Sunday, 14 January 2018

The fallen beech

I returned to a favourite spot today: the fallen Beech in Rowland Wood.

This is my third year hunting for fungi on the remains of this big old tree (1). I first started looking in 2016 (here), just over two years after it had blown down. Back then the trunk and most of the boughs were still tightly covered in bark. Wood Wart Hypoxylon fragiforme swarmed across the surface.

Butterfly Conservation has undertaken some major management work in Rowland Wood this winter which has involved enabling access by machinery; it was therefore necessary to move the fallen trunk which had been blocking one of the main rides. I was really pleased to see the two halves have been placed adjacent to the ride in the same orientation and aspect as they were before to provide as much continuity as possible for the organisms which have made their home here.

While much of the tree still has its covering of bark, in many places it is starting to cleave away. At the broken end of the trunk, decomposers have been busy consuming and demolishing the heartwood.

A large patch of Bitter Oysterling Panellus stipticus is growing on the exposed surface.

I found more of it squeezed into a crack; presumably taking advantage of the moisture and access to all that nutritious wood.

On the upper surface of the main trunk, which must take the heaviest battering from the rain, the bark has fallen away. A tiny spindly orange fungus has taken up residence here: Small Stagshorn Calocera cornea?

The black fruit bodies of woodwart – presumably Beech Woodwart Hypoxylon fragiforme – still swarm across the boughs.

And I think this must be more of the same, spreading across the surface of that same bough, where the bark has fallen away; growing in a slightly less clustered form.

UPDATE 16/01/18 – Nick Aplin has responded to my post on the Sussex Fungus Group Yahoo! Group to advise that this looks like it should be Hypoxylon cohaerens (now Jackrogersella cohaerens, having been moved to a new genus last year (2)), rather than H. fragiforme.

If I've understood correctly, a feature of the genus Jackrogersella (formerly Annulohypoxylon, formerly Hypoxylon) is the 'papillate ostioles' (nipple-like pores) of the fruit bodies, which you can see here:

Here's what they look like in cross section.

Of the similar-looking species in this genus, J. cohaerens is apparently restricted to Beech Fagus; so it does seem likely that is what I've got here. There is a key in Wendt et al's paper (2) but – if I'm reading it right – the only observable feature which clearly separates J. cohaerens from J. multiformis is the length of the germ slit in the spore. I can't make out a germ slit at all, let alone see how long it is.

Something like Purple Jellydisc – an Ascocoryne species – was making itself at home on the cut end of one of the boughs.

On a damp log in a sheltered spot on the ground, I spotted Turkeytail Trametes versicolor (top) growing alongside Birch Mazegill Lenzites betulinus (bottom).

I think this is some more Birch Mazegill Lenzites betulinus, viewed from underneath.

On another of the cut ends there was a patch of Hairy Curtain Crust Stereum hirsutum

And tucked away under a loose chunk of bark I found these oysterlings – a Crepidotus species – enjoying this nice sheltered spot.

CORRECTION 16/01/17 - Nick Aplin suggested that the gills on this collection look rather pale for Crepidotus and it could be something like Clitopilus hobsonii

I was under the mistaken impression that Crepidotus is a genus that I could actually recognise, but it turns out there are a number of confusion species in different genera, as illustrated in a helpful article in Field Mycology: 'NOT WITHOUT A MICROSCOPE: Look-alike species of Cheimonophyllum, Clitopilus, Crepidotus and Entoloma' (3).

These little white beauties tested my microscopy skills to the limit, but I got there in the end.

The gills were covered in 4-spored basidia; and I couldn't see any cheilocystidia.

The spores were the right shape and size for C. hobsonii.

400x magnification. Mounted in water.
1000x magnification. Stained with PlaqSearch and mounted in water.

And the clincher I managed to observe the angled (~ decagonal) outline to the spores, in polar view.

I think this is sufficient information to confirm the collection as C. hobsonii. With thanks to Nick Aplin for the tip off!

The books say you're supposed to be able to see ridges running down the length of the spores: I couldn't make these out at all. But there are quite a few micrographs purporting to be of C. hobsonii spores online and most of these don't show the ridges either; I think they must be just very difficult to observe.

On the freshly cut surface of the main trunk, Wrinkled Crust Phlebia radiata was beginning to spread.

While on the north side of the trunk, Smoky Bracket Bjerkandera adusta was growing in profusion...

... with its distinctive grey pores.

