Sunday, 3 July 2016
This weekend, at a secret location in deepest Sussex, families gathered for the fourth annual Secret Wildlife Festival. I was there, officially in a 'helping out' capacity, but I had a secret mission of my own: To find more slime moulds.
The highlight for me was a trip round Knowlands Wood, a privately-owned woodland of old hornbeam, oak and mixed coppice, with Nick Lear who has been actively managing the site for wildlife since he acquired it more than thirty years ago.
Along one of the wide, sunny rides – ideal for butterflies, if only the sun were shining – we spotted this bulbous beauty.
I think it's Reticularia lycoperdon (synonym Enteridium lycoperdon) – a slime mould. But as the group hurried on, in pursuit of White Admirals, I didn't have much opportunity to study it.
After passing through the butterfly glades, where a few fleeting rays of sunshine brought the promised White Admirals and Silver-washed Fritillaries, we entered an area of dense and damper woodland – mostly hornbeam with a few old oaks.
Scanning the woodland floor for signs of life, I was thrilled to see this: An army of Dead Moll's Fingers Xylaria longipes trooping along the dead wood.
The books say Dead Moll's Fingers Xylaria longipes are found on fallen branches of broad-leaved trees, especially Maples and Sycamore. They don't say anything about Hornbeam but they sure seem to love it here.
It's not hard to see why they're called Dead Moll's Fingers. They give a very good impression of dead fingers clawing their way up from the underworld.
According to my field guides, Dead Moll's Fingers Xylaria longipes are more slender than the perhaps-better-known Dead Man's Fingers Xylaria polymorpha and have a longer stem. The Collins Complete (Photographic) Guide also mentions that the stem of Dead Moll's Fingers Xylaria longipes doesn't snap when bent, unlike X. polymorpha. So I think I'm on reasonably safe ground with my identification.
There must have been thousands through this stretch of woodland. They're really fabulous looking things.
I was trailing far behind the rest of the party, so it wasn't until I got back to camp that I discovered no one else had spotted these denizens of dead wood surging up through the woodland floor and surrounding us.
That wasn't all this stretch of woodland had in store. With a bit of looking, I managed to find two more slime moulds...
There was this tapioca-like thing growing on a fallen oak tree, which I'm struggling to identify:
And another example of Wolf's Milk (a Lycogala species):
The colour seems a deeper, more carmine shade than I've seen previously. Perhaps it's L. epidendrum...?
For the record
Date: 3 July 2016
Location: Knowlands Wood [private site]
Grid reference: TQ4117
Fungus record entered into FRDBI: 13/02/2017