Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Mychorrhizal Madness

I joined Sussex Fungus Group for a foray at Butterfly Conservation's Rowland Wood reserve on Sunday. When we originally programmed it in, I wondered if it might be a bit early in the season to see much of interest. But I needn't have worried: it was all kicking off!

As soon as we arrived, we saw that the area to the right of the main track into Rowland Wood was dotted with orangey-apricot coloured mushrooms enjoying the woodchips that had been left there from a previous visit by Mr Mulcher: False Chanterelles Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca.

The repeatedly forking gill-like structures underneath the cap are a distinctive feature of this species.

As we got into the rushy clear-felled area, we were momentarily distracted by the odd Common Lizard scampering about and the egg-sacs of a departed Wasp Spider, which Mark Colvin got this wonderful photograph of:

But this area provided fungal interest too, as it was dotted with tight clusters of Ringless Honey Fungus Armillaria tabascens.

From there we headed north into an area of mixed broadleaf woodland, which is where things started to get serious.

At the edge of the path, under hazel, we came across this brown milkcap. I don't really like tasting mushrooms but am willing to give it a try, under supervision, as taste can be a key feature in certain groups of mushrooms. I put a tiny dab of milk from this mushroom on the tip of my tongue.


That gave us an ID on this mushroom: Fiery Milkcap Lactarius pyrogalus.

All through the wood, the floor was dotted with these dirty brown mushrooms: Blackening Brittlegill Russula nigricans. I don't think I've ever seen mycorrhizal mushrooms growing in such profusion before.

These, if I recall, smelt kind of bad. And we had a conversation about exactly what the bad smell was. Dead crab? They were living up to their name: Stinking Brittlegill Russula foetens.

Underneath an oak tree we found some more attractive milkcaps. I think Nick Aplin identified these as Oakbug Milkcap Lactarius quietus.

Then another nice milkcap, looking like someone turned it on a potters' wheel (if it didn't have that dink in it). I think this one got recorded as Stumpy Milkcap Lactarius flexuosus var. flexuosus.

I didn't recognise this bolete right away. Maybe I was too busy exclaiming, "Look how big it is!" and taking pictures of me pointing at it.

But it turned out to be a Penny Bun Boletus edulis. I should have known.

These pale mushrooms were a bit of a mystery until we gave them a sniff, at which point Nick Aplin recognised their smell of 'sweet rubber'. They gave me a flashback to primary school and the smell of plimsolls and country dancing: Sweet Poisonpie Hebeloma sacchariolens.

It struck me that mycology demands a lot from people. It is not enough to recognise colours, shapes and textures. You have to observe with all your senses, and delve into the depths of your brain for memories of things and their unconsciously remembered scent.

Stepping out of the wood, we stopped for a while at an old fire site, near the Big Beech Tree. Here we found a couple of small ascomycetes which Nick Aplin has identified as Charcoal Goldeneye Anthrocobia macrocystis and Plicaria carbonaria, with the latter being possibly new to Sussex.

Nick and Mark got set up to get some proper nice shots of the ascos, so hopefully we'll get to see those some time. And Brad found some interesting moss more of that on his blog.

From there we headed over to The Big Beech, which has been a favourite haunt of mine on previous solo forays. On one of its dead limbs, hidden amongst the bracken, we found an impressive display of Oyster Mushrooms Pleurotus ostreatus.

A log pile nearby was home to a nice fresh Blackfoot Polypore Polyporus leptocephalus.

And amongst the grass at the edge of the ride we found two Blushing Boletes Leccinum scabrum. The flesh of these mushrooms didn't change colour when cut, so I'm not sure the name 'blushing' bolete is that helpful. I think I preferred Brown Birch Bolete.

I thought the wide mulched ride along the western edge of Rowland Wood might provide some excitement, but it was very dry and we found very little.

