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: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0269-915X(96)80047-4

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: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11557-017-1311-3


(3) Delivorias & Gonou-Zagou, 2011, NOT WITHOUT A MICROSCOPE: Look-alike species of Cheimonophyllum, Clitopilus, Crepidotus and Entoloma, Field Mycology, URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fldmyc.2011.03.005

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

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