Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Eyelashes: More complex than I'd realised

On the subject of that wacky Common Eyelash fungus that I found in the woodpile...

Turns out these are more complex than I'd realised. Literally. Nick Aplin of Sussex Fungus Group got in touch and explained that the Scutellinia are now thought to be a poorly-described "species complex". That means that what people used to think was one species (i.e. Common Eyelash Scutellinia scutellata) could be any one of many different species that all look very much the same. Unless you have a microscope and you know how to use it. And you've got the right identification key and you know how to navigate your way around that.

This is all getting well beyond my ken. Lucky for me, Nick has microscope, keys and know-how, and generously offered to take a look at my "Eyelash". (Yeah, we know it sounds weird.)

So one day a couple of weeks ago I went back to that woodpile for a specimen. I packed it carefully, along with that purply-brown blob, and popped it in the post.

After waiting a few days to get a spore print, Nick was able to get these photos of the identification features which show the fungus I found is Scutellinia crinita. The notes in brackets are his.

Hairs mounted in water (note rooting bases)

Asci mounted in water 

Ascospores mounted (and heated) in lactophenol cotton blue (note the fine ornamentation typical of this species)

Incredible, huh?

For the record

Observation date: 01/01/2016
Location: Tottington Wood
Grid reference: TQ216127

Detemined by Nick Aplin as Scutellinia crinita on 16/01/2016
Entered into FRDBI: 13/02/2017

Purply-brown blob: A postscript

Remember that purply-brown blob that fell off its log?

You probably thought that was the end of the story... But it isn't!

Because I picked up that purply-brown blob, put it in a little plastic box with some damp tissue paper, and popped it in the post to Nick Aplin of Sussex Fungus Group, who specialises in Ascomycetes.
Nick's confirmed that the purply-brown blob is indeed an example of Ascoryne sarcoides.

So there you go - the blob has a name.

Entered into FRDBI: 13/02/2017

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Spring Hazelcup

Today's find is a cracker! Well, I say "today's", husband spotted it on a walk through Horton Wood yesterday and took me to see it today.

The young fruit bodies, growing on hazel, look like funny little pouches:
... and then open up into these ragged little round dishes.
There's only one thing in the book that looks like this, and it's Spring Hazelcup Encoelia furfuracea.

The Collins' Complete Guide says it's "widespread but uncommon", and Jordan's Fungi describes it as "infrequent". So potentially an interesting find.

Here's another colony from the same patch of woodland today:

Just heard from Nick Aplin (Sussex Fungus Group) and Martin Allison (Sussex Fungi Recorder) that this record is officially "a good record" - they've never seen this in Sussex before, despite deliberate searching. And there are just a handful of previous records for this species in Sussex. This could be the first Sussex sighting THIS CENTURY!

So that's exciting. Must go back with a GPS and get a 10 figure grid reference.

For the record
Date: 24/01/15 CORRECTION - 24/01/2016
Location: Horton Wood, Small Dole
Grid reference: TQ208127 (site centroid)

Blobs, crusts, balls and brackets

I heard back from Malcolm Knight, Chair of the Tottington Woodlanders, last week - confirming that they'd be delighted for me to survey the woodland fungi and granting me permission to venture off the public rights of way, within the boundary of the Local Nature Reserve - as long as I tread carefully. Woohoo!

So I took advantage of another damp grey day yesterday to explore a couple of the coppice compartments a little further, and see what I could see.

First up, I found some blobby-looking white crust fungus growing on the underside of a fallen (birch?) branch. Intensive study of my reference books has confirmed: I don't know what this is.
A not-very-educated guess would be young growth of Wet Rot Coniophora sp. The Collins' Complete Guide describes Wet Rot as "Fully resupinate [attached to the thing it's growing on] ... initially small, rounded spots that coalesce to form large, irregular patches with a broad, fringed margin... cream at first, becoming ochre or dark brown and paler towards the margin." That seems to be the closest match I can find, but I could easily be in the wrong genus with this one.

