Fungi Friday: 24th January 2020
A week of blissful winter sunshine and endless starry skies, cut short by low clouds. What is the point of January, many ask. If fungi asked themselves that question, they probably wouldn’t be here and therefore nor would we. Nature does not disappear completely in winter. The paucity of species can help introduce us to new ones we never knew existed.
January to me is a good time to find slime moulds. Yes, I suppose this is two straight weeks of cheating after last week’s lichen love-in. But if this is the only way to raise awareness about slime moulds, I don’t think fungi will mind. I had an hour to look through the wooded slopes of an old estate in East Sussex, to find this week’s quarry.
There was very little fungi of the mushroom kind, in fact, none. But one of the bad funguys had been making itself felt in the wood. Ash trees had been felled after becoming infected with ash dieback. I used to monitor a woodland at the time of ash dieback’s arrival in the UK and have, since about 2014, watched it rocket across the country. In Sussex it is killing lots of ash trees that are under 50 years of age and the landscape of the South Downs is losing a lot of its higher woodland.
Here you can see the effect of the fungus, though of course many other fungal organisms will be benefitting from the decay caused by the disease. The rot has moved from the outside in through what are the softer layers of waste wood. Had the fungus weakened two thirds of the overall mass, the tree would probably have fallen down. Lots of people walk under these trees, so that’s why they have to be pushed before the wind shoves them.
I have been exchanging emails with a fellow macro photographer this week who has been spending hours looking for slime moulds. One day this week he looked for four hours and found nothing. I was lucky enough to walk straight outdoors for a few minutes and happened upon this epic spread on the tree above:
No, slime moulds aren’t fungi, they’re not even moulds, which are another kind of fungus. I still don’t have the slime mould ID book so any help is welcome.
The thing that amazed me about these slimeys was that you could barely see them, even when I knew they were there. They camouflaged so well with the glowering winter light. The photos here have been taken with a flash.
I could have spent all day with this spread but only had an hour and my small camera. Up close they look like little black kalamata olives. Nom, nom and nom. Though inedible.
The land managers had left lots of standing dead trees which is excellent. There is some epic misinformation going around about deadwood in woodlands and their contributions to forest fires. It’s guff aimed to misinform people, appeal to people’s fears (what a surprise) and promote the destruction of these habitats. In Britain our native woods of oak, beech and so on, are far too wet to ever burn like a heath.
The crevices seen above are the perfect places to find slime moulds in cold weather. This is because they provide microclimates and protection from the elements.
Here I found some old stalkballs which are fungi (or maybe a species of slime mould, am not quite sure), plus the real life of the party:
DISCO. I’m not sure which species of disco the blue cup fungi are, but the orange fruiting body is definitely a slime mould. They were few and I couldn’t get a good angle on them.
Thankfully this blue disco brought the party on Fungi Friday.
Please do share your finds this week in the comments below. Also here are some fungi things of interest this week.
Thanks for reading.