here you can see the gills are 'free' (not attached to the stem) which is a feature of Pluteus. It should produce a pink spore print so I've got this little mushroom sitting on my desk now, waiting to test that.

I also heard, or read somewhere that a distinctive microscopic feature of P. cervinus is the structures called cystidia on the end of the gills which have horned ends. (There's a good illustration here.)

I thought I'd have a go at looking for these with my microscope. And I found them!

Cystidia on the gill edges of P. cervinus ornamented with horns.
Woop! Woop!

Also saw this Ganoderma species (australe?) growing on one of the old Beeches which line the Parish boundary along the old (ditch and) bank.

The conservation work party volunteers also found a brown mushroom with yellow gills, spotted rust-brown with age. I think this may have been one of the Rustgills or Gymnopilus species, which would be a new group for me. But I've got to go and do things like cook dinner and put a wash on now, so I'd better leave it there.

For the record
Date: 9/10/2016 - UK FUNGUS DAY!
Location: Park Corner Heath & Rowland Wood
Grid ref: Big Beech is at TQ514150; Deer Shield found at TQ511150

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Saturday night at the microscope

On our foray near Northchapel last weekend we found the miniscule perithecia (round fruiting bodies) of a fungus called Lasiosphaera ovina. Nick Aplin suggested these would be worth looking at under the microscope, so I took a tiny sample home.

I had a look at them under the stereomicroscope first, to get a good look at those perithecia.

Then I took a single perithecium not more than half a millimetre across – and tried my best to crush it onto a microscope slide. I added a drop of water and dropped a cover slip on top.

Cue much faffing around trying to see something – anything! – down the microscope.

I eventually focussed in on this, which looks like a tangle of... something.

I then added a drop of immersion oil and, very gingerly, swung round to the 100x objective. After much more faffing around during which, thankfully, no cover slips were broken, I eventually focussed in on this...

Some long things with little round things in.

After some concerted Googling and scanning through papers I don't understand, it looks like these might be a match for the ascospores* of L. ovina, which is a good sign. If you squint a bit, they do look kind of like the image in figure 9 of this paper.

So, er... That was interesting.

*Ascospore A sexually produced fungal spore formed within an ascus** of an ascomycete.
** Ascus –  The sac-like structure in which ascospores are formed.

For the record
Collection date: 2/10/2016
Location: Private site near Northchapel

Record will be submitted by Nick Aplin on behalf of Sussex Fungus Group

Lost & Found at Gatwick

I thought I might have been lured out of Sussex this morning, on a Sussex Fungus Group trip to the River Mole. It turns out we were in that bit of wildlife recording no man's land around Gatwick: outside the vice-counties of West Sussex (VC13) and East Sussex (VC14) but inside the modern administrative county of West Sussex.

We were joined today by Brian and Lukas from the Lost & Found Fungi project, based at Kew. They had come along to look for Encoelia carpini, an ascomycete (cup fungus) found on Hornbeam which looks like this:

Encoelia carpini. Image copyright Nick Aplin. Used under CC BY-NC licence.

There are only two confirmed records for this species in the UK and one of these was from these woods next to Gatwick Airport, recorded by Nick Aplin in October 2014.

According to this handy factsheet on Encoelia carpini, its habitat is "on attached (high up) or fallen branches of Common Hornbeam Carpinus betulus".

Well, we certainly found a lot of fallen Hornbeam branches...

... and Brian & Lukas left no twig unturned in their search for Encoelia carpini.

We didn't find it. But HEY! We all know what to look for now, right?

To be honest, we didn't find a lot of anything. The woods were very dry and mushrooms were conspicuous by their absence.

This stick was a highlight for me. Such a highlight, in fact, I brought it home.


I've been trying for ages to get my head around the difference between an 'anamorph' and a 'teleomorph'. I've read the definitions many times over:
  • Anamorph an asexual reproductive structure
  • Teleomorph – the sexual reproductive structure, typically a fruiting body
I understand the words but I have struggled to grasp what this means, both in terms of the life cycles of fungi and what I should be looking for in the field.

The little bumps on that stick are Coral Spot Nectria cinnabarina and Nick Aplin pointed out that both the anamorph and teleomorph were present, so I brought it home for a closer look.

Here is the anamorph of N. cinnabarina

N. cinnabarina (anamorph)

And here it is up close.

N. cinnabarina (anamorph)

I was trying to think what this amorphous pink blob reminds me of and then I realised it looks like Kraang out of Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. (A nifty way to remember which is which, right? Anamorph = Kraang-amorph.)

Kraang – evil alien warlord.
The teleomorph, on the other hand, looks like this:

N. cinnabarina (teleomorph)
Here's the teleomorph up close:

N. cinnabarina (teleomorph)

These two manifestations of N. cinnabarina look completely different, but they're the same species. Put the two together and you get something resembling an Eton Mess.

N. cinnabarina (anamorph and telemorph occuring together)

(Apologies for the anamorph on the left that looks like a bum, by the way. Didn't spot that until I'd put the microscope away.)

