Sunday, 30 October 2016

Now That's What I Call A Fungus Foray

Back out with the Sussex Fungus Group today, this time for a public fungus foray around Tilgate Park in Crawley with Kevin Lerwill from the Gatwick Greenspace Partnership.

I hadn't been to Tilgate Park before, and hadn't appreciated what a vast and varied greenspace this is, wedged between the southern edge of Crawley and the M23. Led by Kevin, our route took us along woodchipped-paths through a mixture of broadleaf and coniferous woodland to the pinetum and back through an area of mature parkland. Nick Aplin, Chair of Sussex Fungus Group, was there to introduce us to the fungi of these different habitats.

We saw many different species, including quite a few not-very-photogenic Mycena and Psathyrella species. So what follows are just a few personal highlights.

Fungus forayers in Tilgate Park, Crawley.

It seems the 2016 fungus season is finally getting into full-swing which gave me a chance to meet a number of different species I haven't come across before, including some very charasmatic mushrooms.

One species I must have come across before is Honey Fungus Armillaria mellea. I'm familiar with its bootlace-like root forms ('rhizomorphs') that spread under the bark of hardwood trees, but much less familiar with the fruiting bodies. We saw masses today, which Nick identified as A. mellea, so I should have got my eye in now.

Honey Fungus Armillaria mellea

More Honey Fungus Armillaria mellea

A new species for me was Birch Knight Tricholoma fulvum – a mycorrhizal species which grows with deciduous trees, mainly Birches (hence the name). The Collins Complete (photographic) Guide describes this as a "brown knight with distinctive yellowish flesh," which you can just about see in the lower of the two photographs below. Nick explained that the yellowish gills become spotted-brown with age – another distinctive feature of this species.

Birch Knight Tricholoma fulvum

Birch Knight Tricholoma fulvum
Growing on a rotting tree stump, we came across two species from a genus which is new to me: Wrinkled Crust Phlebia radiata and Jelly Rot Phlebia tremellosa.

Wrinkled Crust Phlebia radiata

Jelly Rot Phlebia tremellosa
Moving into an area of coniferous woodland, we came across a patch of False Chanterelle Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca diminutive mushrooms of a gorgeous apricot colour, growing with pine.

False Chanterelle Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca 
This species looks superficially similar to the Chanterelle Cantharellus cibarius (which I saw at Stedham Common in early September) but has these repeatedly-forking gill-like structures on the underside – rather different to the real gills of the Chanterelle.

False Chanterelle Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca
Not far away, also growing under pine, we came across a patch of Saffron Milkcap Lactarius deliciosus, slightly past their best.

Saffron Milkcap Lactarius deliciosus
Saffron Milkcap Lactarius deliciosus
The Collins Complete (photographic) Guide describes the milk as "carrot-coloured" which I'd say it pretty spot-on, judging by my photograph above.

Saffron Milkcap Lactarius deliciosus discolours green when damaged, which you can just about see in the photo below. You can also see the darker pits on the stipe (apparently known as 'scrobiculations' great word!) which are another characteristic feature of this species.

As well as a likely Blusher Amanita rubescens growing with the False Chanterelle under the pines, when we emerged into an area of mixed woodland we came across a lovely fresh patch of False Deathcap Amanita citrina. This species can be distinguished from the Deathcap Amanita phalloides by its more persistent veil and strong smell of raw potatoes.

False Deathcap Amanita citrina. Smelt strongly of raw potatoes.

Later on, Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria added a splash of colour where we found it fruiting among the short-mown grass of the pinetum. It was nice to see the Amanitas putting on a display as they've been noticeably absent from most of my fungus forays this year.

The pinetum proved fairly productive as we found quite a few different species in this area of Tilgate Park.

The Yellowleg Bonnet Mycena epipterygia, although small, was fairly memorable because, as well as its yellow stipe, Nick showed us how its gelatinous skin (or 'cuticle') can be peeled away.

We also found a large patch of Primrose Brittlegill Russula sardonia, with its pink stem and wasabi-hot tasting flesh. I did actually summon up the courage to taste a bit; it wasn't pleasant.