As we reached the edge of Park Corner Heath, and the old earthen bank which marks the parish boundary, we came across a Beech tree which was playing host to a very healthy looking Ganoderma and Giant Polypore Meripilus giganteus. That's probably not good news for the Beech tree.

Time was against us by this point, but we managed a quick scoot along the edge of the pond on Park Corner Heath.

I'm not sure if we got a name for these small scarlet mushrooms...? But I liked them.

And we almost missed this white mushroom, buried in the leaflitter. I think we recorded this one as Milk White Brittlegill Russula delica. The orange patch in the picture is where I've rubbed it with an iron sulphate crystal, and shows the FeSO₄ reaction which can be a key feature when identifying Russulas.

Those were really just the highlights. The full list is available via the Sussex Fungus Group e-group, should you care to join! And all records will be shared with Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre.

That would have been the end, except I couldn't resist stopping for these Inocybes which I spotted on my way back to the car. I've added them to my little pile of Inocybes that I'm going to look at under the microscope one day. When I haven't got anything else to do.

For the record
Date: 8/9/2018
Location: Rowland Wood, near East Hoathly, East Sussex
Grid reference: TQ514150 [site centroid]

All records to be submitted via Sussex Fungus Group

Mushrooms in Abbots Wood

I was in Abbot's wood Sunday before last, with the Sussex Fly Group. But I wasn't looking for flies. I was looking for fungi.

Mycology can get a bit overwhelming at this time of year, so I decided I'd go for quality over quantity.

Growing under hornbeams, with an oak tree not far away, I spotted this beautiful group of Milkcaps Lactarius sp.

They had a wonderfully soft texture to the cap, like a fine, soft suede. (Or, in fact, like the cover of 'The Butterflies of Sussex', which was described to us by the publishers as feeling like 'a mouse's ear'.)

The gills were quite crowded together.

And, much to my amazement, the white milk which flowed from the broken cap turned pink.

When cut, the flesh-colour changed gradually to a salmon-y pink.

I narrowed things down to this page in Geoffrey Kibby's 'Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain & Europe Volume 1'.

Reading the descriptions, the closest match I could find was Lactarius azonites. But I thought I'd better check the spores looked right.

From a spore print, I scraped the spores together on a glass slide and compared against the colour chart in Kibby's book. The closest match looked to be IIIc in the 'Romagnesi colour system'.

Following a series of incredibly convoluted steps, I managed to get a focus-stacked image of one of the spores, in Melzer's reagent. This image is taken at 1000x magnification under the oil immersion lens. You can see the pointed warts and low ridges forming a partial reticulum, which looks about right for L. azonites.

For some reason I didn't pause to take a spore measurement while I was going through the rigmarole of getting this image. Which is annoying. But I've still got the specimen so could get one if needs be. 

I'm shall seek the views of Sussex Fungus Group on whether this is suffient information to confirm an identification.

I was also rather taken with this bolete: one of the Leccinum species, I reckon, with that dark patterning on the stem.

I was hoping I could get an ID without disturbing it, so got my mirror out to have a look at the spores.

However, flicking through Geoffrey Kibby's 'British Boletes', I realised I would need to cut through the flesh to confirm an ID.

I cut it in half and watched as it turned a very non-descript grey colour.

Looking around, I saw there was hazel and birch growing nearby.

I think this makes it a Hazel Bolete Leccinum pseudoscabrum.

Back in the hornbeam woodland, we found another baby Leccinum. Ahhh!

There were a few other things about, like this Blushing Bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa.

Some rather dried-out mushrooms growing on ground-out tree stumps...

... which I think are Spectacular Rustgill Gymnopilus junonius.

A tuft of Yellow Stagshorn Calocera viscosa.

And some rather nice Inocybes:

I hope to take a closer look at these another day.

For the record
Date: 02/09/2018
Location: Abbots Wood

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Woods Mill Bioblitz: the main event

I was back at Sussex Wildlife Trust's Woods Mill reserve today for the #WoodsMill50 Bioblitz where I'd volunteered to lead an impromptu fungus foray in Hoe Wood (the private part, as opposed to the public part where I was yesterday).

