Daniel Greenwood

The language of leaves

Posts tagged ‘candlesnuff’

Fungi Friday 23rd October 2020

I want to start by saying thank you to everyone who stopped by last week to read my click-bait post about honey fungus. The post had nearly 200 views in one day, which is a huge amount for this blog and broke the single day record. My blog could have nearly twice the number of visitors as in 2019, probably due to the fact I have had more time to walk locally taking photos and to spend time writing these posts. Otherwise I would be stuck in a car driving to and from an office I probably didn’t even need to visit so often.

I think the fact more people are working from home could be key to protecting local green spaces going forward. In the UK ‘lockdown’, as the period of late-March and most of April and May 2020 are known, millions of people discovered their local green spaces. If people value something close to home, they will learn about it and in their stewardship, nurture and defend it. I discovered fungi close to home, and I’ve sought it closer and closer ever since.

This week I visited a nearby area of oak and beech woodland in the High Weald of Sussex. I’ll admit it now, I was disappointed. This time last year I encountered many more species than I could find this year. I think fungi in Sussex are paying the price for a very dry spring and summer period. I did warn you. That said, I did find some small things that were happy to pose for a photo. Above is sulphur tuft, one of the most common species you can find.

This is black bulgar, a rather odd species that seems to explode in October on large fallen branches. The first time I saw this, it had appeared on the fallen limb of a massive oak tree which had come down that summer.

This rather unsightly mushroom did get my heart racing at first. I thought it was perhaps my first local deathcap, but really I think it’s the false deathcap. It has the classic Amanita bulb at the base. I think the colouring of the cap is wrong for deathcap and it has some of the brownish scales of the false deathcap, on the cap.

When the ground isn’t producing the shrooms needed at this time of year, I look to the moss growing on tree trunks. You can often find very small mushrooms there, perhaps bonnets (mycena) or galerinas. The moss holds on to the rainfall for longer, meaning fungi, some of which are parasitic on moss, can prosper. Let’s call them… mosshrooms!

This lovely little mosshroom had actually snapped but I rotated the image for effect.

This beautiful little grey-blue mushroom epitomises the mossy shroomlet. As you can see from the moss fronds, it was very small indeed.

One of my first #FungiFriday blogs was about candlesnuff fungus. It looks quite neat at the stage seen above, when it is first beginning to fruit. In dry conditions you can flick the white ‘wick’ and the spores appear as smoke from a snuffed candle.

A similar type of fungus was this yellow staghorn, a common species. It was growing down on a mossed-over stump on the woodland floor. That oak leaf on the right (I think Turkey oak, Quercus cerris) is so beautiful.

The most unusual find was in the raised rootplate of a rhododendron. From above they looked like potatoes. I am fairly confident this is a cep, Boletus edulis. It is, of course, also known as porcini and is one of the most sought after edible mushrooms. Foraging is not something I do commonly, so I left it there to grow on its merry way.

This scraggly crew are a common but no less beautiful mushroom – amethyst deceiver. They are easy to identify due to their colour and size and are a very common species in the UK. I do find that they are happier in older, more stable woodland. Aren’t we all?

Thanks for reading.

More mushrooms

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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):

Midhurst - 3-1-2019 blog-2

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

‘Decomposition’ Series Knitted By Fiber Artist Leigh Martin aka Bromeleighad

My fungal archive

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