Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Another load of Lepiotas

Work in progress. I don't recommend reading this blog unless you fancy helping me ID another load of Lepiotas.

On the Sussex Fungus Group foray at Seaford Head on Saturday (which I wrote about here) we spent some time fossicking about in the strip of scrubby woodland which flanks the eastern side of Hope Bottom.

It was here that we came across a number of charming Dapperling Lepiota -like species: a genus which I was trying very hard to get to grips with the other week. So, in a show of mycological bravado which I may come to regret, I offered to take the Seaford Head specimens home to ID.

Happily, via the magic of Twitter, I've had some tips from mycologist Andy Overall which should help to speed things along.

In terms of habitat, they were all found growing in soil in broadleaved woodland (dominated by hawthorn).

And they've all produced white spore prints.

Lepiota 1

Suggested ID, based on photo: Lepiota subincarnata

Odour: some odour but not distinctive.

Lepiota 2

Suggested ID, based on photo: Lepiota grangei or L. griseovirens

Lepiota 3

 Suggested ID, based on field observations: Cystolepiota seminuda

Lepiota 4

Cap colour: Young caps a rich, dark brown colour, breaking into (floccose?) patches against a white background. Cap colour paler in larger, more mature fruit bodies.

Stem: Cylindrical. White-cream and finely silky-fibrillose towards the cap. Very pronounced girdles of cap colour towards the base. No ring, or obvious ring-zone.

Gills: Free, crowded.

Odour: Not distinctive.

Spores: Length ~ 8 to 10 microns. Width ~ 3.5 to 4 microns. Shape ~ ellipsoid, or slightly amygdaloid and flattened at one end (truncate). Dextrinoid.

Following the key to the Lepiota in Funga Nordica takes me to question 15:

Pileipellis: Elongate cells.

Truncate spores and warm brown colours; and pileipellis elements without clamps takes me to 25 - the description of L. castanea. The pileipellis elements look like a good match. The spore size fits (but I'm concerned the spore shape doesn't match the drawing very closely). I think I found some clavate cheilocystidia, but I found it difficult to differentiate between them and the basidia.

If I go with 'ellipsoid spores' instead, and brownish cap colours then that takes me to 29 - a choice between L. pseudolilacea and L. echinella. It can't be the former because there is no ring on the stipe. And the spores are too big for L. echinella. So I think those options must be wrong.

With 'elongate cells' in the pileipellis, the only other route through the key takes me to 30... The description of L. cortinarius sounds like it could fit; except my collection doesn't have a clavate base. The spore shape also seems a better fit for L. cortinarius, based on this image I've found:

Lepiota cortinarius; spores
Image (c) Herman L.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Seaford Head - Saturday 14 October

I joined Sussex Fungus Group at Seaford Head on Saturday morning to see what fungi we could find on this iconic Sussex site.

Seaford Head is managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust with the help of a loyal band of conservation volunteers. Sussex Fungus Group members Janet & Jim Howell are two of those Seaford Head volunteers, so offered to guide us around the site. They explained that it has never been comprehensively surveyed for fungi, so any records we came up with would be a useful addition to the list.

Walking onto the reserve, the path is flanked on both sides by scrub. Here, growing on a couple of the Elders, on the old wood near the base, we found a few clumps of mushrooms. Clearly past their best.

The pale caps appeared dried out and had broken into irregular brown patches.

Underneath, the gills appeared to be a rich cocoa-brown colour – well dusted with spores; but in places, near the edge of the cap, the gills were a paler buff colour, suggesting the gills would have originally been paler when this mushroom was less mature.

I think I can also see the remains of a ring around the stem.

When we came across what appeared to be some fresher-looking specimens of the same species, Nick Aplin proposed a tentative identification of Poplar Fieldcap Agrocybe cylindracea.

Agrocybe is not a genus I'm familar with at all, so I'd meant to leave this species in Nick's capable hands to confirm. But it got left in my bag by accident, so I suppose I'd better have a look!

The first thing I noticed was lots of these spore-bearing structures – 'basidia' – all with four little prongs on the end.

1000x magnification. Stained with Congo Red.

On the gill edge I found what I think are cheilocystidia in a range of shapes from club-shaped ('clavate') to slightly skittle-shaped ('utriform').

1000x magnification. Stained with Congo Red.

1000x magnification. Stained with Congo Red.

The spores were quite variable in size, in the range of 8 - 12 microns long. I couldn't clearly make out a germ pore on the spores; but that might be because my microscope's not brilliant.

