Friday, 1 January 2021

Remembering 2020: a fungal retrospective

So, that was 2020. 
My mycology took a bit of a back seat for much of it. But here are twenty five funguses (and a slime mould) that I thought it would be worth remembering.


1 January 2020 

It seemed an auspicious start to the year...

Earthstars appeared at the edge of the village: Collared Earthstar Geastrum triplex? It was the first time I'd seen them here.



19 March

A bunch of stuff had happened by this point. My fella decided to at least take charge of the personal grooming situation and shaved all his hair off. 

On a bewildered walk through my local nature reserve, I came across this slime mould: False Puffball Reticularia lycoperdon? I'd not seen it looking quite like this before – on the point of transforming from plasmodium to aethalium?

14 April

In contrast to the humans, R. lycoperdon seemed to be having a good year. I came across it a few times on my short walks from home.


16 May

Spring had seemed like such a consolation, it felt shocking to stumble into a great patch of Campion Anther Smut Microbotryum violaceum sensu lato. I've written about this species, which infects living plants, before (here).

Such a pretty pathogen.


19 May

In my front garden, I noticed an orange speck on the Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus). And there was something else in the photograph, nestled against the midrib: a tiny Brimstone butterfly caterpillar. Aw!

25 May

More orange specks appeared, a sign of infection by a rust fungus.

On my daily circuits around the garden, I watched and waited for the aecia to appear. Bingo! Puccinia coronata var. coronata?


6 June

A relaxation in restrictions. I met my parents for a socially-distanced walk.

It had been so dry, even the fungi seemed strange. Here we're looking at a stunted Chicken of the Woods Laetiporus sulphureus.


21 June

I began to venture further afield. At Sussex Wildlife Trust's Ebernoe Common nature reserve, this spalted trunk at the side of a footpath caught my imagination. What fungal battles have raged here?

In places, the air was thick with the smell of Stinkhorn Phallus impudicus.


5 July

A trip to Clapham Wood near Patching, in an optimistic search for summer truffles – after reading this, from 1831:

Unlike Mr Leach, I don't know anything about truffle hunting. I wasn't surprised when I didn't find any.

But I was struck by the abundance of Hymenoscyphus (?) fruit bodies, growing on Ash petioles.

In places they seemed to carpet the woodland floor. I guessed they'd be Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, the pathogen that causes Ash Dieback. Death stalks the landscape too?



24 July

Another excursion, this time to the far west of Sussex, past Ebernoe. Famous for its Horn Fair (cancelled).  

It had continued to be so dry, I didn't expect to find any fungi up on Graffham Down. But this Rooting Shank (Xerula radicata) surprised me.


1 August

I met up with Nick Aplin at the tinder-dry Buchan Country Park. Dark, wet-looking patches on a fallen trunk caught my eye.

A Camarops species: my first encounter with this genus. Darkly fascinating and seemingly paradoxical, with its wet appearance in the midst of a drought.


25 August

To Arundel, to meet with family. After months of drought conditions, I was excited to find this: Lurid Bolete Suillellus luridus?

In the grounds of Arundel Castle, boletes were popping up all over the place after a spell of heavy rain. I didn't attempt to identify these ones. I just liked them.


27 August

Back to Ebernoe and another new species for me: Tuberous Polypore Polyporus tuberaster. Lovely things.

The County Recorder, Martin Allison, commented that they'd been showing frequently that summer.


29 August

Walking the paths around the village, I came across these boletes at the base of a hazel hedge. 

I don't have much knowledge of boletes, but on this occasion I had time to take a good look and compare with Kibby's book on British Boletes. I tentatively identified them as Xerocomellus cisalpinus.

... one of the red-cracking species. Fabulous texture.



30 August

The boletes were really kicking off by the end of August. I think these were Hortiboletus rubellus in a neighbour's lawn. Loads of them.



5 September 

Enjoying the view up on Ditchling Beacon: a Coprinopsis species on dung.

I think the white ones were Snowy Inkcap Coprinopsis nivea.

Others were more of a beige colour. I wasn't sure if they'd be something else (C. pseudonivea?)


6 September

Another walk with my parents, over on the greensand, near Haslemere. I was enchanted by this perfect little porcini, or Penny Bun Boletus edulis.

All the fungi came in shades of cream that day, including this very pale Chicken of the Woods Laetiporus sulphureus

A patch of agarics. Perhaps one of the yellow-staining species. There weren't enough hours in 2020 to start getting to grips with the genus Agaricus. (Maybe next year?)

And this little fellow.


11 September

A walk round Kingley Vale. Still very dry up on the Downs. But a recently mulched ride provided an incredible display of these. Glistening Inkcap Coprinellus micaceus? There must have been thousands of them, pushing their way up to the light.


20 September

Met a friend in the Surrey Hills and found them studded with Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria. A common species, but impossible not to be charmed by them when you find the like this.

And here are a couple more, on the Isle of Wight in late September.


13 October

A trip back to Kingley Vale – hopeful that the grassland fungi would be showing. They weren't. But I did come across this impressive figure of a mushroom. 

One of the smaller parasol mushrooms, Macrolepiota sp. I didn't get a good enough look to say which (M. excoriata or M. mastoidea?).


14 October

A fossick around Woods Mill with Nick Aplin. The fallen oak was looking magical after the rain and Nick introduced me to the tiny bonnet mushrooms that are typically found in this habitat of moss and lichen-covered bark: Mycena pseudocorticola (the blue-grey coloured bonnet) and M. meliigena (the mauve one). Gorgeous!


15 October

It was a treat to join Martin Allison on an early morning fungus survey at Sheffield Park. We saw an interesting range of species. This Dusky Puffball Lycoperdon nigrescens, with its dark spines, was a memorable one for me.  

Twenty one

1 November

Another lockdown. I put whatever plans I'd made in the bin and stayed close to home. 

Behind the industrial estate at the edge of the village is an area of Open Access downland, so I went to check that out and was happy to find a few waxcaps poking their caps up through the sward. These ones are Blackening Waxcap Hygrocybe conica

Twenty two

1 November

Nearby, a Lepista species. I'm not sure these are 'do-able' on field characters. But those delicate purple tones are lovely.

Twenty three

6 December

The one that got away! 

I managed to fit in a few grassland surveys in November which I've written up elsewhere on the blog. Late in the season I was out for a walk around Blackdown again with my parents and passed this shiny little yellow mushroom, growing out of a mossy bank. I got a couple of snaps but only realised later it was almost certainly a waxcap. Perhaps Hygrocybe glutinipes, but I can't say for certain just based on photos. 

Twenty four

12 December

A walk near Horsted Keynes, along the route of the Bluebell Railway, produced a White Saddle Helvella crispa. The form of these things never ceases to amaze me.

Twenty five

18 December

An early Christmas present! On a walk through Houghton Forest, I spied a patch of Cobalt Crust Terana caerulea

Hard to do it justice in the low December light, but this thing's really blue.


Thanks for reading! Here's wishing you good health and good fungus finds in 2021 🙂

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