Daniel Greenwood

The language of leaves

Posts tagged ‘Fungi’

Midhurst - 15-1-2019 blog-1

Flooding from the river Rother in West Sussex

Fungi Friday: 17th January 2020

Storm Brendon rocked up this week in Sussex and gave freedom of movement to the Arun and Rother. Temperatures have tickled 11 degrees but are set to crunch back down this weekend. Mushrooms must think, guys, WTAF?

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I see images of nice looking shrooms on social media, things like velvet shank glowing orange like sweets on tree trunks. All I saw were the melted ice lollies of sulphur tuft (Hypholoma fasiculare) on an embankment. It gets worse:

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Probably some bonnets, like a scene from the Netflix drama You. The rain has been too much for these Mycena. But have hope.

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Where there are non-chemical treated fence posts, there is hope. That hope comes in the form of our symbiotic fungi-algae friends, the lichens. This is a great time of year for lichens due to the amount of rain and their resistance to winter weather. They are hard to shift.

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The fruiting bodies here are known as apothecia. I love them. They are like cartoon eyes or mouths. Wonder what they’re trying to say. Obviously it’s a climate warning.

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This one just takes the biscuit. My lichen guide is in Ireland where it belongs, with all the other lichens. So I’m sailing in the dark and just here to appreciate the beauty of these ancient, life-giving organisms.

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These fencing rails are a reminder of how important dead wood is in the biosphere as a structural support for biodiversity. No doubt lots of other organisms will make a home for themselves in these lichens.

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This is a finger post with the yellow being the paint of an arrow pointing in the direction of the public footpath. I love the little apothecia eye cups on the right hand side.

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Living wood also provides a platform for lichens to grow. I can’t cope with the colour range in the species which dominates the image here. They were growing on the bark of a fairly young beech tree. A few people did glance over when they saw me effectively hiding behind the tree with a camera. In actual fact the camera was jammed up against the bark taking macro pics. Still, could have gone wrong.

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Here you can see the brown streaks which are fissures in the maturing bark as it grows. Patches of foliose or leafy lichens are growing in among the crustose species.

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This was their view, an oak tree fanned out before the South Downs ridge. Not a bad place to be for a lichen.

The British Lichen Society are running the hashtag #LichenJanuary. Lichens are for everyone so it’s good to see such a niche group spreading their knowledge to the masses(?) for free.

Thanks for reading and please share any interesting lichen finds (or indeed identifications) in the comments. Some interesting mycological articles this week:

Mushrooms and orange peel: could biotech clean up the building industry?

Ikea to use packaging made from mushrooms that will decompose in a garden within weeks

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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.

Midhurst - 3-1-2019 blog-13

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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OTH 25-12-2019 blog-4

Happy Fungi Friday everyone!

I’m a Londoner and I learned most of what I know about fungi and nature in London. Take that in physical and psychological terms, having spent most of my life there. One Tree Hill is a Local Nature Reserve in south-east London that has offered many happy wild hours (ecologically). I visit One Tree Hill as often as I can and did so to find some Christmas shrooms this year.

One Tree Hill has a weird history of being a remnant ancient woodland that had been cleared of trees and then has re-wooded itself in the past 60 years. It has old oak trees and new oak woodland spread across areas of old acid grasslands, which are rare but not in good condition anymore. It provides one of the best views of London you can find. You can read more about it here.

OTH April 2016 lo-res-5

December is never a good month for the most exciting fungi species because it’s cold and they struggle to fruit without milder weather. But I found a few species that I look for at this time of year.

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This photo was actually taken over Christmas 2018 at One Tree Hill but it’s one of the more photogenic things you can find at this time of year. They grow out of the fissures in bark, most of the time on oak. I’m not sure of the species.

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I think this is the same species but growing from a horizontal position in the late summer.

OTH 25-12-2019 blog-6

In the more open, grassy areas atop One Tree Hill I found something I’ve not seen before. This is a deceiver (Laccaria laccata) with gills growing out of the top of the cap. I don’t know what the name for this ‘deformity’ is and an internet search definitely didn’t help.

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Deceivers get their name because they come in many different shapes and sizes, looking like different species each time. This year I saw huge numbers of them in the Sussex Weald. Here’s one in better condition:

Scotland - September 2019 djg lo-res-2

This is from Scotland in September, which you can read about here.

Wishing you many happy wild adventures in 2020. Thanks for reading and of course please share any interesting sightings or ID requests in the comments below!

Daniel

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SLF - 14-12-2019 blog-26

Happy Fungi Friday!

When temperatures touch freezing, it spells the end for the mushroom season. This is because fungal fruiting bodies are largely made of water and most species simply can’t excel if they’re frozen stiff. But temperatures in Sussex have been mild at times this week.

A good 6 mile walk in the High Weald produced almost no soil-based fungi. That is except for these tiny Russulas, otherwise known as brittlegills. This family of mushrooms is very big and beyond identifying them to that level, I find that doing the same to species level (especially with a photograph) is not really possible. These specimens had already been uprooted and had a pinkish cap to go with their Kendal mint cake white stipe. I would guess it is birch brittlegill (Russula betularum) due to the colouring and the fact it was under birch trees.

