Sunday, 28 February 2016

A dry bottom

Typical countryside scene, Sussex, February 2016

Officially bored of trudging through mud now, so headed out with Michael and our friend Laurie up the steep northern scarp slope of the Downs, over Blackcap, and down into Ashcombe Bottom.

Ashcombe Bottom is covered in mixed deciduous woodland, growing right on top of the chalk. As a result it's much drier underfoot than my usual haunts in the Adur valley. But its sheltered position must offer a damper climate through the year, as the trees here are festooned in mosses and ferns - giving the place a slightly enchanted feel.

I'm calling that Turkeytail Trametes versicolor, again, ...

... and I think this next one is another example of Hairy Curtain Crust Stereum hirsutum, as it's got the smooth underside and hirsute, almost felt-y, upperside:

I foolishly forgot to check what kind of tree it was growing on, and this photo isn't really helping me to settle that question:

There are a few different Stereum species, some of which bleed red when damaged, and I am faintly wondering, given its fairly subdued colour, whether this might be Stereum rameale. But my books say that's generally found on slender branches and twigs and has a smoother upper surface.

In the relative dryness of Ashcombe Bottom, I got to see a couple of 'dried out' versions of jelly species I've become acquainted with recently, including:
Jelly Ear Auricularia auricula-judae
Witches' Butter Exidia glandulosa

And we came across this, which I think is a dried out example of Peniophora quercina (like, actually Peniophora quercina this time, not Exidia thuretiana). You can see the margin is rolled back, revealing a dark underside – that is apparently a distinctive feature of Peniophora quercina:

Saw this too, growing on hazel, which looks similar but I think probably a different species:

The colour looks like it would be quite at home on a Dulux paint chart – some dusky shade of magnolia – in fact almost identical to the colour we painted our spare room where I sit and write this blog: Gentle Fawn. The other feature to note is that it's slightly crazed (and I mean crazed as in covered in fine cracks, not crazed as in CRAZED!!!!!). My guess is it's another Peniophora species but without a proper key to the different UK species I'd be loath to say which one, as there are a number which look very similar.

Also on the hazel were swarms of woodwart; I'm very tempted to call them all Hazel Woodwart Hypoxylon fuscum and be done with it. But I think there are actually a few Hypoxylon species that can be found on hazel so I might have a go at keying them out.

Also saw plenty of King Alfred's Cakes Daldinia concentrica:

It was shortly after we saw those that Michael called me over to see an impressive display of Birch Polypore Piptoporus betulinus, on a fallen birch limb.

I've seen these before but was still struck by how MASSIVE they are. That's a 50 pence piece:

Last, and least identifiable, was this flat, cinnamon-coloured and crusty-looking thing:

I think this is another Phellinus species, similar to the Phellinus I found in Rowland Wood which I've been bothering Martin Allison (the County Fungi Recorder) with.

There are two species in my (not complete) Collins' Complete Guide which look like this: Rusty Porecrust Phellinus ferruginosus and Cinnamon Porecrust P. ferreus. Microscopic examination of the spores is necessary to separate the two with certainty – which I gather is easier said than done as specimens are often not inclined to give up any spores. Perhaps I'll leave it on a piece of glass in the spare room and see what happens.

UPDATE 13/03/16 - I left it on a piece of glass in the spare room for two whole weeks. Nothing happened.

POSTSCRIPT 08/06/2016 - Have received an email from Peer Corfixen (who I guess must be this Peer Corfixen, of the Natural History Museum of Denmark) advising me that "P. ferruginosus have big (300 mm long) mycelialsetae below fruitbody and in the wood.

So that's something to look out for next time I  come across a rusty-coloured porecrust.

Thank you, Peer Corfixen. Amazing to think that real people - real mycologists! - are reading this.

For the record
Date: 28/02/2016
Fungi finders: Clare Blencowe, Michael Blencowe & Laurie Jackson
Location: Ashcombe Bottom, near Lewes
Grid reference: TQ3711
Entered into FRDBI: 13/02/2017

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Field notes

Field notes 23 October 1988
Mum's just sent me this in the post: Field notes, by me, aged 9.


1) found bacalors [sic] button on fallen tree.

2) Found purple and yellow white toadstool on pine leaf litter.

3) Found toadstool with chunky stem and white gills.

4) found white toadstool under fern.

5) found brown toadstool under Fern.

6) found white toadstool with fishy smell. [crossed out?]

Someone must have coached me in the art of field observation, as I was clearly doing my best to record a range of identification features including substrate (what it was growing on) which is so critical in identifying fungi.

Only the first observation is identified to species: Bachelor's Buttons. Although, curiously, this isn't a common name which now features in the UK Species Inventory. Google indicates it has been in currency as another name for Black Bulgar Bulgaria inquinans - one of the Ascomycetes - so I imagine it must have been told to me by some knowledgeable forayer. And I remembered it, even though I couldn't spell it.