1000x magnification. Each sub-division on the scale is about 1 micron.

These microscopic characteristics all fit with Poplar Fieldcap Agrocybe cylindracea (= cylindrica). And they look pretty similar to micrographs of A. cylindracea which I found on a Belgian mycology website, here. So gives me no reason to doubt Nick's tentative field identification. I'll leave it to him to decide if he's happy to record it as A. cylindracea, with my microscopy.

The mushrooms we saw don't look anything like the examples of Poplar Fieldcap Agrocybe cylindracea that you see in the books and online photo galleries. But the descriptions do note that in dry weather the cap surface sometimes cracks and Roger Phillips, in his book 'Mushrooms', notes that the cap becomes darker brown with age. Funga Nordica describes the habitat as "on wood or wood chips of deciduous trees, especially [Poplar] and [Willows]". So – despite its common name
– that doesn't rule it out occuring on Elder.

That's the trouble with mushrooms they don't always look like the pictures! And they don't always grow where they're supposed to. We have had a dry couple of weeks in the run up to our foray at Seaford Head, so perhaps we just found a particularly dried up example of Poplar Fieldcap Agrocybe cylindracea.

Moving a little further on, we ducked into a patch of scrubby woodland.

Here we found an intriguing orangey-brown bracket growing on Blackthorn.

Underneath, the white pores were very attractively arranged with relatively thick partitions between them.

Nick Aplin identified this as Perenniporia ochroleuca: one of the Lost & Found Fungi project target species (described here). I see that the current distribution map includes a record from Seaford Head, recorded by A. M. Ainsworth in 2015. He beat us to it!

This little scrap of woodland turned out to be surprisingly rich in Lepiota (or Lepiota-like) species.

Lepiota 1. (Slight odour, but not very distinctive.)

Lepiota 2. (Odour quite strong, perhaps 'leathery'?)
Lepiota 3. Cystolepiota seminuda?
Lepiota 4. (No particular odour.)
In a brave show of confidence in my identification skills, it was decided that these should come home with me. So they will be receiving more of my attention soon!

Also in the woodland we found the remains of a couple of Giant Puffballs Calvatia gigantea sending forth their spores.

Greyish-white agarics were growing in a few different spots, under Hawthorn. Nick identified these as the Inky Mushroom Agaricus moelleri. The smoky-grey scales on the cap are a distinctive feature of this species.

The flesh turns rapidly yellow when cut, particularly at the base of the stipe, as you can see here.

I think that was about it for the woodland species. We retraced our steps and moved on to the grasslands.

Growing among the lush grass at the top of the hill, we found quite a number of Pestle Puffball Lycoperdon excipuliforme, in various states of decay.

I've not seen this species before, so was pleased to find this one looking really fresh. I'm not sure what the rest of my Sussex Fungus Group comrades are looking at in the background. Probably something really rare.

We came across a few little brown jobs poking up through the grass, including this one.

Nick suggested I take this one home and see if has the impressive star-shaped spores of the Star Pinkgill Entoloma conferendum.

It has produced a rather nice pink spore print.

But the spores are just kind of hexagonal. Like LOTS of Entoloma species.

I'm not sure I've got it in me to key out a little brown Entoloma if it hasn't got exciting star-shaped spores, so let's be happy we've got this one to genus and move on.

It was nice to see this species again, after first encountering it at Worth Park the other week: Pink Domecap Rugosomyces carneus.

We found a few Parrot Waxcap Gliophorus psittacinus as well as Spangle Waxcap Hygrocybe insipida. And the ascomycete fans were pleased to find this:

No, it's not a bit of mouldy old satsuma peel. It's a cup fungus of some kind. Nick Aplin took a specimen away to confirm its identification (he thought possibly Sowerbyella radiculata).

Fool's Funnel Clitocybe rivulosa was another new species for me.

I haven't really got my head around the Clitocybe mushrooms yet. I find there are a lot that tend to look rather the same; so I shall have to try and at least fix this one in my mind.

Seaford Head is famous for its population of Moon Carrot Seseli libanotis: not a fungus, but a very rare plant – soon to feature as the cover star of the 'The Flora of Sussex' (currently available for pre-order, get your copy here!).

So, here we are looking for microfungi on the dead stems of Moon Carrot, with Seven Sisters behind us.

We didn't find any on this occasion, but – in the words of Nick Aplin "where there's a niche, there's a fungus" and a quick Google search reveals there is indeed a Moon Carrot Rust Puccinia libanotidis, previously regarded as extinct in Britain until it was rediscovered in 2009. Apparently it typically appears from May to August, so we shall have to return in late Spring / Summer to find that one.