I discovered it's really hard to walk and talk and record fungi at the same time, so I've had to piece this list together from what I can remember, and the bits of fungus I accumulated as we went round.

The numbers follow on from the list I started yesterday.

Spindleshank Gymnopus fusipes

We saw hundreds of these, growing in even greater profusion than I remember seeing in previous years (photos here).

Blackedge Bonnet Mycena pelianthina (???)

We came across more of these mushrooms which I first encountered yesterday (photo here). The dark edge to the gill is really quite attractive when you catch it in the right light.

We had a big radish fan with us who confirmed these mushrooms did smell like radishes.

23. Deer Shield Pluteus cervinus

Saw quite a few of these, with their white 'free' gills, growing on the decaying logs which are strewn around the wood.

24. Rooting Shank Xerula radicata

This looked superficially similar to the Deer Shield P. cervinus that we'd just seen. But the slimy wrinkled cap and tall stature looked good for Rooting Shank Xerula radicata.

25. Hazel Woodwart Hypoxylon fuscum

Lois from the bioblitz team pointed out a black wart-like fungus growing on hazel branches. I'm reasonably confident it would have been H. fuscum but there are a few different woodwarts which can occur on hazel...

- Unidentified orange slime mould

We came across a fabulous orange slime mould, growing gregariously on a bit of rotting wood. Something like Trichia decipiens, but identifying these is tricky.

- Green or Turquoise Elfcup Chlorociboria sp.

Chunks of green-stained wood gave away the presence of a Chlorociboria species, but we unfortunately didn't find any fruiting bodies which would have enabled us to get a positive identification. My guess would be it's probably Green Elfcup Chlorociboria aeruginascens because that's what I normally find around these parts.

26. Unidentified Funnel mushroom - Clitocybe sp. Probably Common Funnel Clitocybe gibba

This was quite a dainty thing, with a pinky-beige cap and elegant 'decurrent' gills.

The Funnels Clitocybe are a group I'm not particularly familiar with. I'll see if I can get an ID on this one by looking at its microscopic features.

UPDATE 3/9/2018
Martin Allison, County Recorder for Basidiomycetes, has suggested this looks like Common Funnel Clitocybe gibba.

27. Glue Crust Hymenochaete corrugata

We saw lots of evidence of Glue Crust H. corrugata glueing hazel sticks together an ingenious mechanism for traversing the canopy. I've written about this species before, here.

28. Twig Parachute Marasmius ramealis

We saw a mass of tiny, squat beige mushrooms growing on the end of a small branch, which I think were probably Twig Parachute M. ramealis. I didn't get a specimen because they were being attacked by some kind of white mold.

29. Collared Parachute Marasmius rotula

This was another tiny little thing, but with a long horse-hair-like stem.

The gills of this species are attached to a little collar which goes around the stem. This is quite difficult to see in dried up old specimens like this, so I had a quick look under the stereomicroscope to make sure I was on the right track with this one.

I have heard that another feature of Marasmius mushrooms is that they can dry out like this, and then later revive themselves if moistened. I've popped these two in a margarine tub with a drop of water, to see if I can witness this miraculous transformation.

UPDATE 2/9/2018 - And, lo! It did perk up again.

- Unidentified small grey Pluteus

Think I might give up on this one. It's looking a bit past it.

- Another one of those tricky boletes!

I think it might be another of those Xerocomus ones that I saw yesterday, but it's gone a bit slimy and smelly - don't fancy inspecting it too closely.

30. Chestnut Bolete Gyroporus castaneus

Many thanks to Diane Cavallero and Geoffrey Kibby, over on the British Mycological Society Facebook page, for their help putting a name to this one. I got stuck thinking it was a Boletus, because of the white pores, and had forgotten about the Gyroporus species. It's a gorgeous mushroom.

