Daniel Greenwood

The language of leaves

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fungi Friday 5th March 2020

A couple of weeks ago I was inspecting a bird table in my garden and spotted a moss growing from its ‘roof’. This bird table has been, literally, around the houses and has probably gathered many organisms along the way. Looking more closely I found some jelly fungi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The weather has been showing signs of spring, with queen bumblebees on the wing and what I am sure was a male hairy-footed flower bee travelling through the gardens. On Monday I was in the garden briefly and had a closer look at the bird table. On the edge I found a nice cluster of what I think are lemon disco (yes, great name!).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

During a brief trip to The National Trust’s Nymans in the Sussex Weald this weird species was on the decaying heartwood of an old cherry tree. It’s a slime mould known as false puffball. If you press it with your finger it bursts, a bit like other Lycoperdon slime moulds such as wolf’s milk (search for it).

Chesworth_29-2-2020_LR_lo-res-11

Elsewhere, the state of Sussex’s rivers shows how high the rainfall has been so far this year. But the lichenised-fungi are benefitting.

Chesworth_29-2-2020_LR_lo-res-08

Along this stretch of the river Arun, these beard lichens were profuse. One hawthorn was so covered with them it seemed like there would be no room for leaves in a couple of weeks!

Chesworth_29-2-2020_LR_lo-res-17

Lichens were doing well in other places too. This knotty old fencing rail was making a home for these cup lichens (Cladonia). Lots of countryside fence posts are home to these lichens.

Chesworth_29-2-2020_LR_lo-res-06

Not far away from the gushing Arun was a veteran ash tree with lots of King Alfred’s cakes growing from the damaged bark. In this image you can see the folds of the cambium where the tree is trying to protect itself from fungi and other invading organisms. This fungus will have a boom from the amount of dead ash trees caused by the evil fungus behind ash dieback disease.

hqdefault

To people outside the UK or without a grasp of English history, this name is quite meaningless. It is based on the tale of King Alfred who was exiled in the Somerset Levels during the Viking invasion of Winchester. Alfred failed to keep an eye on a woman’s loaves of bread that were on the fire and they burned. It is said that she had no idea he was the King, so far removed was his from his throne. Don’t worry, he eventually came back and pushed the Danes away a bit.

In the real world this fungus is said to be a host species for hundreds of invertebrates. It’s also used as a kindling and many people who know of it do so for that reason.

Let’s hope for milder temperatures and less rain and see if some more photogenic fungi pop up!

Thanks for reading.

More fungi

2 Comments
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The South Downs

Fungi Friday 28th February 2020

A fungal perspective on February would probably say that it was ok if you live on a fence post. The poor people who have had their lives ruined by flooding in Britain probably wish they too live on stilts. And so February saw itself out with yet more heavy rain and flooding. But it also carried the early signs of spring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The closest thing I got to a true fungus (whatevs that is) was this turkeytail fanning out from a fence post. It’s a reminder that to a fungus, a fence post is just a dead tree that we have put somewhere away from the woodland it was once growing in. There are also a smattering of crustose lichens in the background.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The best chance of finding something fungal to photograph was on some raised timber somewhere. I found this very marshmallow-like polypore bulging from a crevice in a fencing rail. You know times are hard when it comes to this. Behold the pores developing underneath as the specimen expands.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As you can imagine, the 100%-fungi fungi ran out quickly. This lichen stood out to me a bit like the archetypal graffiti you see alongside railway lines. I went to a secondary school with a rich mix of graffiti artists (I know that this is not a universally held description) and this reminded me of that.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is a heavy crop so the photo isn’t winning any awards, but the lichen’s orange fruiting cups are really cool. I read this week that these cups are ascomycetes in fungal terms, better known as ‘cup fungi’. Their biological name as a structure on the lichen is ‘apothecia’. The ascomycetes are the largest group of fungi in the world and are also known as ‘spore-shooters’ (but don’t confuse them with puffballs like I once did). Normal mushrooms are basidiomycetes and produce their spores in the basidia which are usually present inside the gills we all know and eat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is a pic from last week (is that allowed?) where you can see the apothecia of the lichen. The spores are released from these navy-blue discs and shot out into the air.