Primrose Brittlegill Russula sardonia

One of highlights for me was the Greenfoot Fibrecap Inocybe calamistrata. I don't think I've come across the Inocybes before and the Collins Complete (photographic) Guide warns that they can be "a complex genus, with many species needing microscopic examination for identification". But this one's a real doozy.

Greenfoot Fibrecap Inocybe calamistrata (looks more like a blue foot to me).

Nick also pointed out another species from this genus which he identified as Inocybe mixtilis.  This species doesn't feature in the Collins Complete (photographic) Guide, but it does get an entry in the Collins (illustrated) Fungi Guide, which mentions its "marginate bulbous" stipe. You can just about see how the stipe broadens out at the base, in this photo.

Inocybe mixtilis

We also came across the Bicoloured Deceiver Laccaria bicolor in the pinetum so-called because of a distinctive lilac base to its stipe. (Nick says if I put it in the fridge it will grow a lilac fuzz around the base of the stipe. So I've put it in the fridge...)  

UPDATE 04/11/2016: Click here to see what it looked like after five days in my fridge.

Bicoloured Deceiver Laccaria bicolor

Our fungus foray was bookended by Laccaria, with The Deceiver L. laccata at the beginning and Amethyst Deceiver L. amethystina towards the end, so we were quite well deceived.

Moving on from the pinetum into more of a parkland-type habitat, we came across a Cortinarius species growing with Oak which Nick identified as Earthy Webcap Cortinarius hinnuleus. Distant gills and a pointy centre to the cap are distinctive features of this mushroom. I found the gills quite beautiful. I read afterwards in the Collins Complete (photographic) Guide that this species has "an unpleasant earthy or gassy odour". I wish I'd sniffed it.

Earthy Webcap Cortinarius hinnuleus
Earthy Webcap Cortinarius hinnuleus

From there, Kevin took us in the direction of a fine old Oak tree – home to the perennial Oak Mazegill Daedalea quercina

Fungus forayers under the old Oak tree.
Oak Mazegill Daedalea quercina
Oak Mazegill Daedalea quercina up close.

Near there, Nick pointed out a Dyers Mazegill Phaeolus schweinitzii.

Dyers Mazegill Phaeolus schweinitzii
We'd also seen a patch of Common Mazegill Datronia mollis earlier in the day, so I was thinking, "We've done well for Mazegills!" Until I started writing this blog and realised they're all in entirely different genera, which just goes to show that English names aren't always terrifically helpful in learning how to navigate the fungus kingdom.

Common Mazegill Datronia mollis
That was about it, save for this very fresh-looking Alder Bracket Inonotus radiatus spotted on the way back to the car.

Oh, and a tiny slime mould which I'm going to try and cultivate.

For the record
Date: 30/10/2016
Location: Tilgate Park

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

Monday, 24 October 2016

In The Mens with the West Weald Fungus Recording Group

I met the West Weald Fungus Recording Group on Sunday for a foray at another of Sussex Wildlife Trust's nature reserves: The Mens.

As we gathered at the beginning, a few members of the group shared tales Violet Webcap Cortinarius violaceus found fruiting very recently in a woodland near Horsham and at another site, over the border, in Hampshire. It was thought to be having a good year, so worth looking out for this impressive species in suitable habitat.

The foray was led by Mike Waterman and members had come from as far away as Kingston and Croydon to survey this ancient Beech woodland. The group moved slowly through the woodland, reporting finds to Mike as we went.

I was pleased to be able to deploy my modest amount of fungus-related knowledge early on, when we spotted a little patch of Small Stagshorn Calocera cornea  a species I'd found growing in profusion on an earlier trip to The Mens. This turned out to be a new "life tick" for Sussex Wildlife Trust ecologist and pan-species lister, Graeme Lyons, so here he is getting that record shot.

A bit further on, this fallen tree offered some fungi interest, including an impressive swathe of Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare (they looked yellow-er in real life).

Bonnets (Mycena species) were growing all over the place, in abundance. As well as Saffrondrop Bonnet Mycena crocata, we saw a lot of delicate grey bonnets which others identified as Angel's Bonnet M. arcangeliana.

I thought I was beginning to get my head around the Mycenas, so I was completely bemused when this species was pointed out to me as Lilac Bonnet Mycena pura. Its chunky form seemed completely at odds with the other Mycenas I'd seen, but I had to agree it did smell of radishes – a memorable ID feature. "Just roll with it," was the advice of one experienced fungus recorder.