The arguments for and against common names are all here: They're memorable to the untrained ear. But they lack the precision of scientific names.

Looking back, there is some critical information missing from these field notes:
  • Where was I?
  • Who was I with? i.e. who was the determiner for those Bachelor's Buttons?
I must do better with my current attempt at field mycology. Because perhaps, years from now, I shall be looking back on this blog like I'm looking back at these field notes.

Any experienced mycologists care to hazard a guess as to what species (or genus) observations 2 to 6 might have been?

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Tricky (Trichia?)

Just a couple of species I haven't seen before in Tottington Wood today.

A quick poke around in that woodpile revealed these little mustard-coloured capsules on the underside of a log. I wonder if this is another slime mold (perhaps from the genus Trichia), like the one I found on the old beech tree at Rowland Wood.

Old stacks of cut hazel seemed to be providing some good bracket fungus habitat:
With those colourful bands of colour on a velvety upper side and a creamy-white underside covered in tiny pores, I'm tempted to call these thin brackets Turkeytail Trametes versicolor. But that seems a bit suspiciously easy.

After turning over one particularly old and past-it looking Trametes sp., I found this:
I think this rather fetching ruby colour is another fungus, growing on the bracket fungus. Here's what it looks like under the microscope:
Perhaps another Cosmospora species, like the red beads I found on Beech Woodwart Hypoxylon fragiforme?

I'm going to "phone a friend" on this one and post it in the Sussex Fungi Yahoo group.

UPDATE 13/03/16 - Nick Aplin of Sussex Fungus Group was kind enough to take a look at these two species I found in Tottington Wood.

According to Nick, the first species is Trichia varia (quite chuffed that my guess at genus was correct) "quite a common species which is characterised by a helical capillitium of +/- two spiralling bands which are often a bit 'lopsided'." And here's Nick's photo showing that helical capillitium:

The second species is Hypomyces rosellus, and Nick must have some super-duper microscope as he's produced this fabulous macro shot of it a composite of 16 stacked images:

And here's another of Nick's photos, of some of its bits:

For the record
Date: 20 February 2016
Location: Tottington Wood
Grid ref: TQ215127
Added to FRDBI: 13/02/2017

Third time lucky

Weather was so uninviting I nearly stayed in and glossed some door frames today. But anything is more interesting than that, so I went for a walk in the woods instead.

I ended up in Hoe Wood again, for a third time, trying to re-find some tiny pink blobs I'd seen bursting through hazel bark. There's a chap in the Sussex Fungi Group, Nick Aplin, who has said he'd be interested to receive collections like this - apparently it's an example of a Nectria-like species (not a young Hypoxylon, as I'd originally hypothesised). Anyway, I didn't find them.

BUT, I did find another colony of Spring Hazelcup Encoelia furfuracea, here:
 ... on this old hazel branch:

Today's find takes the total number of sites for this rare species around Small Dole to THREE. And look, I've put them on this map, and you can click on the dots to see my photos:

I've looked for Spring Hazelcup in Tottington Wood as well, to the south of Small Dole, but so far without any luck. Much of Tottington Wood is actively coppiced by the Tottington Woodlanders and there isn't so much old and decaying hazel there as there is at the other sites - so it could be that the habitat's not suitable. But I shall keep looking!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Schizophyllum Facts

Been getting some love for those Schizophyllum commune pics I posted on Sunday. Seems like this is the crazy dude of the Fungi world.

This just in from Nick Aplin on the Sussex Fungi Yahoo group:

"Did you know that this species has over 25,000 sexes? Or that it has been isolated from human lung and brain tissue? It also sometimes likes to live in silage bales, dogs (yes, dogs) and old people's toenails."

I did not know any of that! I can't even begin to conceptualise what some of it means...

Do you have more Schizophyllum facts? Post them here!


Crawled off and died

Found one of these:
I think maybe Donald Trump's hair crawled off and died in a Sussex hazel copse. Either that, or it's more slime mold remains, from something like the Stemonitis genus.

Whatever it is, it's très cool.

For the record
Found by: Graeme Lyons
Date: 16/02/2016
Location: Hoe Wood, Small Dole [private site]
Grid reference: TQ2113 

Monday, 15 February 2016

In the woods again

A merry band of Sussex Wildlife Trust staff got permission to visit Hoe Wood today, on our Monday lunchtime walk.

Hoe Wood is an old hazel copse so I briefed the group to keep an eye out for Spring Hazelcup Encoelia furfuracea which I've found in other fragments of hazel coppice nearby. But we didn't find any.

