Saturday, 4 November 2017

A fungus foray at Swan Barn Farm

Sunshine on Swan Barn Farm

I joined Sara Shepley and the West Weald Fungus Recording Group (WWFRG) on Thursday for a foray in the woods around Swan Barn Farm on the edge of Haslemere. This site is managed by the National Trust and the ranger there, Matt Bramich, had kindly offered to take us round. There wasn't much about in the way of grassland fungi, so we headed into the woods.

We found various different brackets and crusts: Birch Mazegill Lenzites betulinus and the much more maze-like Oak Mazegill Daedalea quercina; as well as some very smart-looking Turkeytail Trametes versicolor. We also found a patch of Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare which someone said glows quite impressively under UV light – I must try that out some time!

This little group was found growing on well-rotted wood in an area of wet deciduous woodland. They didn't ring a bell with anyone, so I offered to take them home for a closer look.

With no clue as to even what genus these Little Brown Jobs (LBJs) might belong to, I started off with MycoKey which has a pictorial, multi-access key to genus.

The caps looked like they might be minutely hairy.

The gills looked to me to be either shortly decurrent or perhaps slightly emarginate, and they produced a brown spore print.

Entering all these features into MycoKey seemed to take me towards either the genus Flammulaster or Tubaria.

The next step was to look at the spores. Here they are mounted in water.

One sub-unit on that scale is about 1 micron, so these spores are pretty big: up to about 15 microns in length.

Here they are mounted in Melzer's reagent. They've gone a bit brown, but I'm not sure if they've gone reddish-brown enough to be described as 'dextrinoid'.

I think these sort-of almond-shaped spores would be described as 'amygdaloid' which looks completely wrong for Tubaria, so I think we can rule that genus out. It's not looking promising for Flammulaster either as the spores in that genus are generally less than 10 microns long.

On first appearances these mushrooms might look like LBJs but microscopically they've got loads going on! The gill edge is covered in these long-pronged cells with swollen bases: 'urticoid cheilocystidia'. And at the top right here you can see a two-pronged basidium (basidia are the cells which hold the spores).

The cap cuticle ('pileipellis') too has an interesting structure, with chains of elongate cells.

400x magnification.
Here's one of those cells at higher magnification. I think that little bump at the bottom left-hand end might be a clamp connection, linking one cell to the next.

1000 magnification.
I got stuck at this point, so asked for some help on the British Mycological Society Facebook page, here. Richard Shotbolt and Neil Mahler have replied to say the microscopic features look typical of the genus Naucoria which has fairly large, 'amygdaloid' spores; but the macroscopic features don't look typical of Naucoria.

I can't get my observations to fit with any of the Naucoria descriptions in Funga Nordica, so I think I'm stuck again. Might have to give up on this one. Still, nice to have seen these interesting microscopic features.

UPDATE 12/11/2017 Well I decided not to give up on that Little Brown Job after receiving a third opinion from Ken Burgess over on the BMS Facebook page who said my collection matches very well with specimens he has found this season. Ken explained that the spore sizes can be quite variable, and one ought to measure about 20 spores accurately to get a range and an average. He also mentioned that spores from 2-spored basidia are generally larger than those from 4-spored basidia (like piglets from a smaller litter, I suppose), so that could account for the larger spores in my collection.

I got a new bit of kit this week a USB eyepiece camera for my microscope – so I spent some of yesterday afternoon calibrating it so I could get some more accurate measurements of those spores.

I found the spore length to range from 11.1 to 14.2 microns with the average length being 12.8 microns and the average width is 6.1 microns. These average dimensions are *almost* within the range described in Funga Nordica (9-12 microns x 5-6.5 microns).

I've also had confirmation from Sara Shepley that there were Alders around in the part of the woodland where this collection was made, and Nick Aplin has been in touch to say he can see fragments of Alder rootlets in my photograph above. 

I think this gives me enough information to confirm the collection as being Naucoria escharoides, noting the presence of 2-spored basidia and the larger spores.

These Common Earthball Scleroderma citrinum looked like they'd been parasitised by another fungus. Not sure what.

And then I came across some tiny, dusty white fruit bodies growing out of a pupa, nestled among moss on a fallen tree trunk.

Image taken under the stereomicroscope.

I had some help from Nick Aplin of the Sussex Fungus Group on this one and looks like it's Isaria farinosa (formerly Paecilomyces farinosus which is what Barry from the WWFRG said he thought it might be, but I spelt it wrong when he told me so I didn't manage to find a description straight away). It is an entomopathogenic fungus which means it feeds on insects. This individual looks like it's feeding on a moth pupa. Sorry moth fans!

Mike Waterman found a few fruit bodies of this rather lovely-looking Ganoderma.

The pores underneath looked quite big.

And the pore tubes and flesh turned quite yellow when cut.

It was thought this might be Ganoderma resinaceum (TBC).

This neat little round fruit body was growing on a well-rotted fallen branch.

Underneath it had quite large cream pores.

And here's the side view.

The base of the stem looked like it was turning black and it was suggested in the field that this was the Blackfoot Polypore Polyporus leptocephalus. Looking at the photos now, I see that the cap is fringed with hairs...

.. This makes me wonder if it could be the similar species Fringed Polypore Polyporus ciliatus. However, the pores don't look small enough to be P. ciliatus which Geoffrey Kibby, in his book 'Mushrooms & Toadstools of Britain & Europe Vol. 1', says has 5-6 per mm. This collection only has 2 or 3 pores per mm, which is a better fit for P. leptocephalus. Hmm.

The Collins (illustrated) Fungi Guide says that the Funeral Bell Galerina marginata can be "solitary" or found growing in "small tufted groups". But we found it growing great profusion on this rotting tree stump.

UPDATE 12/11/17 ***ERROR ALERT!*** I got that one wrong. Nick Aplin has kindly alerted me to the fact these are Sheathed Woodtuft Kuehneromyces mutabilis. This species often occurs in large tufts like this, on stumps of broadleaf trees, and the stem being scaly below the ring and smooth above is a particular feature of this species.You can see it better in this other photo I took.

This Tricholoma was a new species for me.

It was found growing among Beech trees (my photo isn't from the spot where it was found), which means it looks good for Burnt Knight Tricholoma ustale. Tricholoma are mycorrhizal and there is a similar-looking species which is associated with birch (Birch Knight Tricholoma fulvum).

And finally, this Amanita was nice to find in its prime (almost, except for the chunks the slugs have taken out of it). I thought at first it might be a Blusher Amanita rubescens but it had not a hint of red about it.

The brown cap surface was covered in grey-ish veil remnants.

It was concluded that this is Grey Spotted Amanita Amanita excelsa var. spissa (also referred to as Amanita spissa).

The Collins (illustrated) Fungi Guide notes that Amanita excelsa var. spissa is similar to Amanita excelsa var. excelsa but has a characteristic radish-like smell (I don't remember sniffing it, unfortunately). Apparently, "it is widely believed that var. spissa is the more common variant but var. excelsa is itself a very variable toadstool and the two forms have been greatly confused so records are uncertain". Another corner of mycology which is painted in shades of grey!

For the record
Date: Thursday 2 November 2017
Location: Swan Barn Farm, Haslemere, Surrey
Grid ref: SU9132 and environs

All records to be submitted by Sara Shepley via the West Weald Fungus Recording Group


  1. So glad you were able to confirm the Naucoria Clare.
    All your Blogs are very interesting and full of enthusiasm !

    Neil Mahler.

    1. Thanks Neil, very kind of you to say so!