I still don't think I've totally got my head around how fungi live their lives. But I've at least seen the difference between the anamorph and the teleomorph here my little victory for today. It doesn't help that the books all seem to use different terminology. Some texts talk about the teleomorph as the 'perfect' stage and the anamorph as 'imperfect'; although this seems unnecessarily judgemental. The Collins Complete (photographic) Guide also talks about N. cinnabarina's "conidial stage", referring to the anamorph which produces asexual spores ('conidia').

If I can remember all that, I'll be happy!

Another interesting sighting from this morning's foray was this bracket fungus. No, not a Ganoderma (no brown spores in evidence here). Nick Aplin identified this as Perenniporia fraxinea.

We also had a good rootle round in this reedbed, hoping for fungi fruiting in the damp bits.

The Sussex Fungus Group in a reedbed with Brian Douglas.
Nick found an interesting Psathyrella species here which he's taken home for determination.

Apart from that, we saw a few of the fungus kingdom's 'greatest hits': Blushing Bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa, Cramp Balls Daldinia concentrica, Yellow Fieldcap Bolbitius titubans and (I think) Spindleshank Gymnopus (=Collybia) fusipes. Also an obscure tiny beige 'Disco' – some kind of Orbilia species. But I feel like I'm definitely not ready for the Orbilia

Still a very interesting morning, despite the lack of fungi. And a very pleasant stroll back along the River Mole.

Thanks to Rachel Bicker, biodiversity consultant based at Gatwick Airport, for explaining a bit about the the management around the river Mole and the conservation activities that Gatwick Airport and the Gatwick Greenspace Partnership are involved in delivering on site. And thanks to Nick for organising.

For the record
Date: 8/10/2016
Location: River Mole, north of Gatwick Airport
Grid ref: TQ2641

All records to be submitted by Nick Aplin on behalf of Sussex Fungus Group

Friday, 7 October 2016

Pulborough Pitstop

Text message I got from my husband last weekend, just before I headed home from the Sussex Fungus Group meeting near Northchapel:
"TQ 0393 1900. It's up that lane and on the base of a tree on your right. X"
He was, of course, talking about a big red fungus he'd spotted while tramping through the Sussex countryside on the #WildestWalk.

A quick consultation with GrabAGridRef put this somewhere west of Pulborough – perfect for a pitstop on my way home. I went to track it down.

I think these are the fungi I was looking for.

It seems to me there are two different species here. Some kind of Ganoderma; and something else.

This fungus is unlike the Ganoderma species I've seen before as it has a distinctive shiny coating, like it's been varnished.

There are a few shiny Ganoderma species:
  • Laquered Bracket Ganoderma lucidum which is described as "uneven" with a "thick, irregular margin". Hmm... Nope.
  • Beeswax Bracket Ganoderma pfeifferi which is described as similar to Southern Bracket but with a yellowish waxy coating on the upper surface. Hmm... Not really.
  • Ganoderma resinaceum which has "a shiny upper surface and an inflammable resinous coating". Hmm... Maybe.
Why didn't I get the matches out? Why? WHY ???

I'm thinking the smaller brackets are another species entirely.

I kind of want to say these could be Beefsteak Fungus Fistulina hepatica. They were quite squidgy. But that species is supposed to have a "rudimentary" stem. The stem looks a bit better than "rudimentary" to me, but then who am I to judge.

ID tips gratefully received!

For the record
Date: 02/10/2016
Location: West of Pulborough
Gridref: TQ 0393 1900

Thursday, 6 October 2016

At Ebernoe

It was a beautiful day on Sunday. The Sussex Fungus Group meeting in Northchapel finished at lunchtime and I had a rucksack full of cheese rolls and nothing to do which couldn't wait, so I decided to stop off at Ebernoe on my way home – see what was happening.

I'm not even going to try and describe how lovely Sussex Wildlife Trust's Ebernoe Common nature reserve is. You should just go there and see for yourself.

I walked down the main track and over the cattle grid to the muddy track which leads to the old brick kiln. 

Growing in the ditch near the junction were these brown mushrooms. A quick look underneath revealed decurrent gills and I thought they might be Brown Rollrim Paxillus involutus. But now I'm not so sure. The rims are noticeably not rolled in this picture.

Nearby a species I feel fairly familiar with now Blushing Bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa.

The pungent smell of garlic gave these away: Garlic Parachute Marasmius alliaceus.

Never seen one of these before, it's some kind of Coral fungus; but there are several species which all look alike. I'm tempted to call this one Upright Coral Ramaria stricta, on the basis it's growing in broadleaf woodland and the tips are quite pointed on branches which fork repeatedly from the base. But I think the Ramaria are probably microscope jobs, to be sure.

A tufty one! I want to call this one Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare. But, hmm, not sure.

Applying what I learnt during the morning's fungus foray, I reckon this one's a Deer Shield Pluteus cervinus.

