Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Variation in concept …

Sowerbyella radiculata

Until someone calls it something else …




The British Mycological Society records 124 British records of S. radiculata (Pezizales: Pyronemataceae) on its FRDBI database [18 October 2017] with just 5 from Sussex; the most recent being in 1957 from Friston Forest, East Sussex. There are two early records, one dating back to 1876, from Stopham, West Sussex. However, S. radiculata has also been recorded from Lullington Heath, East Sussex, where it was first recorded in 2014. There is also a modern record from Ashdown Forest, East Sussex (M. Allison, 2017, pers. comms., 14 October).

Buczacki et al. (2012) state, ‘usually in small trooping-tufted groups’ and ‘on soil with conifers.’ Sterry et al. (2009) state, ‘solitary or in small groups in coniferous woodland.’ The above specimens were found amongst coastal chalk grassland in East Sussex; so quite distinct in habitat from that described. There is a lot of variation in the current concept of this uncommon species, including a few ‘varieties’, which will no doubt be described as separate species in the future. Apart from the untypical habitat in which the above examples were found, the spores are quite wide and have a nice dense reticulate ornamentation; shown above dyed with Cotton Blue.

My thanks to Nick Aplin for the above photomicrograph and his considered opinion.

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 606, fig. p. 607.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 324, fig. p. 325.

Monday, 16 October 2017

The force awakens …

Collared Earthstar (Geastrum triplex)







Although an infrequent and rather localised species, G. triplex is probably the most commonly found of the British Geastrum species.

Initially appearing as a part-buried ball with a prominent beak, the mature fruiting body eventually comprises of an outer star, an inner saucer-like collar (sometimes), and a central spore sac. The onion-shaped fruitbody splits open at maturity and 5 to 8 creamy-buff outer rays fold back, splitting to sometimes leave a fleshy collar as the remainder of each ray folds downwards and the tips curl partway under the body. A pointed hole, known as a peristome, situated on top of the sac releases spores when the wind blows across it or raindrops impinge upon its surface. The sides of the peristome are fibrous and appear rather ragged but not regularly striate. A fuzzy ring surrounds the peristome, which is slightly paler fawn-brown than the rest of the outer surface of the spore-sac.

With their extraterrestrial appearance members of the Geastraceae are always a pleasure to find …

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 440, fig. p. 441.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 305.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 335, figs. f and g.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 270, fig. p. 271.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Helvella …

Felt Saddle (Helvella macropus)


A somewhat uncommon find, probably exacerbated by its form and rather drab and discreet colouring, H. macropus is nevertheless widespread across Britain and Ireland. It is one of several 'saddle fungi' that appear in forests, particularly beside footpaths. The mature fruiting bodies, as pictured above, appear as shallow cups perched on delicate stems. Like their close relatives the morels, saddle fungi may have the capacity to form mycorrhizal relationships with woodland trees, but it is also clear that they can live as saprobes, feeding on woody debris.

Ebernoe Common is well recorded for fungi so it was nice to add a new species to the reserve list. My thanks to Ann for pointing me in the right direction …

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 604, fig. p. 605.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 310, fig. p. 311.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Sweet smell of decay …

Common Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)










P. impudicus is the commonest of the British stinkhorns, with a smell that is typically detected long before the fungus is actually found. However, detecting their pungent odour does not necessarily guarantee finding them - though following your nose will often reap rewards. They are saprobic and usually gregarious; so where you find one you will often find others.

The ‘eggs’ can be found at any time of year but they usually lie dormant until the summer months. Within the egg the fruitbody develops. In the above picture of a dissected egg the stipe material is in the central column and the olive-green gleba, which bears the spores, surrounds it. The developing raised honeycomb structure of the cap beneath the gleba is also visible. As soon as the cap emerges from the egg, insects, attracted by the putrid odour, are drawn to it and eat the gelatinous gleba exposing the raised honeycomb structure. Some of the gleba adheres to the legs of insects and this is how the spores get carried from one location to another.

To find specimens in pristine condition you ideally need to visit suitable locations at dawn, as nasal senses are heightened and before their devourers have discovered the phallus-shaped newborns that have erupted from their embryonic form during the night.

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 446, fig. p. 447.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 302.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 338, fig. a.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 244, fig. p. 245.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

20,000 leagues …

Anemone or Starfish Stinkhorn (Aseroë rubra)








The aptly named Anemone or Starfish Stinkhorn Aseröe rubra is arguably the most striking of all stinkhorn species found in Britain. It is a non-native species, having been first imported to England from Australia, probably via the Netherlands, in around 1829, when it was first observed in Kew Gardens, in Surrey. To date, 2017, all other known recorded sightings in Britain have been from a few closely linked locations in the county of Surrey. A. rubra remains a restricted and very rare find in Britain. Fairly common in parts of southeast Australia, A. rubra occurs as a native species in Tasmania, New Zealand, South Africa and on several isolated islands in the Pacific. From its natural habitat it appears to have travelled to other parts of the world in garden or soil related products.

Like the other members of the Clathraceae, A. rubra emerges from a partly buried, gelatinous, egg-shaped, volva. As the ‘egg’ ruptures, its delicate, pinkish, cylindrical stem rises and expands from which 5-11 starfish-like red arms extend outwards from a flattened central platform coated with a sticky, dark greenish-brown gleba [fleshy spore-bearing mass of certain fungi]; designed to attract flies which are the principal agents of spore dispersal.

My thanks to Nick Aplin for the above photomicrograph showing the oval-shaped basidiospores.

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 448, fig. p. 449.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 303.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 339, fig. e.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 244, fig. p. 245.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Beauty and the beech …

Another world ...


Although their appearance might suggest that slime moulds are fungi, they are neither fungi nor moulds; though they often form spore-bearing structures that resemble those of true fungi. Most slime moulds are generally deemed by taxonomists to be protists; the oddities of the natural world that don't seem to fit in with the rest of our global taxonomic grouping system - though this classification is still open to some debate.

Although
 many species fruit on decaying wood, they do not form penetrating and absorptive masses of hyphae in the woody
 substrate. Instead, slime moulds form structures called
 plasmodia, which are naked [i.e. without cell walls] masses of 
protoplasm [a colourless material comprising the living part of a cell], which can move about and engulf particles, in an 
amoeboid-like manner, in order to maximize the nutrients they can draw from their food source. The plasmodia creep about over 
the surfaces of resources, consuming bacteria, fungal spores, plants, protozoa, and small particles of non-living organic
 matter. When conditions become unfavorable the plasmodia convert into spore-bearing structures known as sporangia [clusters of spores]. Spores from the sporangia are then dispersed to new habitats and the life cycle begins once again. The young sporangia, of what I believe to be Tubulifera arachnoidea, formerly Stemonitis ferruginosa, is pictured above living on a heavily decayed beech tree; this particular mass having a diameter of no more than 10mm.

Slime moulds are strange and wonderfully varied in appearance. When magnified through the eye of a macro lens another world is entered …

References:

O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, pp.78-79.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 334-335.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Alien invader (revisited) …

Devil’s Fingers (Clathrus archeri)


The aptly named Devil’s Fingers, only rarely seen in southern Britain, is a striking species, which reached Europe from Australia or New Zealand at the start of World War I (1914). It was first recorded in Britain from Cornwall in 1946. As global warming advances this exotic species may well become more common in Britain. One thing is for sure, its striking appearance and rancid smell guarantee that it will not go unnoticed for long …

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 448, fig. p. 449.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 304.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 339, fig. f.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 244, fig. p. 245.