I was intrigued by the very hairy surface of this fruit body, which had white pores underneath. The books say the upper surface of Smokey Bracket Bjerkandera adusta can be felty, becoming smooth. So perhaps a particularly felty example is what I'm looking at here.

Oyster Mushrooms – a Pleurotus species – were forcing their way through the bark in places.

And I loved these, but I couldn't say what they are; they were really tiny, just a few millimetres across.

Last but not least, I should also give a mention to this old thing, growing at the base of the standing trunk: one of the Ganoderma species (either Southern Bracket Ganoderma australe or Artist's Bracket Ganoderma applanatum).

I make that 13 different species on that one big old Beech.

And this inconspicuous little brown job was growing in the ride adjacent. 

After intensive investigations, I'm inclined to call this one Scurfy Twiglet Tubaria furfuracea.

Clockwise from top left: Gills & tan-coloured spore print; spores; cheilocystidia; basidia (4-spored)

Walking through the rest of Rowland Wood I didn't find much else.

This raspberry-coloured slime mould was very spectacular, growing in one of the rides that the mulcher had recently driven through.

And I think this is probably Common Jellyspot Dacrymyces stillatus providing a tiny splash of colour on the logs by the parking circle.

I've spent ages trying to find something that looks like D. stillatus spores (which wikipedia says look like this) but all I can find is this sort of thing. Hyphal fragments, maybe?

On the same log, a white slime mould was busy fruiting inside a small crevice.

Here's a small sample five hours later, under the stereomicroscope. It's changed colour!

Have sought some help over on the British Slime Moulds Facebook page with the slime moulds; apparently I need to wait for them to mature to get an identification.

(1) I found an interesting article in Mycologist (Vol. 10, part 1, 1996) on 'The breakdown of a beech tree - The first five years' by G. A. Fenwick. URL:

After 5 years the author found the tree had been colonised by a total of 29 different fungi; so I reckon finding 13 species on just one visit to the Rowland Wood beech tree isn't bad! 

(2) Wendt et al., 2017, Resurrection and emendation of the Hypoxylaceae, recognised from a multigene phylogeny of the Xylariales, Mycological Progress, URL:

(3) Delivorias & Gonou-Zagou, 2011, NOT WITHOUT A MICROSCOPE: Look-alike species of Cheimonophyllum, Clitopilus, Crepidotus and Entoloma, Field Mycology, URL:

For the record
Date: 14/01/2018
Location: Rowland Wood
Grid ref: Big Beech is at TQ514150; Raspberry-coloured slime mould at TQ512151; Tiny orange fungus and the other slime mould at TQ515148

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Wet Willows

Just got back from a holiday in sunny Spain to discover it's pretty wet here in the Adur valley. So on a walk around Woods Mill this afternoon I thought I'd see if I could spot one of my favourites Amber Jelly Fungus Exidia recisa on the willows around the pond. I've only seen it a couple of times since I first found it here in the very wet weather we had a couple of years ago (here).

Success! Although I struggled to get a decent photo in the low light.

The wet willows proved to be a pretty rich hunting ground for fungi.

This rather lovely purple thing is the Silverleaf Fungus Chondrostereum purpureum.

Here and there the branches were splashed with yellow.

Andy Overall wrote a very useful article on these 'Yellow Brain Fungi' in volume 18 (3) of Field Mycology [1]. There are two species which look very similar: Tremella aurantia and Tremella mesenterica and I've always been rather confused about how you separate the two.

Andy explaines that Tremella species are parasitic on other fungi or lichens, and the two species mentioned above are specific to different hosts. T. aurantia grows almost exclusively on Stereum hirsutum whereas T. mesenterica grows on resupinate (flat-growing) fungi from the genus Peniophora.

I've looked for a host fungus when I've found 'Yellow Brain' in the past and never been able to find any sign of it. In another paper on these species, which Andy references [2], Peter Roberts notes that T. aurantia "seems to enter the host fruit body whilst it is still developing, so that no external host normally remains" and T. mesenterica "appears to parasitise the mycelial hyphae rather than the fruit bodies of the host." So I don't feel so bad now about not being able to find the host.

Peter goes on to say that, "Often T. mesenterica can be found growing on the upper surface of a twig with the Peniophora producing fruit bodies on the underside".

I hunted around near where this 'Yellow Brain' was growing to see if I could find any sign of a host. I found this, a short distance away on the same branch.

Could this be a Peniophora? I'm rather intrigued by it, whatever it is, as the ashen-grey crust appears to be dotted with red blobs.

