Daniel Greenwood

The language of leaves

Posts tagged ‘Lichen’

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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.

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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.

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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!

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How mushrooms are helping to fight poverty in China – Time

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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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