Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Mushrooms in the kitchen

The washing up got interrupted by these little beauties this morning, when I noticed them fruiting in a plant pot on the window sill.

It's not the first time I've found mushrooms cohabiting with my house plants. Dedicated readers may remember that dapper little fellow in the bathroom. But these ones turned out to be a proper puzzle.

Underneath the plum-coloured top, I saw these mushrooms had yellow gills. The only species I could think of that would match that descriptions was Plums and Custard Tricholomopsis rutilans. But the habitat wasn't right. And these seemed altogether more elegant.

Look at that peachy little cap... Gorgeous!

I eventually had to tear myself away from the ID books and head off to work, where it just so happened I had a meeting lined up with Nick Aplin and Martin Allison from Sussex Fungus Group. They pointed me in the direction of the genus Gymnopilus, and – specifically a rather beguiling alien called Gymnopilus dilepis, the Magenta Rustgill.

I quickly found a description of this species on the first-nature website, here, and Malcolm Storey has shared macro and micro images of his collection from Berkshire, here. The species doesn't feature in all of my fungus books, but there is a nice description in Andy Overall's new 'Fungi - Mushrooms & Toadstools of parks, gardens, heaths and woodlands' alongside a photo of some fresh specimens which look very much like the mushrooms growing in my kitchen.

A feature of G. dilepis which separates it from T. rutilans is an "indistinct" (Treu, 1998) or "fragile sometimes ephemeral stem ring" (from the first-nature website) which I can see – very feintly! – on these mushrooms. In this picture you can also see the reddish-brown colouration to the base of the stem. Another difference is spore colour, which in G. dilepis is yellowish brown; I am awaiting a spore print, as I type!

UPDATE 16/08/18 - And here's the cinnamon-y, yellowish-brown spore print.

For some reason the spores were washing around all over the shop when I tried to look at them, but I did just about manage to make out the warty surface to the spores. The size is also right: about 7 x 4.5 microns.

Andy Overall (2017) describes the habitat for this species as, "on fermenting woodchip mulch in parks, open woodland, gardens or cemeteries, or among compost and mulch in greenhouses." Well, that sounds more like it. I repotted my Money Plant (Crassula ovata?) a year or so ago, in peat-free compost, and it lives on a sunny kitchen window sill which must have created the right conditions for G. dilepis to fruit, after I gave it a good soaking the other day.

I must have caught it just as it was just starting to fruit. Over the course of today the caps have expanded to be almost flat – showing off more of their orangey background.

Alick Henrici (2002) wrote in an article in the journal Field Mycology that this species was first recorded in the UK in 1995. Looking on the Fungus Records Database of Britain and Ireland, it looks like there are only four previous records for Sussex, all from Stedham Common, West Sussex, between 2003 and 2006. So what's it doing in my kitchen!?


Henrici, A., 2002, Notes and Records, Field Mycology, 3 (1) - January 2002, URL:
Overall, A., 2017, Fungi - Mushrooms & Toadstools of parks, gardens, heaths and woodlands
Treu, R., 1998, Macrofungi in Oil Palm Plantations of South East Asia, Mycologist, 12 (1) - February 1998, URL:

With thanks to Andy Overall for helping me to source these references. And writing one of them!

For the record
Date: 15 August 2018
Location: Small Dole, West Sussex
Grid reference: TQ2112

Sunday, 12 August 2018

More fungi, after the rain

I popped into another area of woodland this afternoon, on the other side of the village from where I went yesterday. I was keeping an eye out for more Beefsteak Fungus Fistulina hepatica and didn't see any which surprised me. But I did find some other things.

This Blushing Bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa was looking very fresh – there were a bunch of them growing on a fallen willow trunk.

I found this fungus dancing over a fallen branch just like a ballerina.

I thought it might be some kind of oyster-type-thing at first, when I saw these fruit bodies, but the smooth underside gave them away.

I think they must be one of those Polyporus species... Something like Polyporus durus (= badius), but it's a bit hard to tell when they're so young, as it can take a while for the pores to develop (as I discovered a couple of years ago).

This fungus has been frustrating me for a good couple of years now (since this visit), as I've never managed to get to grips with determining if it's Southern Bracket Ganoderma australe or Artist's Bracket Ganoderma applanatum. Whatever it is, it looked like it had been putting some fresh growth on.

Always a pleasure to see these little pretties: another species I have never been confident at separating – one of the Wolf Milks Lycogala epidendrum / terrestre. I found the descriptions very confusing the last time I attempted to get to a species identification with these, here. Still love 'em though.