Bonnet spores - Octoberr-2018 djg-1

Just to illustrate, above you can see spores being released from a bonnet mushroom. This was taken with a high-resolution camera and lens, with some additional lighting. I didn’t know this had been captured until I looked at the photo later on my computer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back to this week and there are signs of winter coming to an end and the return of some mushrooms. This fly has what I guess might be goat willow pollen on it, meaning that they’re flowering and spring, it cometh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The truest sign of winter going back to where it came from is these froggy peeps, about a week later than 2019. More from them in a bit, if I find the time. Rebbit. Soon enough they’ll be sheltering under toadstools in the woods, where they belong.

Thanks for reading.

More fungi

Leave a comment

SLF_LRCC_14-2-2020-1

Fungi Friday 21st February 2020

The Weald holds so many future Fungi Fridays. It’s an ancient wooded landscape that stretches across Sussex, parts of Surrey and into Kent. It covers the most wooded part of the UK in East Sussex. Once it will have connected with the New Forest, forming much of England’s post-glacial ‘wildwood’. I am very privileged to live within rambling distance of the Weald. I write about walks in it once a month, check that out if you will.

I managed to sneak ninety minutes in locally last week and found plenty of interesting things. As well as the ‘dark side’ of fungi, a reminder that a fungus giveth, and it taketh away.

SLF_LRCC_14-2-2020-11

We have had two storms in two weeks in Sussex and the winter streams are tickling through the woodland understory. Above, a tree was resting in a winterborne. This means a stream that only flows in winter when rainfall is higher. In Ireland, lakes (or loughs) that appear in winter are known as ‘turloughs’. Got plenty of those right now in Brexit-land.

SLF_LRCC_14-2-2020-09

The log was covered in some nice looking turkeytail, a very common polypore that is said have anti-carcinogenic properties. It was a nice way to start.

SLF_LRCC_14-2-2020-06

Then I happened upon these absolute corkers growing on a dead birch tree. These are blushing bracket in their mature stage. This area of the woodland is very wet, with mosses like sphagnum attempting to recolonise more places. It is set in amongst mature beech trees at the edge of heath-ier habitats, largely consumed by pines that were planted, rank and file, by the Forestry Commission in the 20th Century. It’s very wet and many birches are succumbing there. This is natural.

SLF_LRCC_14-2-2020-07

This is a standalone dead birch tree with birch polypore, also known as razorstrop fungus. It’s a tough bracket fungus that people probably once used to sharpen their razors. It naturally controls birch trees and breaks them down for other organisms to devour, and therefore new soils to be created.

SLF_LRCC_14-2-2020-6

Here’s a quick macro of one of the mosses from the work of the razorstrop, looking much like a cedar or a fern.

SLF_LRCC_14-2-2020-1

I found some split gills looking rather shaggy, in a good way. If you look at the yellow smatterings around, I think that’s a slime mould making its way across the surface of the bark.

St. Leonards Forest - 12-5-2019 djg-6

Rewind to May in this area, when the first leaves were appearing on the trees and the ground was far drier. This is one of my favourite trees to photograph in this woodland because of the orange algae and the beautiful buttresses at the tree’s base.

SLF - 5-12-2019 blog-18

Here it is in December, the ground much more wet, the leaves all gone. Can you see the bracket fungus at its base? It has been damaged, probably by a visitor testing its strength.

SLF_LRCC_14-2-2020-04

And here it was last week. Evidently the tree has been destabilised by the decay which has been accelerated by the fungus. This has softened the heartwood which leaves the tree vulnerable to storm damage.

SLF_LRCC_14-2-2020-03

But this veteran beech tree still lives, it has only lost one of its three trunks. I hope it can remain where it is and continue down its veteran path into the realm of the ancients.