Next I noticed a pale brown jelly fungus - seemingly fairly common on dead twigs, still hanging in the trees. The twigs all looked to be birch to me.
It reminded me of the Beech Jellydisc I was looking up the other day. But it definitely wasn't growing on Beech. Couldn't find anything in my books that quite matched the features I'd observed, so I resorted to Google (a terrible habit which I must train myself out of). Anyway, I found this blog from Lorn Natural History Group on Willow Jelly Button (which I found the other day) and Birch Jelly Button.

The description of Birch Jelly Button Exidia repanda matches very closely with what I found today, but that species doesn't feature in any of the three reference books I currently possess. So, one to pursue at a later date, when I have more books.

Fungus number three today was this, growing on a birch log pile:
I saw these black spots growing on birch bark and thought, "Ah! That'll be Birch Woodwart again!" But, of course, it isn't. Birch Woodwart has much larger, elongated fruit bodies. I'm guessing this is some kind of Barkspot Diatrype sp. But the books I've got don't make it very clear how you separate the similar D. disciformis and D. quercina species. Looking at it through a hand lens you can see the spots are covered in tiny pores, like a well-used pin cushion.

Next an easy one:
CRAMP BALLS! Or King Alfred's Cakes Daldinia concentrica.

My fifth find was, I think, another example of Hairy Curtain Crust Stereum hirsutum. This one did look really hairy:
... found growing on another (oak?) log pile:

Last, and least identiable (by me), was this small bracket fungus - somewhat past its best:
It looks a bit like a tiny Bitter Bracket Postia stiptica, but the book says that species is only rarely associated with deciduous trees. So, er, I'm going to pass on this one.

UPDATE 26/01/2016 - Nick Aplin (Sussex Fungus Group) says that fungus number two does look like Exidia repanda, apparently quite a poorly know (but fairly common) species. 

He's also explained that the 'black bits' on Birch aren't Diatrype (which forms quite a flattened, coin-like stroma). They could be Hypoxlon fuscum or Annulohypoxylon multiforme (the latter is only 'elongated' when it is guided through the horizontal cracks in the Birch bark - when there are no cracks it's usually more random). But microscopy is needed to confirm the identification.

I must figure out how to use my microscope!

For the record
Date: 23/01/2016
Location: Tottington Wood
Grid reference: TQ216127 
Entered into FRDBI: 13/02/2017

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Tippex fungus on Old Man's Beard

Found up on Graffham Down, in mixed woodland: It's some fungus that looks like Tippex, growing on a woody stem of Old Man's Beard Clematis vitalba.

There's only one thing in my books that looks like Tippex, and that's Elder Whitewash Hyphodontia sambuci. But the books say it's supposed to live on the wood of broadleaf trees, favouring Elder. Doesn't say anything about it growing on Clematis.

Uh oh! Wikipedia says, "H. sambuci consists of a complex of species."  I think that means there might be a whole bunch of different species which all look like Tippex. Ain't nobody got time for that.

For the record
Date: 17/01/2016
Location: Graffham Down
Grid reference: SU920163


Loitering in Graffham this morning, waiting for folk to gather for a Graffham Down Trust work party, I noticed this sociable mass of bracket fungus.

The persistent sleet made it difficult to get a decent photograph. So we just have this, for the record - making it seem rather whiter than the image in my memory.

It's a good match for Turkeytail Trametes versicolor in Roger Phillips' Mushrooms:
  • usually forming large, overlapping, tiered groups
  • 0.1 - 0.3 cm thick (i.e. not very thick)
  • underside white, yellowish or light brown with 3 - 5 pores per mm
  • colour very variable and concentrically zoned with a white to cream margin
  • velvety upper surface
It does have a lovely velvety feel to it. (And I can't see any hairs which would make it Trametes hirsuta).

The book says Turkeytail Trametes versicolor is also very common and found on deciduous wood, all year, which is promising.

BUT there's a note which adds, "this is a very variable species, and some authors recognise several forms." Reckon that could mean we're in dodgy territory, trying to pin this one down to species just from the visual characteristics you can observe in the field.

For the record
Date: 17/01/2016
Location: Graffham
Grid reference: SU926168

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

My kind of microbeads

Went back to the tree that's home to what-I-think-is Panellus stipticus the other evening, on my way home from work, to see if I could catch it glowing. Sadly still no sign of any bioluminescent tendencies. But when I pulled the branch down to get a closer look, I noticed my fingers were left covered in charcoal-like dust. Intriguing!