I had a bit more luck recognising the Pluteus. As well as a MASSIVE Deer Shield Pluteus cervinus, we had an impressive yellow Pluteus on a log pile.

This is quite likely to be Lion Shield Pluteus leoninus, which grows on rotting wood of broad-leaved trees, especially Beech. But it can be confused with other yellow Pluteus species, so needs microscopic examination.

UPDATE 25/10/2016 - I've been looking at a 'Key to the better known British Pluteus species' by Richard Iliffe which appeared in the journal Field Mycology (2010 11:3). That takes you to two species with a "wholly yellow to yellow-green cap": P. leoninus and P. chrysophaeus. Apparently the two can be separately by looking, under a microscope, at the skin on the cap (the 'cuticle'):
  • P. leoninus has a filamentous cuticle.
  • P. chrysophaeus has a cellular cuticle.
Types of cap cuticle from Richard Iliffe's article in the journal Field Mycology.
Well, I've been looking at a slither of the cuticle of one of those yellow Pluteus we found, and it looks like this:

Looking down on the cuticle of a Pluteus species. 400 x magnification.

That looks more like the "cellular" picture to me, which would make that yellow mushroom a Yellow Shield Pluteus chrysophaeus. (Actually, to be 100 % correct, my specimen is from another, smaller, yellow mushroom which was growing next to the one in the photograph above.)

We didn't see many mushrooms growing up from the woodland floor. But this was a new one for me and was identified as Common Funnel Cliocybe gibba. You can certainly see the funnel shape in that bottom photo.

One of the highlights for me has to be this: Fenugreek Stalkball Phleogena faginea.

Those tiny fruiting body poking up through the crevices in the bark smelled powerfully of curry!

I was also excited to see what I think was the delightfully-named Lemon Disco Bisporella citrina growing on rotting wood. I brought this home to get a shot under the microscope – it's such a little corker.

Another slightly confusing mushroom was this:

As it was growing up from a moss-covered something (log?), I thought it might be another Pluteus. But I wasn't even close with that guess.

It was identified for us as Rooting Shank Xerula radicata, which the Collins (illustrated) Fungi Guide describes as, "a very variable toadstool" with a wrinkled cap a feature you can just about make out in the picture. As its name would suggest, it was very deeply rooted and growing up from a chunk of buried wood.

We saw many other species which Mike Waterman will add to the group's recording database.

For the record
Date: 23/10/2016
Location: The Mens

All records to be submitted through the West Weald Fungus Recording Group

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Hare's Ear

My fungus-packed weekend started early with a trip to Sussex Wildlife Trust's Ebernoe Common nature reserve on Friday. Michael was leading a walk there, so I thought I'd tag along, and we had the pleasure of bumping into Mark Colvin, a Sussex naturalist and photographer who's also been getting into fungi.

We saw loads! There's so much (so many?) fungi at Ebernoe at the moment. But with a fairly large group, there wasn't time to stop and get photographs.

I was pleased to encounter Horn of Plenty Craterellus cornucopioides for the first time, at the right hand side of the path as you turn right past the cattle grid, along with an impressive population of Beech Jellydisc Neobulgaria pura.

I was also impressed by the Magpie Inkcap Coprinopsis picacea, another species I haven't seen before, and managed to get a quick snap.

Magpie Inkcap Coprinopsis picacea

Mark has captured some wonderful photos of these mushrooms, here:

But the highlight for me was finding this patch of Hare's Ear Otidea onotica, nestled amongst the leaf litter under the trees. Mark stopped to get some super photographs, which he's kindly allowed me to share here:

Nick Aplin of Sussex Fungus Group has since confirmed our identification.

Back at Ebernoe church, we stopped for a look at the Scarlet Caterpillar Club Cordyceps militaris, a fascinating species which Graeme Lyons once famously described as looking like a spicy Nik-Nak.

If you're visiting this site to admire the fungi, PLEASE tread carefully and leave the fungi to do their thing. We saw a few fruiting bodies which had been picked and discarded around the churchyard and near the car park, which is very disappointing.

Ebernoe Common is an internationally important site which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area for Conservation (SAC) under the Habitats Directive. That means it's illegal to knowingly damage or remove living material, unless you have specific permission to take away specimens for survey purposes.