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You can see from the comparison with my thumb just how small but perfectly formed this mushroom was. They are a family of mushrooms to see in late summer when autumn’s cogs are beginning to turn and all the way through to the season’s close.

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On a mossy log I found this staunch shroom growing. The faint white remnants of a veil on the edges of the cap made me wonder if it was a webcap (Cortinarius). The webcaps are a huge family of mushrooms.

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You know you’re getting desperate when you’re photographing mushrooms in the condition above. This is an oyster mushroom growing from a dead birch tree alongside a stream.

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Midhurst - 10-12-2019 blog-2-2

Happy #FungiFriday!

You may have seen my attempts to photograph a mushroom every week on Twitter. I have hundreds of fungi images that I want to share so I’m now going to start posting a species each week (or one I’ve seen in that week). I’m not a forager and have never cooked or picked wild mushrooms to eat. I prefer taking pics and leaving shrooms for others to see.

To kick things off, this week I photographed jelly ear. This is a common species that, like in the image above, can be found growing on elder trees. It stays on a branch all year round and goes through a process of de- and rehydration. It seems happy in the winter months.

Jelly ear once had a more derogatory or racist name. This is largely because of the Latin name (Auricularia auricula-judae) which relates to Judas Escariot and the species’s association with elder. Judas is said to have died from hanging in an elder tree but that is almost certainly impossible because it is a very soft wood. The ears are said to be a remnant of his spirit. I call it jelly ear, as do all up to date field guides.

SHW 17-1-18 djg-11

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Ebernoe - 8-11-2019 blog-6.jpg

In memory of Joseph Reilly

Ebernoe, West Sussex, November 2019

At Ebernoe I enter the yard of a church with neon algae glowing on the brickwork. In among the graves meadow waxcap mushrooms grow, one with its cap curled up and over like a pale petalled poppy. ‘The church is open but the handle is stiff’ reads a sign on the door. I turn it and enter inside. That cold stone church air hits my skin, no one else is here. At least no one human.

There is a bird in here. It flies across the aisle and lands on a hanging lampshade, rocking with the force delivered by its flight. Then it moves to one of the windows clinging to the iron frame that separates panes of glass. It’s a blue tit. I wonder how long it’s been in here, perhaps overnight. I think for a few seconds of what to do and walk to the church door. I pull it wide open, moving away to give the bird space. Within seconds the little blue tit flies through the open church door and back out into the woods where it belongs.

I sit on the bench and experience silence but for the dripping of water on the roof. There is a peace in here that I only ever seem to find in places like this. In the stained glass windows images of Jesus Christ, stories depicted that I don’t remember from childhood. The glass’s vibrancy is at odds with the dark and glowering morning that has crept in over one of sun-drenched hedgerows and beech trees lit like fires. I write a word of thanks in the visitor book and make my way back out into the churchyard.

Explore the Sussex Weald

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Kingley Vale - 27-10-2019 blog-7

Kingley Vale, South Downs, West Sussex, October 2019

We enter the ashy woods of Kingley Vale, one of the most spellbinding place in the South Downs. Mushrooms are everywhere at the feet of yew, ash and oak trees as the season enters its peak.

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The light is weak so we kneel down next to the mushrooms to look more closely. We find blushers, ceps, deceivers and many brown species that are very difficult to identify.

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Archetypal mushrooms grow with black gills and caps that glow purple. Their collars hang loose like pastry over the edges of a tin.

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Kingley Vale is famed for its ancient yew trees, particularly one area that is heavily visited, the roots of the trees beginning to show above ground from the impacts of footfall eroding the ground around them. They feel like one of the most still and unmoving of tree species, owing to their hardness and strength. Their living tissue is some of the strongest in the plant kingdom and their heartwood is not at all needed for them to remain upright. Their roots can go on producing new trees even when those above ground have died, like the Borrowdale yews in the Lake District.

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Out from under the yews chalk grassland spreads to the foot of the ridge where yew and ash woods cover the hills. Many of the ash trees are succumbing to ash dieback disease, in a landscape where they are content. It is a tragedy but then it is our own fault for unchecked trade of wood products, combined with the eventual spread of fungal spores.

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In the chalk grasslands we find a cowpat with mushrooms popping from the poo. One of them is snowy inkcap, a species I have never seen before, with its powdery cap and stem. It looks like something you might find in a snow globe.

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Climbing up onto the ridge the sun slips away in the west, casting a final glow across the chalky bowl of Kingley Vale.

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The grunting of a male deer echoes in the yew woods broken by the white stags of bare bone ash branches. Knowing some of these trees may be dead lends them a ghoulishness. Their brushheads are fading into history. Many will not be here in years to come.

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The sun glimmers in Chichester Harbour and the sea. A plume of smoke spirals into the evening sky.

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In the dense and dark yew woods on the slope we hear the strange, tropical bubbling of a tawny owl. Here yews reach out into the light at the edges like multi-limbed bodies sucked into a vortex. The yews have clarified the soil, no other plant can compete. Combined with the tawny’s song, the experience is otherwordly.

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At dusk rooks flock in a sea of black over a field-edge wood. Their cawing grows louder and closer as they envelop the sky above our heads, drawing in jackdaws, drifting back beyond the tops of the trees. On the darkening hilltops deer graze like slow-footed, four-legged people. We are left with so many questions.

Explore my Wood-Wide-Web

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