Thursday, 20 July 2017

Frith Wood

After my day out in a dried out wood on the Downs on Saturday (here), Michael and I thought we'd seek out a wet wood on Sunday. So, what better destination than Wet Wood, near Northchapel, West Sussex?

Well, as it turns out, our walk through Wet Wood turned up relatively little in the way of fungi. Except for another crop of Wolf's Milk Lycogala sp. (growing on a pine log) which Michael said looked like a bum... with three buttocks.

Wolf's Milk Lycogala sp. IMAGE © Michael Blencowe

Oh, and we saw some Cramp Balls Daldinia concentrica.

Still, it was a lovely day so we continued north to Frith Wood, between Northchapel and Shillinglee.

Frith Wood, West Sussex
And what delights we found in Frith Wood!

Next to one of the rides I came across this rather fabulous green brittlegill Russula sp.

It's not terribly obvious in the photograph, but the cap was covered in cracks – a feature I haven't seen in Russula before. I also noted that it was roughly 'half-peeling'.

A quick flick through the Collins (photographic) Guide led me to conclude it was probably a Greencracked Brittlegill Russula virescens.

Given its extensively-nibbled state, I opted not to take a specimen and leave it for the mice to finish dining upon. A decision I now slightly regret, as perusal of Geoffrey Kibby's 'Mushrooms' has highlighted a handful of other species which can appear green-ish with a cracked cuticle, including Russula cutefracta. So I suspect the identity of this mushroom must remain an enigma.

UPDATE 20/07/2017: Geoffrey Kibby has confirmed this as R. virescens (below). Woop woop!

On our walk through Frith Wood we saw quite a few other red Russula; all reasonably fresh but well-nibbled, which made me think they must have popped up after the rain, the preceding Wednesday.

The genus Russula does feel slightly more accessible now I've got Geoffrey Kibby's book which summarises the key features to look for in the different groups. However, you really need to get hold of some iron sulphate (FeSO4) to start narrowing things down and have good microscopy skills to see variation in spore ornamentation. Neither of which I have, so I think I'll carry on ignoring the Russulas for now.

Finally, a fungus I think I know! Chicken of the Woods Laetiporus sulphureus.

An impressive display of Oak Curtain Crust Hymenochaete rubignosa (?) growing on a large log pile. Which I haven't really done justice to with these crap photos.

All through the wood we saw clumps of dead, blackened mushrooms which had sprouted up around the trunks and roots of oak trees, which I took to be Spindle Toughshank Collybia (Gymnopus) fusipes which I've seen growing in profusion in Hoe Wood before (here).

We eventually emerged on the other side of Frith Wood, in Shillinglee, where I got VERY excited when Michael pointed me towards this, at the side of the road:

No, it isn't a Giant Puffball Calvatia gigantea. It's a rock. He got me good!

The walk back through Frith Wood took us through a few different types of woodland.

In this area of chestnut Castanea Michael found something genuinely exciting. A fresh milk cap Lactarius sp. growing at the base of a chestnut tree, with others scattered around nearby.

The cap was convex, cream-coloured, dry and slightly bumpy (not hairy); the margin fully extended (not in-rolled). The colour of the cap and stipe seem unchanging when bruised or damaged.

It bled easily and quite profusely: watery and cream-coloured milk (looking rather like 'skimmed').

Unfortunately I have failed to match these features to any of the species described in Geoffrey Kibby's 'Mushrooms'. Stuck again!

UPDATE 20/07/2017: Have received a comment from Geoffrey Kibby identifying this as Lactifluus piperatus – the very crowded gills being characteristic of this species. According to his very helpful book, this species has a cap cuticle structure that looks like this:

Let's have a look!

Hmm, well. I can confirm there are definitely some long thin things... Let's move on, shall we?

A little further on we spotted a yellow-capped mushroom growing out of a bit of dead wood, which I presumed to be one of the Pluteus.

I've had a go at identifying yellow Pluteus before (here) and it seemed surprisingly straightforward. You just need to look at the cap cuticle under the microscope. Here it is:

Cross-section of cap cuticle mounted in water. 400x magnification.

Wow! That's completely different to the yellow Pluteus I previously collected. I think this 'filamentous' cap cuticle makes this mushroom Lion Shield P. leoninus.

However, the stand out fungus on our trip to Frith Wood has to be this freakish looking thing.

Hairy on top.

With these jagged pores / gills underneath.

And its hairy, spongy cap felt just like wet dog.

It can surely be none other than a young Dyer's Mazegill Phaelus schweinitzii. Curiously, it appeared to be growing up from the ground; but there was a very old stump nearby which I assume must have been a conifer, and this fruit body is growing up from its roots.

In summary: fungus is totally happening in Frith Wood.

For the record
Date: 16/07/2017
Location: Frith Wood, near Northchapel, West Sussex
Grid reference: SU9530

Records entered into FRDBI 06/09/2018


  1. The green-cracked Russula is indeed R. virescens while the white milkcap with very crowded gills (its key character) is Lactifluus piperatus

    1. Many thanks Geoffrey! Comments like this are why I write this blog. So helpful to get expert feedback. (Love your book by the way).

  2. For some reason after your Dyer's Mazegill YouTube clip it goes straight into 'Heroes' by David Bowie. Nice.

    1. Ha! Brilliant. Just tried it and I get R.E.M. ~ Losing My Religion. Must be some kind of message being parsed through the matrix, for sure.