Beyond the Brick Kiln, on what I thought was the path towards Leconfield Glade, except I never found Leconfield Glade, I came across a fair number of Saffrondrop Bonnet Mycena crocata.

Thought this might be the white form of a Deathcap Amanita phalloides var. alba. It didn't smell like raw potatoes, so I'm ruling out False Deathcap.

 And I found this troop of mushrooms growing up through the leaf litter.

Don't know what these were. The light was fading, and I was starting to feel a bit lost – as often happens in Ebernoe – so I didn't stay long enough for a proper look.

I retraced my steps back to the Brick Kiln and took the path through the woods which leads to Furnace Meadow.

As well as some rotting Boletes, I came across this patch of mushrooms which I think are Milkcaps Russulaceae of some kind.

Not sure what I'm doing with Milkcaps.

Further on I found these pale beige mushrooms growing in association with Oak

But not really sure where to start with these.

In Furnace Meadow I found this parade of Bolete mushrooms which seemed like they might be growing in association with a trail of dried-out old cow pats. The caps were all cracked and I thought they might be Sepia Bolete Boletus porosporus.

The pores certainly discoloured blue. But I'm not sure about the Boletes either.

For the record
Date: 2 October 2016
Location: Ebernoe Common
Grid ref: SU977276 (first six species); SU980273 (species seven to nine); SU979275 (species 10 & 11); SU979277(the bolete)

Meet the Pluteus

Another trip out with Sussex Fungus Group on Sunday; this time to a private woodland site near Northchapel, West Sussex.

The season is now, finally, getting going.

Focussing first on the bigger things, Sunday's foray provided my first real introduction to the Shields or Pluteus mushrooms. Peter Marren's Mushrooms book describes these as:
"Mostly smallish mushrooms characterised by round caps and gills that are pink and free (i.e. not attached to the stem). All of them grow on rotten wood, including woodchip and sawdust. Some have attractively patterned or brightly coloured caps. They may be indicators of ancient, or at least lightly managed, woodland."
Taking these in the order we found them, which means starting with this terrible photo, we first came across this Pluteus with a mousy brown to greyish cap.

Pluteus pouzarianus
On first impressions it was thought to be a Deer Shield Pluteus cervinus. However, the Collins Complete (photographic) Guide mentions there's a similar species, P. pouzarianus, which is "far less common and confined to decayed conifer wood". It was hard to make out what kind of wood this mushroom was growing on but we found it in the shade of some lonesome pines so Nick Aplin decided it would be prudent to take this one home for examination under the microscope. He's since been in touch to say, "According to Funga Nordica this species differs from P. cervinus by the presence of clamps in the cap cuticle, which were observable." So, P. pouzarianus it is.

We went on to see a pretty little yellow mushroom sprouting from one of the woodpiles which dotted the woodland floor - another Pluteus. There are a couple of species which can have a yellow cap so Nick took this one home for determination and found it to be Yellow Shield P. chrysophaeus.

Next up another mousy-brown Pluteus, this time growing on a pile of decaying logs from a broadleaf tree, which makes this a Deer Shield P. cervinus. 

Deer Shield Pluteus cervinus
On another, particularly fruitful, log pile we found Velvet Shield P. umbrosus which has distinctively coloured gill edges. I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of these.

Velvet Shield Pluteus umbrosus
And last but not least, on yet another wood pile, we found a lone Willow Shield P. salicinus - a "Shield of unusual and distinctive grey colouration." According to the Collins Complete (photographic) Guide.

Willow Shield Pluteus salicinus
Just to manage expectations here; those were probably the biggest and most charismatic mushrooms we found on our foray. None of the mycorrhizal fungi those big beasts of the forest floor had put in an appearance for us.

But we did find some little charmers.

Burgundydrop Bonnet Mycena haemotopus (a relation of the Saffrondrop Bonnet M. crocata which I came across in The Mens the other day) was a new one for me.

Burgundydrop Bonnet Mycena haemotopus
I think we decided this was Burgundydrop Bonnet M. haemotopus again, growing in some profusion on one of the woodpiles.

Burgundydrop Bonnet Mycena haemotopus

Equally memorable, albeit for a different reason, was this Foetid Parachute Micromphale (=Marasmiellus) foetidum. It stank.

Foetid Parachute Micromphale (=Marasmiellus) foetidum
And I was impressed with this fungus just for being so black. BLACK! Like the endless blackness of space.

Chaetosphaerella phaeostroma

Nick Aplin identified this one as Chaetosphaerella phaeostroma. If you zoom in on the photo you can just make out the tiny spherical perithecia (fruiting bodies).

There was one species which got our group of foray-ers particularly interested...

Here you can see us all trying to get a look at Chlorencoelia versiformis.

Chlorencoelia versiformis

According to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan this species is a very rare saprotroph (type of fungus that feeds on decaying organic matter) found on dead wood of broadleaved species.

For the record
Date:  2 October 2016
Location: Private site near Northchapel

All records to be submitted by Nick Aplin, Sussex Fungus Group