It’s just another reminder that fungi has its own way in the world and there is no sentimentality involved. It’s there to break down organic matter. Trees were not a safety concern until we started walking underneath them everyday.

Some species share what they can find, others take, take, take. It’s in their nature. But in the end fungi are contributing to vital processes of organic recycling and renewal. Without the ecological role of fungi our species would not exist writing blogs, taking photos, hurling abuse at passers by, or walking under veteran trees in the woods.

More fungi

1 Comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fungi Friday, 14th February 2020

Storm Ciara blew in on Sunday and probably washed any winter shrooms away. But I’m still spending my time with the symbiotic fungal folk found in lichens. The lichens have had a good week, heavy rain has been interspersed with some lovely winter sun.

Near where I work there are lengths of low post-and-rail fences that are covered in lichens. They’re likely to be sweet chestnut and not to be treated with any chemicals. This patch above is a joy, a mass of cladonia cup lichens with mosses and some crustose lichens smattered in between.

This is probably Xanthoria parietina which is a very common yellow lichen. I think it looks like scrambled eggs! The colours have only been very mildly edited here, it really was vibrant.

These are the fruiting bodies of the cladonia cup lichens in the previous image, far more alien-like.

These fences are close to the river Rother which was flooding the surrounding landscape in an epic manner. It’s done it twice now this year.

As you can imagine, for the mushrooms of the fungal world, this is too much water!

This is a dead alder tree that sits in the centre of the river. You can see the blue-green hue from the riverbank, the presence of lichens enjoying a sunny and moist spot to prosper in.

Next week I will actually have some 100% fungi to share!

More fungi

How mushrooms are helping to fight poverty in China – Time

2 Comments

SLF - 6-2-2020 blog-37

St. Leonard’s Forest, February 2020

The sun hasn’t yet reached St. Leonard’s Forest. Frost covers the depressed spreads of bracken at the edge of trees. A dawn chorus still rattles on, dominated by song thrush posted across this wooded landscape. In the distance there comes the clopping of horse hoofs, a throwback to the days when highwaymen roamed the Weald and when people travelled almost anywhere far away enough, on horseback.

The horse riders appear on the hard track ahead of me. They’re galloping until they see me, surrounded by a cloud of perspiration. Their upper bodies are coloured yellow, green and orange by hi-visibility vests. The man leading the troop glares at me from under his helmet as I pass with birch trees between us. Perhaps he thinks I’m a warden.

‘Good morning!’ I shout across to them, which is met with a murmur.

Off they trot.

SLF - 6-2-2020 blog-1

Beyond the stands of spruce and pine planted on old areas of heath, the sun is climbing. I can hear the wash of the M23 as vehicles roar through its wound in the Weald. It’s one I use a couple of times a month, too, when heading further south and then east.

The first breaks of sun glow golden in birches and the spreading branches of pines. The remnant flowers of heather persist like leftover decorations.

When the sun breaks the tops of the pines, things begin to change. Rays of light cut through the plantations and light small fires in the beds of bracken. They burn amber at the base of pines.

SLF - 6-2-2020 blog-21

The birds remain elusive: crests, tits, siskins, woodpeckers. They’re all here but they’ve found all that’s left of the shadows. I can only see silhouettes.

More people are arriving now with the sun, all with dogs. One couple have more than ten between them, one pug-like thing snarls and froths at the mouth, following me for a good minute. Of course, the apologies come. It’s such a common thing, you get bored of saying ‘don’t worry about it.’

SLF - 6-2-2020 blog-29

I notice a spread of oak trees, the sun crashing down through their boughs. One curved oak with a trunk lit entirely with green moss opens its door to yet more of its fellow species. These oaks are walking out of a cold and frost-bitten night, the icy coating on the vegetation around them steaming as it melts away in the day’s eyes.