And I found another mushroom! Somewhat unfortunate that I only found it after I'd stood on it. I never saw what it was growing on, but I think it's another Pluteus. This one is quite grey compared to the one I found yesterday, and rather smaller, which made me wonder if it's Willow Shield Pluteus salicinus.

I'll see if I can confirm the identification from its microfeatures, if I get a chance.

For the record
Date: 12/08/2018
Location: Horton Wood, Small Dole
Grid reference: TQ208127 (site centroid)

After the heatwave

After a couple of days of rain (at last!) I made a bee-line for the woods on Saturday, to see if the conditions had brought out any fungi.

It wasn't long before I came across this young Beefsteak Fungus Fistulina hepatica, looking positively bloody where some woodland creature had evidently had a tasty bite out of it.

I came across more Beefsteak Fungus F. hepatica growing on several of the big oak trees, throughout the wood. The others were more mature so had perhaps begun to fruit before Friday's epic downpours.

Deep in the wood, I came across this gorgeous bracket fungus, at the base of an oak tree. My photo doesn't really do it justice.

The upper surface was orange-brown and its most striking feature was the velvety margin studded with dark amber guttation droplets. Underneath, the pores appeared bright white in the dappled light; but now I come to examine the sample I collected, they look more buff-coloured.

Inside, the slightly spongy, fibrous flesh is a rich brown colour. When I came to look at it this morning, I found that downy white mycelium had begun to grow over the cut surface.

I think what I've got here is Oak Bracket Pseudoinonotus dryadeus.

In another part of Hoe Wood, the Dryad's Saddle Polyporus squamosus had also returned a week or two back on the same tree where I found it in 2016 (here).

The fungus gnats were having a field day.

This Oak Curtain Crust Hymenochaete rubignosa looked like it might have been putting a bit of grown on as well.

But it wasn't just crusts and brackets that I found enjoying the damp. I also found some MUSHROOMS! For the first time in nearly two months.

These were growing on a fallen, decaying oak (?) bough. They had free, pinkish-white gills, dotted with loads of tiny beetley creatures.

... a grey-brown cap...

... and a hint of dark speckling to the stem.

Pretty sure that makes this Deer Shield Pluteus cervinus.

On the same bough, some Small Stagshorn Calocera cornea looked like they'd come out to play in the rain.

For the record
Date: 11 August 2018
Location: Hoe Wood, Small Dole [private site]
Grid reference: TQ2113

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Desperate times

I had to get my mycological kicks where I could find them during this long hot summer of 2018. And where I found them happened to be my own front garden.

I was ferreting through the long grass, admiring the insects which have colonised this small area we've converted to 'meadow', when I spotted these black banana-shaped things sticking out of the grass.

I think these are 'sclerotia' (hardened masses of fungal mycelium) of Ergot Claviceps purpurea.

It's pretty crazy stuff to find in your own front garden. The compounds discovered in Ergot were a precursor to the synthesis of lysergic acid diethylamide: LSD. But even if I was tempted to turn off my mind relax and float downstream, I wouldn't do it by chowing down on these grass bananas. Because Ergot has been responsible for unimaginable human suffering throughout much of history, due to people ingesting infected grain products; especially rye, a common host plant for this fungus, which has long been cultivated as an agricultural crop.

As well as having hallucinogenic properties, Ergot is also seriously poisonous – causing convulsive symptoms, psychosis, gangrene and death. I gotta say, its effects look pretty unpleasant.

Painting by Matthias Grünewald of a patient suffering from advanced ergotism from approximately 1512–16 CE. [Image from Wikimedia Commons]
Still, desperate times call for desperate measures, and I was fascinated to come across this video from the New Zealand Archives, calling for people to collect Ergot so that it could be used in treating cases of shock during World War 2. (You can read more about that here.)

These black bananas are only really a 'waiting' stage in the Ergot's lifecycle.

Claviceps purpurea life cycle. [Image from Wikimedia Commons]

If it's not picked by some curious amateur mycologist, or collected for the war effort, the mature sclerotium drops to the ground and remains there, dormant, until suitable conditions trigger its fruiting phase.

Fruiting stage of Claviceps purpurea. [Image from]
I really want to see this! I'm wondering if I can simulate suitable conditions in my spare room and get the sclerotia I've collected to fruit... Have any of my readers ever attempted this?

Mostly good ol' Wikipedia: 

For the record
Date collected: Sunday 5 August 2018
Location: Small Dole
Grid reference: TQ2112

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Rust on Rosa

Spotted this on some kind of wild Rosa sp. in the car park at work.

The undersides of the leaves are covered in an orange rust, with fuzzy black patches.