The firm, brittle flesh is a particular feature of this genus - as evidenced by the stem on the right which snapped clean off when I tried to squeeze it into my collecting box.

 31. Postia sp. - maybe Bitter Bracket Postia stiptica

- Blushing Bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa


I got a few more species in the other part of Hoe Wood...

32. Dryad's Saddle Polyporus squamosus - well past its best!

I saw this fruiting on the same tree back in 2016 (photo here). Funny to think it's been living there, out of sight, all that time.

33. Tan Ear Otidea alutacea (?)

Got a specimen, so will have a go at these later if someone can give me some pointers...?

UPDATE 3/9/2018
Nick Aplin's been in touch to say, "I think the cup fungus is Otidia alutacea... The paraphyses should be hooked, asci should have no iodine reaction and spores should have two droplets."

400x magnification. Mounted in water.
400x magnification. In Melzer's reagent.
On that basis, these images are looking good for Otidea alutacea.

I should have probably left it at that, and not googled "Otidea alutacea". Because now I've found this monograph on the Otidea (Olariaga et al, 2015) which suggests that O. alutacea is actually a species complex, and should perhaps be separated into several different species, based on phylogenetic groupings ('clades'), which may perhaps show different ranges in spore sizes.

This has prompted me to measure the spores in my collection. They are actually just off the bottom end of the spore sizes Olariaga et al (2009) give for O. alutacea. However, they're pretty close to the spore sizes quoted for North European specimens: 12–13.5 × 5.5–7 μm.

400x magnification. Mounted in water.

400x magnification. Mounted in Melzers reagent.
The authors go on to say, "To be able to fully clarify species boundaries within the O. alutacea complex, sampling of additional collections for molecular study is needed. Distinguishing morphological and ecological characters should be sought, especially through studying fresh material. Several names that belong to this complex, such as O. alba, O. cinerascens, O. cochleata, O. felina and O. kunmingensis should be considered as this study is undertaken." 

I seem to have fallen into one of those taxonomic rabbit holes that are dotted around in the field of mycology. I wonder if anyone's currently studying the Otidea and would like to take a look at my collection...?

Let's call it Otidea alutacea for now, until someone says otherwise.

34. Nice looking Milkcaps (Lactarius sp.) growing in the end of a birch log

Hoping to get a spore print for this one, which should help me figure out where to start with identification.

UPDATE 3/9/2018
Martin Allison has suggested that this looks like a milkcap (Lactarius sp.), possibly Lactarius tabidus.

I tried getting some milk out of this collection, with no joy! I think it had got a bit hot and sweaty in my collecting box, and stopped cooperating.

However, I've been back today and found a couple of similar specimens, very close to where I collected the one photographed above.

These are definitely milkcaps, albeit not particularly milky ones. Over on Twittter, Helen Baker suggested I try the colour of the milk on a white tissue. But I haven't managed to get enough milk out of them to wet a tissue. 

I've had fun looking at the (whitish) spores though, which according to Geoffrey Kibby's 'Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain & Europe Volume 1' should look like this:

Here's a series of images at 1000x magnification, under oil immersion, showing the pointy bit on the side, the sharply pointed (mostly isolated) warts and ridges connecting up some of the warts.

Not sure if this is sufficient to confirm L. tabidus. Lactarius spores all look very similar to me!

35. Cute scurfy little mushroom

Don't fancy my chances with this one! But I got a specimen.

So, that's my haul for the #WoodsMill50 Bioblitz. Still got a bit of work to do pinning down the identifications. And it's very possible I may have got some wrong, so feedback welcome!

If that's whet your appetite and you fancy getting out and doing some fungus recording this season, check out the Sussex Fungus Group.

Many thanks to my colleagues at Sussex Wildlife Trust and Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre for organising such a wildlife-packed Bioblitz and letting me just mooch around looking at fungi.

For the record
Date: 1 September 2018
Location: Hoe Wood, Woods Mill, West Sussex

Records entered into FRDBI 07/09/2018