For the record
Date: 21 October 2016
Location: Ebernoe Common
Grid ref (for O. onotica): SU976273 (or thereabouts)
Entered into FRDBI: 12/02/2017

A Beautiful Bonnet

Rather like a Regency lady (I'm thinking Lydia Bennet), I went off on Saturday in search of a beautiful bonnet.

However, unlike Lydia, I didn't run away to Brighton to enjoy a shopping expedition through The Lanes and flirt with soldiers. I went instead to the Sussex Wildlife Trust's Burton and Chingford Ponds nature reserve and the Black Hole – a rather seductive bog.

This story actually begins a few weeks ago on 12 October when my husband, Michael, was leading a walk around Burton Mill Pond. I was stuck in the office that day and felt rather jealous when he came home full of stories about the fabulous fungi they had seen.

Michael posted some photos from his walk on an internal message board at work, including this one:

Mushrooms seen by Michael, 12 October 2016
I remember him mentioning how beautiful these mushrooms had been: "like a mini magic kingdom". But neither of us are very hot on identifying mushrooms, so we didn't make any serious attempts to find out what they were.

The next thing that happened was the Sussex Wildlife Trust's social media officer, Richard, picked up this photo and posted it on Twitter:

It was then we were contacted by Lukas Large, Community Fungus Survey Technician for the Lost and Found Fungi Project based at Kew. Lukas had seen the photograph on Twitter and noted that this cluster of mushrooms with pink caps and yellow stems looks exactly like the Beautiful Bonnet Mycena renati a rare species for which Kew has just twelve previous records.

Lukas sent me further information on the key identification features to look out for: A combination of a reddish to pink or pinkish-brown cap and yellow stem; tiny white fibres at the base of the stem; and (microscopically) inflated projections emerging from the cells in the cap surface. He added that there are other British Mycenas with reddish or pinkish caps, but none of them also have a yellow stem.

Lukas sent me a link to some excellent photos and a full description, here:

As well as microphotographs, here:

This information was especially helpful as the species doesn't feature in the Collins Complete (photographic) Guide and gets a surprisingly boring illustration in the Collins (illustrated) Fungi Guide which doesn't seem to match the description at all.

Illustration from the Collins Fungi Guide
Thus, armed with this information and under instructions to obtain a specimen for Kew's fungarium, I went in search of the Beautiful Bonnet Mycena renati.

So excited I was about the promise of this expedition, I forgot to ask Michael where exactly he found it. So I had to get him to email me a map...

Michael's map showing how to get to the spot where he saw those mushrooms

I parked by a junction on the eastern side of the reserve and followed the footpath through the Black Hole, with views of this rather glorious bog to my right.

The Black Hole
The path takes you along a recently renovated boardwalk, to here (this photo was taken looking back the way I'd come).

Arriving at the interpretation board, I took a left turn along the field edge and picked up the permissive path which runs through a strip of wet woodland and then along the edge of Farley's Copse, where Michael had seen these mushrooms a couple of weeks before at the edge of the wood (somewhere around SU979176).

I searched and searched along the woodland edge. Didn't find them.

I even asked some passing dogwalkers if they'd seen any pretty pink mushrooms. They hadn't.

But now you know what to look for and where to go. So if you'd care to go in search of these rare beauties, I wish you luck! Please be sure to let the Lost & Found Fungi project know if you find them.

However, I didn't go home completely empty handed because I spotted these black blobs growing on a fallen oak bough at the edge of the field just north of the Black Hole.

I recognised them immediately as Black Bulgar Bulgaria inquinans ...

... a species I saw on one of my first fungus forays, aged nine, when I think this species must have been pointed out to me as Bachelor's Buttons. Have been looking forward to seeing it again.

I also saw this distinctive-looking bracket growing on what I think might have been Alder, at the edge of a bit of wet woodland. I'm wondering if this is Alder Bracket Inonotus radiatus. But I'm not sure.


So, a black day. But not entirely unsuccessful.

For the record
Date: 22 October 2016
Location: The Black Hole / Burton & Chingford Ponds
Grid ref (for B. inquinans): SU981174
Grid ref (for bracket species): SU978178
Entered into FRDBI: 12/02/2017