Both papers say that the two 'Yellow Brain' species can be separated with microscopy and there are some nice illustrations in Peter Roberts' article, so I feel like I should have a go.

Reproduced from Roberts, 1995.
Wish me luck!

UPDATE 09/01/2018

Taking a tiny slither off the outside of that 'Yellow Brain' I was surprised to discover this tangle of threads (hyphae?) as well as the anticipated blobs (basidia? spores?).

100x magnification. Mounted in water.

I'm still getting the hang of using my new eyepiece camera so I was really pleased to find - amongst all that chaos - something which looked just like illustration 7 above: a basidium! The line down the middle shows it is 'septate'.

400x magnification with zoom.

I had a harder time finding the spores, but I think this is one:

Can't remember what magnification this was.
I'm not 100 % sure I've got the calibration sorted on the eyepiece camera, but I think I made this spore around 12 microns x 9 microns, which is in range for T. mesenterica (which has bigger spores than the other one).

I was struggling to see features clearly when mounted in water, so I thought I'd try them with a stain. I opted for PlaqSearch which I've been told is a safe, general-purpose stain.

Yup! That works!

With everything stained this shocking pink colour, it was easier to spot those blobs with dangly bits on which look like a good match for T. mesenterica basidia.

These microscopic features seemed to have a lot of personality. But I felt like they were missing something... Googly eyes!

If you squint at this image, I think you can make out some clamped hyphae.

And I found these quite hard to find, but I think this image shows 'conidiophores' (whatever they are; bottom of illustration 8, above).

400x magnification. Mounted in water; stained with Congo Red.
I think this information is sufficient to confirm my collection as Tremella mesenterica. Need to keep an eye out for the other one now!

For the record
Date: 6 January 2018
Location: Woods Mill
Grid reference: TQ219134

1. Overall, A. 2017, Tremella aurantia & T. mesenterica, two British 'Yellow Brain Fungi' compared, Field Mycology Vol. 18 (3), 2017
2. Roberts, P., 1995, British Tremella Species I: Tremella aurantia & T. mesenterica, Mycologist Vol. 9, Part 3

Misidentifying fungi in Andalusia

Fungus observations from SPAIN

Didn't take my fungus identification paraphernalia on our recent trip to Andalusia as we were loaded up with kit to look for Iberian Lynx. But I couldn't resist stopping to take a look at these pale beauties popping up in the dehesa around Doñana, south west of Seville.

I had a good look at them, and hoped the features I'd observed would be enough to put a name to them once I got home.

I took this photo in the long, low, late-afternoon light and admired the silky-white stem.

I noted that the gills were 'free' not attached to the stem. They were white with a pink-ish tinge to them, exaggerated by the light.

The caps had a grey-ish hue. Their smooth surfaces covered in specks of sand.

They were popping up all over the place as we walked through the Dehesa de Abajo and I thought they might be some exotic mediterranean species.

I struggled to get them to match anything in my books when I got home, so I asked for help on the British Mycological Society Facebook page. I got a quick response from Fermat Gundogdu who suggested an identification of Stubble Rosegill Volvopluteus gloiocephalus.

But this species has a volva. When I saw the white gills of this mushroom, I wondered if it might be an Amanita species; I had quickly checked for a volva and not seen one. But Fermat's suggestion prompted me to look again. I realised it did have a thin, bag-like volva.

So it is Stubble Rosegill Volvopluteus gloiocephalus.

I felt like I should have known this as I've come across this species before, at Flatford Mill (here). But there it was growing in rank grassland and didn't look half as elegant as these beauties. Perhaps mushrooms are like wine: better on holiday.

Then again, the First Nature website notes that:
"The Stubble Rosegill is fairly common in Britain and Ireland, where it is most often seen in fields that have been harvested of a grain crop (or occasionally some other food crop such as cabbages). This mushroom is even more widespread and abundant in southern mainland Europe, often recurring in the same grassy areas for many years."
This is perhaps one of those situations where the English or "common" name risks leading one astray, as it suggests an association with stubble-fields which doesn't necessarily apply across its range. In contrast, the scientific name Volvopluteus gloiocephalus – would tell you that it's related to the pink-spored Pluteus, has a volva, and a sticky head. Which perhaps explains why they've got loads of sand stuck to them.

While I'm here, who wants to see my Iberian Lynx photo?

Very lucky to see this pair, down the telescope, after 20 hours of looking. Sierra de Andújar, Spain.

For the record
Date: 3 January 2018
Location: Dehesa de Abajo, Doñana, Spain