Saturday, 27 February 2016

Field notes

Field notes 23 October 1988
Mum's just sent me this in the post: Field notes, by me, aged 9.


1) found bacalors [sic] button on fallen tree.

2) Found purple and yellow white toadstool on pine leaf litter.

3) Found toadstool with chunky stem and white gills.

4) found white toadstool under fern.

5) found brown toadstool under Fern.

6) found white toadstool with fishy smell. [crossed out?]

Someone must have coached me in the art of field observation, as I was clearly doing my best to record a range of identification features including substrate (what it was growing on) which is so critical in identifying fungi.

Only the first observation is identified to species: Bachelor's Buttons. Although, curiously, this isn't a common name which now features in the UK Species Inventory. Google indicates it has been in currency as another name for Black Bulgar Bulgaria inquinans - one of the Ascomycetes - so I imagine it must have been told to me by some knowledgeable forayer. And I remembered it, even though I couldn't spell it.

The arguments for and against common names are all here: They're memorable to the untrained ear. But they lack the precision of scientific names.

Looking back, there is some critical information missing from these field notes:
  • Where was I?
  • Who was I with? i.e. who was the determiner for those Bachelor's Buttons?
I must do better with my current attempt at field mycology. Because perhaps, years from now, I shall be looking back on this blog like I'm looking back at these field notes.

Any experienced mycologists care to hazard a guess as to what species (or genus) observations 2 to 6 might have been?


  1. Comment received from Barbara Jeffers, by email:

    "As your Mother my answers (from memory which is a very unreliable source after all these years) are:

    You were almost certainly on Marley Common (which, incidentally, is nearly all in W Sussex,) on a fungal foray under the auspices of Haslemere Natural History Museum. The leader would have been Audrey Thomas, a very respected field mycologist, who led fungal forays every autumn for HNHM for years. I don't know of any qualifications she may have had (but Margaret Hibbard might know). Audrey died a few years ago but I remember her still being keen to lead forays even after someone had to carry a folding seat around for her so she could sit down frequently in the course of the walk. She was still a master mind on fungi though. Audrey would probably have identified all the specimens you had found at the end of the walk, she usually did, but maybe you decided you had finished with writing things down by then."

    1. Well thanks Mum for this invaluable contextual information.

      Good to know I was foraying in *Sussex*...