However, it wasn't long before Sue from the Membership Department found me ANOTHER jelly fungus to add to my list.
This one looks different from the black brain-like jelly fungus I found yesterday, Exidia plana, as it's growing in these bigger, round-ish blobs. I think that makes it the famous Witches' Butter Exidia glandulosa (although the common name is confusing because it is also sometimes used to refer to Yellow Brain Tremella mesenterica, which is a similar shape but bright yellow - and a completely different species).

Nearby, Ian from the Conservation Department turned up a colourless, rubbery fungus which looks very similar to one I found growing on old wet Willow at Woods Mill. So I think this is another example of Exidia thuretiana.

There is a key to British Exidia (here) which lists seven species. With the addition of E. glandulosa, I reckon I've found five since Boxing Day, which isn't bad going. Two left to go for a full house!

It wasn't all jellies. We also found some great examples of Glue Crust Hymenochaete corrugata. So called because this crust fungus has an ability to glue twigs together - apparently enabling individuals of this species to traverse the canopies of coppice-grown hazel. Like some endless fungal version of that pass the balloon party game.

Another nice thing we saw were these tiny pink things busting through Hazel bark:
Having just learnt yesterday that Beech Woodwart Hypoxylon fragiforme starts out its life PINK, my guess would be that this is a young Woodwart, Hypoxylon sp., growing on Hazel. I'd be tempted to call it Hazel Woodwart Hypoxylon fuscum but this article from the Field Mycology journal on the British Mycological Society website suggests that identifying Woodwarts isn't quite as simple as I might like it to be.

UPDATE 17/02/16 Nick Aplin has advised that the pink things on Hazel are the anamorph (i.e. one particular life stage) of a Nectria-like species. 

Other species we saw included Hairy Curtain Crust Stereum hirsutum and something that looked very like the Bitter Oysterling Panellus stipticus that I found at Woods Mill (and hoped would glow in the dark - but it didn't).

For the record
Date: 15/02/2016
Location: Hoe Wood, Small Dole [private site]
Grid reference: TQ2113
Entered into FRDBI: 13/02/2017

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Ready for this jelly

Another month, another work party at Butterfly Conservation's Park Corner Heath reserve. And a perfect opportunity to shirk off and go looking for fungi in Rowland Wood.

As regular readers may have noticed, I am becoming quite adept at finding jelly fungi. And they nearly always turn out to be some kind of Exidia species.

I've found blobs of jelly fungus on Willow: Exidia recisa.

I've found blobs of jelly fungus on Birch: Exidia repanda (probably)

I've found a flat rubbery jelly fungus, also on Willow: Exidia thuretiana (possibly)

And today I found ANOTHER jelly fungus in one of the old coppice compartments by the lake in Rowland Wood. This time black and brain-like, growing on a rotting (birch?) branch.

With all that previous Exidia experience under my belt, I think I can handle this jelly: I'm calling it Exidia plana. Because I reckon it's just too black and brainy-licious to be anything else.

Next I found this hard rust-coloured and velvety bracket fungus growing on standing dead birch. I think it might be some kind of Phellinus species, as I saw something similar when I was out with Graeme Lyons at Woods Mill the other day. But the advice we had from Martin Allison, County Recorder for Fungi, was that you really need to get these under a microscope (and have the right reference books) to confirm the identification.
 Here's where it was growing:
The Collins' Complete Guide says there's a very rare Phellinus species, called Phellinus lundellii, which is virtually confined to birches. So maybe I've found that?!

From there I headed in the direction of the Big Beech which fell down in high winds around Christmas 2013. The fallen trunk has been left in situ (and a bit of work done to make it safe) so it can continue to provide mature habitat for the creatures of Rowland Wood. And it looks like it's providing some great habitat for the fungi too.

I was thrilled to find what-I-think-is Schizophyllum commune growing high up on one of the fallen boughs. The upper surface of this fungus is nothing to write home about, but the bottom has this incredible patterning to it - reminiscent of quilling.

The top: 

The bottom:
I've been dying to see one ever since someone posted a photo of one on Twitter earlier in the year.

In the shelter of a broken limb, I found another small, pale jelly fungus growing on the exposed timber. 
I think this might be another example of Beech Jellydisc Neobulgaria pura. But I imagine it would need microscopic examination to be sure.

The fallen trunk is also home to swarms of Woodwart, presumably Beech Woodwart Hypoxylon fragiforme.

I am intrigued by the mustard yellow things in the centre of this photo. Under the hand lens they look like tiny grape pips and I don't know if they're another species, or baby Woodwarts, or what.

Update 14/02/16 - here they are under the microscope. I have no idea what these are:

In places, the Woodwart is covered in absolutely tiny purpley-red blobs - only just visible with a hand lens. I'm not sure if this is part of its structure, or another species growing on the old fruiting bodies.