I returned today, to take a look in the daylight...
... and I discovered the underside of the branch (which is only about 4 or 5 cm wide) is also home to a patch of tiny ashen-white globes - each about 1 mm across. You can just about make them out in this picture, although they're incredibly fragile and many are broken.

I did my best to get a specimen and managed to get home with a couple of the tiny spheres almost intact. Hard to do justice to with a cameraphone down a microscope, but they look AMAZING. Like perfectly round microbeads...
And inside they have these filamentous structures which, in the more intact specimens, hold even-more-miniscule round black capsules. Slightly reminiscent of the inside of a pomegranate:
It must be these black capsules that leave the charcoal-like dust on ones hands. Spores? I tried looking at them under the slide microscope but either I'm terrible at microscopy, or they do just look kind of round and black.

The other feature I managed to make out, which you can just about see here, is that the globes seem to be sitting on the end of short, hairy stalks:


My best guess would be the remains of the fruiting bodies, or 'sporangia', of a slime mold.

Slime molds are like nothing else. They are not fungi. But they're really cool so I'll let them be in my blog.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Park Corner Heath foray

This little haul from Park Corner Heath has kept me busy today. I managed to figure some of these out as I was going along, but that round-headed mushroom on the right has proved very tricky.
A quick root around under these Beech trees by the entrance revealed a slender purple mushroom, which I'm pretty sure is an Amethyst Deceiver Laccaria amethystina.
Next stop was this stand of rotting (Turkey Oak) logs which were hiding a small clump of Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest this next one is Hairy Curtain Crust Stereum hirsutum, growing on a fallen (deciduous) tree limb.
Another log pile - this time of silver birch - and another fungus that was new to me: Birch Woodwart Hypoxylon multiforme.
Then things got tricky! Michael pointed out this pretty cluster of mushrooms growing at the edge of mixed woodland, under a large birch tree.
I've spent at least an hour with the books this afternoon, but despite much sniffing, poking and measuring I still can't seem to make this mushroom definitively "be" anything.
There are a number of features of interest:
  • Domed ('convex') shape to the cap.
  • Not slimy at all - cap feels kind of like a ping pong ball.
  • Very feintly striped ('striate') around the margin (edge of the cap).
  • Shape of the gills which I think you'd describe as 'adnate'
  • Gills themselves are quite crowded, and pale brown colour
  • Brown spore print
  • Stem ('stipe') is long, straight and hollow; I thought it was reasonably tough to start off with, but it does snap if you bend it at right angles.
  • Stipe also looks a bit powdery at the top, which you can just about see in this photo:
I think it might be something like the Pale Brittlestem Psathyrella candelleana, which is apparently very common, BUT:
  • It doesn't seem THAT fragile.
  • It doesn't look THAT pale.
  • I can't see any remnants of a veil
It looks more like the photo of P. laevissima in Collins' Complete Guide, but the description's not detailed enough for me to call it.

Suggestions welcome!

For the record
Date: 10/01/16
Location: Park Corner Heath
Grid reference: TQ5114
Entered into FRDBI: 13/02/2017

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Lookin' out my back door

This is the view out the back door at work, from the kitchen where we've all been eating copious amounts of panettone this week:
I couldn't help noticing there's something fungal-looking on that log; so yesterday lunchtime I took my book outside to see if I could give it a name.
The first thing I noticed was it's got gills. And it's a sort of oyster shape, with virtually no stem (or 'stipe') to speak of. I thought that would probably put us in the realms of the Pleurotus, or oyster mushrooms.
That "irregular and undulating margin" made me think this might be Pale Oyster Pleurotus pulmonarius. Michael Jordan's Fungi says the gills are, "at first white, becoming tinged pallid ochraceous" [the internet has kindly provided this description of 'ochraceous': a yellowy-orangey-browny colour]. You can sort of see in the photo above that the gills of the smaller (younger?) fruiting bodies are white and the larger ones have turned a darker colour. They just look kind of brown to me though.

