Daniel Greenwood

The language of leaves

Posts tagged ‘Basidiomycetes’

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Midhurst - 3-1-2019 blog-6

Fungi Friday: 10th January 2020

I’ve barely made it out this year, as young as it’s been. That poses a big threat to the Fungi Friday machine but thankfully I know where to look. The focus at this time of year is on small and hardy species in the Kingdom of Fungi, species like candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon):

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I found this macabre specimen at the foot of a handrail post. They look so much like hands reaching out from the soil. No wonder other Xylaria have the names of dead man’s fingers and dead moll’s fingers. This species is called candlesnuff because you can flick the tips, in drier weather, and the white spores are released. It looks like a puff of smoke from a snuffed out candle.

In the fungal world candlesnuff is an Ascomycete or spore-shooter. Most mushroom-style fungi are Basidiomycetes, a group which spread their spores by ‘dropping’, usually on the wind. Mushrooms with gills are the perfect example of this. Wind-dispersal of spores is one of the oldest forms of reproduction on Earth.

St. Leonards - November 2018 djg-35

Other classic spore-shooters are beech jellydisc (Neobulgaria pura) above, which is common on fallen beech trees in November.

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The lack of January fungi can be helpful in reminding us of those which are more slow to colonise, things like lichen. This foliose lichen was growing on a fencepost (do not underestimate the wonder of fenceposts). Lichen is a symbiotic relationship between fungi, algae and cyanobacteria. The fungus produces the physical structure which provides a home to the cyanobacteria and algae which are capable of photosynthesis. It’s another reminder that fungi exists in the world in partnership with other organisms, something which we are so ignorant of as a species at times. For anyone who has tried to read Hegel, the German philosopher, I once read that a lichen is an example of the master-slave complex. The fungus is the master and the alga is the slave. The thing is, without the slave the master can’t prosper or maintain its status, so the master is in fact enslaved to its own prisoner. What’s that, myco-philosophy?

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In winter I look for signs of spring. In the 10 years that I’ve spent looking closely, the often mild winters have provided glimpses of the coming season far earlier than we expect. Here bluebells were breaking through the fractured leaf litter of oak and chestnut. It’s been a mild winter again at the end of the warmest decade on record.

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Winter sun, that precious resource.

Thanks for reading. Let me know if you found anything interesting this week. Here are some articles I spotted recently:

100 million years in amber: Researchers discover oldest fossilized slime mold

โ€˜Decompositionโ€™ Series Knitted By Fiber Artist Leigh Martin aka Bromeleighad

My fungal archive

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