Zoom in and those black patches look like this, kinda bushy!

Those black 'bushes' are clumps of teliospores that look like this:

Teliospore mounted in water. 100x magnification.

I reckon what I've got here is Phragmidium tuberculatum. The narrow pointy bit on the end (the 'apical papilla') is a distinctive feature of this species, according to Ellis & Ellis's Microfungi on Land Plants.

For the record
Date: 24/06/2018
Location: Woods Mill, Henfield
Grid reference: TQ218138

Sunday, 24 June 2018

A very common rust

I joined Rachel Bicker and the Gatwick Greenspace gang at Gatwick Wildlife Day yesterday – in the grounds of the Gatwick Aviation Museum

Conditions were fairly dry, so I had drawn a blank in my hunt for fungi until the orange-yellow speckling on the leaves of this Musk Mallow Malva moschata caught my eye. Another rust fungus!

Here it is under the stereomicroscope.

Ellis & Ellis's Microfungi on Land Plants has provided a promising candidate for the identity of this rust: Puccinia malvacearum. Malcolm Storey has some images of this species on which look like a good match. 

Here's what I'm seeing under the microscope.

Teliospores 100x magnification. Mounted in water.
Teliospore 44x magnification. Mounted in water.

This matches the description of Puccinia malvacearum in The British Rust Fungi (1913) so I think I can claim an identification on this. Ellis & Ellis describe it as "very common".

Interestingly, W.B. Grove had this to say about Puccinia malvacearum, back in 1913:

It had first appeared in Europe less than 50 years before and W.B. Grove commented that "the rapidity of its distribution has few or no parallels among plant diseases."

I wonder what changes in distribution we can expect to see in the 'rare' Puccinia commutata which I found the other day...

For the record
Date: 23/06/2018
Location: Gatwick Aviation Museum, Charlwood, Surrey (modern administrative & vice county)
Grid reference: TQ250409

Saturday, 23 June 2018

A rare rust?

Tempting to say I found this rust fungus but I think it would be closer to the truth to say it found me. It all but jumped out at me while I was enjoying a cup of tea at the Holywell Tea Chalet.

It was growing on Red Valerian Centranthus ruber. I just recently purchased Ellis & Ellis's Microfungi on Land Plants so I thought I'd try my chances at identifying it.

Ellis & Ellis list just one fungus specific to Centranthus which is Ramularia centranthi. But the description didn't match my collection at all, so I turned to Google. "Rust fungus on Red Valerian" brought up a a discussion thread on with photographs of something very similar-looking, identified as Puccinia commutata.

I posted my photograph and this tentative identification on the BMS Facebook page and in less than 24 hours my collection had come to the attention of a mycologist specialising in this group of fungi: Nigel Stringer. It seems that Puccinia commutata is relatively new to the UK (there are fewer than 10 records on the FRDBI database, with the first being from 2009) and Nigel is keen to compare my collection against descriptions of the rust species which occur on Red Valerian on the continent.

Nigel advised that I should press my collection in an envelope or between two sheets of paper; so I have found an additional use for Ellis & Ellis as its impressive weightiness makes it ideal for this job! I shall send my collection off to Nigel in a week or so, once it's been successfully pressed, and look forward to having its identification (hopefully) confirmed.

I did have a go at observing its microscopic features myself, comparing against Malcolm Storey's images here (with thanks to the Lost & Found Fungi project for pointing me in the direction of those).

I got a spore print and found these things which look like collapsing, round orange sacs (aecidiospores?). About 4.5 - 5 microns in diameter.

Mature aecidiospores (?) 100x magnification. Mounted in water.
Looking at a cross-section of one of the fruit bodies (the 'aecia', singular = 'acium') I encountered this.

Aecium squash at 100x magnification. Mounted in water.

I thought that mass in the middle might be 'peridial cells'... whatever they are.

Here's those bits at the top left, at higher magnification.

Aecium squash at 400x magnification. Mounted in water.

It's always difficult interpreting the microscopic features of fungi you've never encountered before. So would appreciate any hints as to what I'm looking at here!

Brian Douglas sent me a link to an old publication on The British Rust Fungi which is helpful for understanding the basic biology of these things. But this is very unfamiliar territory for me.

There was also some discussion over on Facebook about how Puccinia commutata differs from Endophyllum centranthi-rubri, as featured on the Plant Parasites of Europe site; and whether there's a case of over-lapping (broad vs. narrow) species concepts here. That's mycology for ya!

For the record
Date: 20/06/2018
Location: Holywell, Eastbourne, East Sussex
Grid reference: TV603973