Update 14/02/16 - got the Woodwart under the microscope and here's what those red blobs look like. There are some references on the internet to a species called Nectria episphaeria: "red beads growing on Hypoxylon fragiforme."  Could it be that I've found two species for the price of one?

And my absolute favourite find - although I have precious-little idea what it is - was these shiny neon pink blobs:
Under the hand lens, they look like a mass of tiny pink spheres. My first thought was SLIME MOLD! But I've since read that young Hypoxylon fragiforme are a salmon pink colour - so maybe it's that. I've left it where it is so I can go and have another look next month.

MEANWHILE, back on Park Corner Heath, the conservation volunteers were still hard at work, cutting back an old patch of gorse to encourage new growth...
... and buried deep within the pile of brash that you can see in the foreground, they found this:
Some teeny tiny porcelain-white mushrooms!

My best guess would be that these are a species of Marasmoid mushrooms. But I don't think I'm really ready for these.

For the record
Date: 14/02/16
Location: Park Corner Heath & Rowland Wood
Grid reference: TQ5114

The Big Beech is at TQ514150

Entered into FRDBI: 13/02/2017

Sunday, 7 February 2016

A closer look

I snapped a photo of this mushroom in situ during a lunchtime stroll round Woods Mill on Monday. Tufts of it were growing on a decaying willow branch and from above it looked a striking orange-y colour. So, without much ado, I called it Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare.


Luckily an eagle-eyed reader was on hand to alert me to my mistake. So I've been back for a closer look.

The first thing I'd have noticed, if I'd bothered to get down and have a proper look at it in the first place, is its brown velvety stem (or "stipe"), fading to a pale apricot colour at the top ("the apex"). The stipe seems pretty tough and fibrous.
Looking at it from below, you can see the gills are an attractive pale apricot colour.
...and from the guide below, I would say the form of the gills is "adnexed" (or possibly "adnate"?). They don't look as crowded as I've seen on Sulphur Tuft.
From the Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools (a photographic guide)
I had a tip-off that this might be Velvet Shank Flammulina velutipes which the Collins Complete Guide describes as a "Winter-fruiting shank [check!] distinguished from similar-looking species by its dark velvety stipe [check!] and white spore print.

So, time will tell whether this guy passes the final test...
Come back later to find out if this mushroom's dropped a white spore print and been officially determined as Velvet Shank Flammulina velutipes.



I couldn't find any spores.


UPDATE 16/02/16 - happened to be passing these mushrooms again yesterday and they were looking pretty fresh, so thought I'd take another sample and try and settle this once and for all.


So we'll call this one Flammulina velutipes and be done with it.

For the record
Date: 07/02/16
Location: Woods Mill nature reserve
Grid reference: TQ217136 
Entered into FRDBI: 13/02/2017

Monday, 1 February 2016

Amongst the mosses

Mooching around in the wilds of Woods Mill today with Graeme Lyons, marvelling at the variety of mosses growing on the aged willows, I couldn't help noticing this striking crimson bracket fungus:
My guess was that this here is Blushing Bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa and Graeme concurred. These dark finger prints that are left behind when you squish it are diagnostic:

... and the books says it's very common. Only the old brackets are this dark reddish brown on top; they start off a pale brown colour.

Growing nearby was this cheeky little streak of Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare, taking advantage of a decaying willow branch.

UPDATE 3/2/2016 - A reader has been in touch to say he'd be willing to place a (very small) bet that this is really Velvet Shank Flammulina sp. Thank you Reader - I shall return for a closer look.

For the blob fans amongst you, we also found quite a bit of this:
It won't surprise regular readers to hear that I don't know what this is.

But one feature (aside from it's relative shapeless and colourless-ness) jumped out at me: It's resupinate [i.e. the fruit body is lying flat against the branch it's growing on]. So I don't think it's one of the jelly things (Exidia sp.) that I've been seeing recently on willow and on birch.

There's something in Collin's Complete Guide that looks like it could be this: Peniophora quercina.
  • Fruit body to 0.5 mm thick, fully resupinate forming irregular patches several centimetres in extent;
  • Surface initially waxy or gelatinous with a smooth or slightly warty texture;
  • dull blue or lilac when moist [um... not really] but drying bright pink or grey with a lilac tint [umm... maybe? does a slightly pinky-brown count?]
The book says it's typically found on oak but occasionally other deciduous trees. To be honest I thought everything we were looking at was growing on willow - but I probably need to check that.

UPDATE 3/2/2016 - word on the Sussex Fungi Yahoo Group is that this is probably Exidia thuretiana. Apparently Peniophora species are usually rock-hard, whereas this looks more rubbery. 

What is it they say... One out of three ain't bad? 

For the record
Date: 01/02/16
Location: Woods Mill nature reserve
Grid reference: TQ217136