Sunday, 23 October 2016

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

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