Roger Phillips' Mushrooms says that Pale Oyster Pleurotus pulmonarius has a white spore print. So I left this mushroom sitting on a sheet of paper on my desk for the afternoon, to see what would happen.
Surprise! This one's spore print is brown. So, back to the books.

It could be some kind of large Crepidotus sp. I suppose. The Collins' Complete Guide says Peeling Oysterling Crepidotus mollis grows up to 7 cm across and Flat Oysterling Crepidotus applanatus up to 4 cm - both have a "mid-brown" / "walnut brown" spore print.

I'll have to go back on Monday and see if this fungus has a "peelable cap cuticle", which would make it Peeling Oysterling Crepidotus mollis.

For the record
Date: 08/01/16
Location: Woods Mill, private garden
Grid reference: TQ217137

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Now that's what I call a brown blob

Ed. This blog contains wildly inaccurate commentary on this species' identification. See note at the end for corrections.

Exceedingly wet walk into Woods Mill nature reserve today, to the Sussex Wildlife Trust HQ.

Cue gratuitous wet woodland pictures...

But anyway, I know what you're really here for is the brown blob. It looks like this:
This is me, pointing at it:

My guess would be that it's another Ascocoryne type thing - one of the Ascomycetes, or "spore shooters". I'm not even going to try and guess which one because I worry I might start coming across as some cavalier fungus-misidentifying crackpot.

But I've been reading about these fungi and there's some pretty funky stuff going on with them: There are different stages to their lifecycle - a teleomorphic (sexual) stage and anamorphic (asexual) stage. And an individual can look completely different, depending on 'where it's at' in its lifecycle.

This Ascomycete looks like it's in its teleomorphic stage. So it's, literally, one sexy fungus.

Addendum, 08/01/16:

Have received an mail from Nick Aplin, extremely helpful chap from Sussex Fungus Group; I was WAY out with this one. It's not even an Ascomycete, it's a Basidiomycete. Doh!

Apparently easy to identify from a photograph (if you're Nick Aplin), it's called Exidia recisa.

In my defence, this species doesn't feature at all in Roger Phillips' Mushrooms or Michael Jordan's Fungi, but it is briefly described in the Collins Complete Guide. It favours dead branches and twigs of willow, which is the habitat I found it in.

Nick didn't mention whether this one's in a teleomorphic stage, or not.

For the record
Date: 07/01/16
Location: Woods Mill nature reserve
Grid reference: TQ2113

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Foiled again

Found this pretty little oysterling type thing on a woodpile this morning. It seemed so distinctive, I felt sure I'd be able to name it.

I remember it as looking very white, like porcelain, when I found it. But looking at it now I can see the gills are slightly buff. And the top looks a little bit felty.

Dammit! It's another of those Crepidotus sp. that I don't know how to do.

For the record

Date: 06/01/2016
Location: Tottington Wood
Grid reference: TQ216127

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Please glow

Another day, another fungus. This one growing a good foot above head height, so difficult to examine in situ.

The fruiting bodies are fairly small, not more than 2 cm across and pale brown coloured, like a milky tea. They have these attractive gills which stop neatly at the stem.
On first impressions, the species it looks most like in Roger Phillips' Mushrooms is Bitter Oysterling (Panellus stipticus).

The books don't agree on whether P. stipticus tastes of anything. Roger Phillips' Mushrooms says, "taste bitter" whereas Michael Jordan's Fungi says, "taste not distinctive". I tasted a tiny bit. It didn't taste very distinctive to me.

Both books say P. stipticus has a white spore print. So does mine. Ta daa!

I had a go at examining the spores under the microscope, but even at highest magnification they just look small. And white. They're supposed to be elliptical - do these look elliptical to you?
I got incredibly excited when I googled "Panellus stipticus" and found out IT GLOWS IN THE DARK!? So I sat in a darkened room with my specimen for ten minutes when I got in from work: It didn't glow. (But then the thing I read says it's only individuals from eastern North America that glow. Which I think is weird.)

In conclusion, reckon this might be Bitter Oysterling (Panellus stipticus) but I'm not sure. I'll believe it when I see it glow.

For the record
Date: 05/01/16
Location: Woods Mill nature reserve
Grid reference: TQ2113
Entered into FRDBI: 13/02/2017