For the record
Date: 14 October 2017
Location: Seaford Head
Grid reference: TV5097

All records to be submitted by Nick Aplin on behalf of Sussex Fungus Group.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Worth Park fungus foray - Sunday 1 October

Fungus season was set to 'GO' in Sussex as we entered October. So much so, it's been a struggle to keep up with everything I've seen and attempted to identify. But I thought it would be worth sharing a few highlights from the foray at Worth Park, Crawley, with Nick Aplin of Sussex Fungus Group. After a busy couple of weeks, I'm now a bit hazy on which photos match which species listed in my notebook, so if you notice I've got some wrong, please tell me!

We met at Ridley's Court on Milton Mount Avenue. As soon as we stepped outside, we found mushrooms popping up in the wood-chipped flowerbeds and in the grass.

Nick identified this one as Redlead Roundhead Leratiomyces ceres.

Nearby, a fresh crop of Poisonpie Hebeloma crustuliniforme; looking a bit more impressive than the specimen we found at Tilgate Park the day before. You can just about see the moisture beading on the gill edges, and turning to brown specks, which is a key feature of this species.

At the end of Milton Avenue, there's a loop in the road which encloses a small green space, with three large cedar, cypress and redwood trees.

Under the cedar, we found an impressive patch of white mushrooms: White Dapperling Leucoagaricus leucothites.

Its slender stem features a white ring, which you can see here. The white gills are also a key feature.

Here we also found a Lepiota which I've been trying to identify. Nick Aplin's been in touch to say he's inclined to accept my tentative ID of Lepiota ochraceofulva, which is encouraging.

I've come across a few different Inkcap Coprinus-type mushrooms this year (including several which popped up in my village) but this was a new one on me: Hare's-foot Inkcap Coprinopsis lagopus.

We saw the mature fruit bodies first: stretching out their caps.

But nestled in the grass were also a few young fruit bodies, showing the furry-looking cap surface which gives this species its name.

Moving into the park, we came across a very fruitful area with a number of different Amanita, Lactarius and Russula species. This one, although rather battered, was interesting to see: Orange Grisette Amanita crocea. (I've come across Tawny Grisette A. fulva before, but never this species.)

Also in the parkland, we came across this 'mystery mushroom' which Nick Aplin later identified as Dark Fieldcap Agrocybe erebia.

There were some nice mushrooms in the short turf of Worth Park: indicators of old, species-rich grassland.

I think Nick identified these as Golden Waxcap Hygrocybe chlorophana.

And the pretty-in-pink Pink Domecap Rugosomyces carneus.

I think Nick said this was the Crazed Cap Dermoloma cuneifolium. Another species of unimproved grassland.

Moving on from there, we found a patch of Slimy Waxcap Hygrocybe irrigata.

This species was so slimy I had a hard job putting it down! The mucus on the cap kept sticking it to my hand.

We found Inocybe geophylla again, a species we'd come across at Tilgate Park the day before. This time we found the white version, White Fibrecap Inocybe geophylla var. geophylla growing under Lime.

And another grassland species which seemed like it should be fairly memorable, with it's slight build and slender stem: Butter Waxcap Hygrocybe ceracea.

While the group were busy looking at some brown Cortinarius species, one of our party ventured off into the shrubbery...

Upon his return, he mentioned quietly to me that he'd found something. And that something turned out to be a decent-sized patch of "EARTHSTARS!" I exclaimed, and danced a little jig.

Collared Earthstar Geastrum triplex.

This is the first time I've come across earthstars on my fungus forays, so a real treat to see.

Back at the Ridley's Court Visitor Centre, Nick had set up the microscope, ready to take a look at the microscopic features of our collections. I think this was a cystidium of one of the Inocybes up on screen, looking like... well... whatever it is an Inocybe cystidium looks like.

I was very taken with these: the cystidia of a Conecap Conocybe species.

They reminded me of the playing pieces from my old Cluedo set.

Image by Steve Berry | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Image by Steve Berry (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Here are our collections from the foray laid out, so we could have a good look at their features and confirm identifications. A full species list has been circulated on the Sussex Fungi Yahoo! group (free to join if you're interested in recording fungi in Sussex).

For the record
Date: 1/10/2017
Location: Worth Park
Grid reference: TQ2938

All records to be submitted by Nick Aplin on behalf of Sussex Fungus Group