The Sussex Weald

8 Comments

IMG_20200202_153118125

Fungi Friday: 7th February 2020

Welcome to my weekly #FungiFriday post! Every Friday I aim to post my latest photos and learning from the Kingdom of Fungi (where I live). You can see my Fungi Friday archive here.

Last Sunday I was taking apart an old shed. Plenty of wildlife had made a home in the shed, including lots of large spiders, woodlice and springtails. Pulling the panels away, I was amazed to find this very small mushroom sitting there on a wooden panel.

shedshroom - 2-2-2020 blog-2

This is a species that I’ve posted about on a previous Fungi Friday but instead when it appears in the fissures of tree bark. This shroom shows the ability for fungi to get into any appropriate micro-habitat if the spores can reach them. This shed was very damp and moulds were already building in places. I was simply speeding up a process that fungi and other recyclers had started.

IMG_20200202_153123730

If you look at the image above you can see the scale of the mushroom. It’s miniscule! To photograph it I used a macro lens and a macro adaptor to get even closer.

Rother lichens - 5-2-2020 blog-2

Meanwhile at the river Rother in West Sussex, my poplar branch patch was drying out due to lack of rain and some unseasonably warm sun. It gave the cyanobacteria and algae the chance they need to turn some of that light into sugar and feed the fungus that puts a roof over (under?) their heads.

Rother lichens - 5-2-2020 blog-5

The common yellow lichen Xanthoria parietina continued undimmed. Life goes on. There’s a storm coming…

More fungi

Extreme Macro Photos Unveil the Hidden World of Fungi in the Forest

The History of European Forest Exploitation

Leave a comment

Rother - 28-1-2020 AL (14)

Fungi Friday: 31st January 2020

Anyone who works full time and is trying to keep weekly photographic habits alive will know the challenge that is January. Lunch breaks (if they continue after Bre*it) are the saving grace. This week I got out a couple of times and rescued my pseudo-Fungi Friday. Why pseudo? Because lichens are a mixture of organisms fused together through the evolutionary benefits of their respective differences. As Britain enters the transition phase of leaving the European Union, what better example can you find for the prosperity of working closely together. Algae, cyanobacteria, fungi, together they become so much more than the sum of their parts. Together they created the first soils from seemingly indestructible rocks.

Rother - 29-1-2019 blog-4

The beautiful diversity of life is what makes our world unique, it’s also what makes it live. As we continue to wreck biodiverse landscapes and our ways of farming, building and emitting eradicates species on a scale only seen five times previously in the 4billion years Earth has been a thing, we can’t forget that. Thankfully, lots of people haven’t. Lots of them will be tomorrow’s policymakers and, living with the anxiety of the planet’s poor health, will bring much-needed change.

This attempt to photograph fungi all year round is a silly mission but it has challenged me. In trying to find something to photograph, it’s taken me to read more on the diversity of fungal life that exists in the absence of typical mushrooms. One week I may have to post a photo of the black mould a former landlord is blaming me for. It has also taught me that most of my photography is in fact built around dead stuff. This doesn’t half make you look odd in the real world.

Rother - 29-1-2020 (1)

Just like the march of unsustainable consumer-based economies, we should be mindful of the spread of Xanthoria parietina, a pollution-tolerant species seen here in bright yellow making its way across the lichen community.

Rother - 28-1-2020 AL (18)

Lichens are good indicators of air quality, due to their intolerance of nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. These chemicals are produced through emissions from pollution caused by car engines and from farming chemicals respectively. My studio this week is an abandoned poplar plantation along the river Rother in West Sussex surrounded by arable farming. If you look at the uppermost branches in the image above, you can see the spread of Xanthoria in the golden glow it creates.

Rother - 28-1-2020 AL (11)

Here it is once more, spreading across more species of lichen on a fallen poplar.

Rother - 29-1-2020 (13)

Lichen has saved my photographic January. Whether you use your phone or anything else, I know I’m not the only one.

I’m not just lichen it, I’m lovin’ it!

Fungal decisions can affect climate

Ash trees recovering from ash dieback in Norfolk

More fungi