Sunday, 19 March 2023

Spring is in the air (and in that pile of decaying debris)

At Sussex Wildlife Trust's Woods Mill nature reserve, at the far end of the lake, near the stream, there is a pile of decaying flood debris. Little bits of sticks and leaves, and old bits of reeds and sedge. On top of this pile there was one thing that was covered in miniscule white specks:

 ... a decaying catkin. After close inspection, I'm pretty sure it's one of last year's Goat Willow catkins. 

Photo of Goat Willow catkin, borrowed from

The white specks swarming over the dead catkin didn't look like much to the naked eye. They didn't even look like much under a hand lens. But under the stereomicroscope they are rather lovely.

The fertile surface of the tiny cup-shaped fruit bodies (none of them more than 0.5mm across), fringed with hairs, fairly sparkle under the light. 

The whole outer surface is covered in hairs, giving a downy appearance.

Under the microscope, they've got avocado shaped spores.

... and the asci, stained with Lugol's iodine, are showing a blue (amyloid) reaction at the tip.

It's been a long time since I looked at ascos, but I think that means the asci are inoperculate and the bit that's turned blue is the apical ring. 

My tech set-up isn't fully cooperating this evening, so I haven't been able to measure anything...  

But I reckon I might be able to identify this collection??? Cyathicula amenti (= Crocicreas amenti) fits the habitat and morphological characteristics. And according to 'Microfungi on Land Plants' by Ellis & Ellis, it's "common" in March to April.

For the record

Date collected: 18 March 2023

Location: Woods Mill, West Sussex

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