Friday, 21 July 2017

The curious case of the disappearing mushrooms

On a quick walk around Woods Mill at lunchtime on Monday, I came across this scene:


Masses of tiny mushrooms popping up on a decaying log. I thought they were probably Fairy Inkcap Coprinellus desseminatus and just grabbed a quick snap, as I had every intention of going back for a closer look.

Now, suddenly, it's Friday. And I realise I never did go back to look at those mushrooms. So I took a little detour on my way home from work to see how they're doing.

They've gone.


They're not just 'gone over', or shrivelled up, or decaying. I searched all over the log and can find no trace of the mushrooms that I saw on Monday.

Since making my tentative identification on Monday, I've since spotted in the Collins (photographic) Guide that there's another species which is "virtually identical macroscopically to Fairy Inkcap": Psathyrella pygmaea.

So I guess the identity of these vanishing mushrooms must remain a mystery.

And the moral of the story is: never leave till tomorrow mushrooms which you can identify today.

For the record
Date: 17/07/2017
Location: Hoe Wood
Grid reference: TQ217136

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Frith Wood

After my day out in a dried out wood on the Downs on Saturday (here), Michael and I thought we'd seek out a wet wood on Sunday. So, what better destination than Wet Wood, near Northchapel, West Sussex?


Well, as it turns out, our walk through Wet Wood turned up relatively little in the way of fungi. Except for another crop of Wolf's Milk Lycogala sp. (growing on a pine log) which Michael said looked like a bum... with three buttocks.

Wolf's Milk Lycogala sp. IMAGE © Michael Blencowe


Oh, and we saw some Cramp Balls Daldinia concentrica.

Still, it was a lovely day so we continued north to Frith Wood, between Northchapel and Shillinglee.

Frith Wood, West Sussex
And what delights we found in Frith Wood!

Next to one of the rides I came across this rather fabulous green brittlegill Russula sp.



It's not terribly obvious in the photograph, but the cap was covered in cracks – a feature I haven't seen in Russula before. I also noted that it was roughly 'half-peeling'.


A quick flick through the Collins (photographic) Guide led me to conclude it was probably a Greencracked Brittlegill Russula virescens.

Given its extensively-nibbled state, I opted not to take a specimen and leave it for the mice to finish dining upon. A decision I now slightly regret, as perusal of Geoffrey Kibby's 'Mushrooms' has highlighted a handful of other species which can appear green-ish with a cracked cuticle, including Russula cutefracta. So I suspect the identity of this mushroom must remain an enigma.

UPDATE 20/07/2017: Geoffrey Kibby has confirmed this as R. virescens (below). Woop woop!

On our walk through Frith Wood we saw quite a few other red Russula; all reasonably fresh but well-nibbled, which made me think they must have popped up after the rain, the preceding Wednesday.



The genus Russula does feel slightly more accessible now I've got Geoffrey Kibby's book which summarises the key features to look for in the different groups. However, you really need to get hold of some iron sulphate (FeSO4) to start narrowing things down and have good microscopy skills to see variation in spore ornamentation. Neither of which I have, so I think I'll carry on ignoring the Russulas for now.

Finally, a fungus I think I know! Chicken of the Woods Laetiporus sulphureus.


An impressive display of Oak Curtain Crust Hymenochaete rubignosa (?) growing on a large log pile. Which I haven't really done justice to with these crap photos.




All through the wood we saw clumps of dead, blackened mushrooms which had sprouted up around the trunks and roots of oak trees, which I took to be Spindle Toughshank Collybia (Gymnopus) fusipes which I've seen growing in profusion in Hoe Wood before (here).

We eventually emerged on the other side of Frith Wood, in Shillinglee, where I got VERY excited when Michael pointed me towards this, at the side of the road:



No, it isn't a Giant Puffball Calvatia gigantea. It's a rock. He got me good!

The walk back through Frith Wood took us through a few different types of woodland.


In this area of chestnut Castanea Michael found something genuinely exciting. A fresh milk cap Lactarius sp. growing at the base of a chestnut tree, with others scattered around nearby.




The cap was convex, cream-coloured, dry and slightly bumpy (not hairy); the margin fully extended (not in-rolled). The colour of the cap and stipe seem unchanging when bruised or damaged.

It bled easily and quite profusely: watery and cream-coloured milk (looking rather like 'skimmed').


Unfortunately I have failed to match these features to any of the species described in Geoffrey Kibby's 'Mushrooms'. Stuck again!

UPDATE 20/07/2017: Have received a comment from Geoffrey Kibby identifying this as Lactifluus piperatus – the very crowded gills being characteristic of this species. According to his very helpful book, this species has a cap cuticle structure that looks like this:


Let's have a look!

 
Hmm, well. I can confirm there are definitely some long thin things... Let's move on, shall we?

A little further on we spotted a yellow-capped mushroom growing out of a bit of dead wood, which I presumed to be one of the Pluteus.


I've had a go at identifying yellow Pluteus before (here) and it seemed surprisingly straightforward. You just need to look at the cap cuticle under the microscope. Here it is:

Cross-section of cap cuticle mounted in water. 400x magnification.

Wow! That's completely different to the yellow Pluteus I previously collected. I think this 'filamentous' cap cuticle makes this mushroom Lion Shield P. leoninus.

However, the stand out fungus on our trip to Frith Wood has to be this freakish looking thing.


Hairy on top.


With these jagged pores / gills underneath.


And its hairy, spongy cap felt just like wet dog.



It can surely be none other than a young Dyer's Mazegill Phaelus schweinitzii. Curiously, it appeared to be growing up from the ground; but there was a very old stump nearby which I assume must have been a conifer, and this fruit body is growing up from its roots.

In summary: fungus is totally happening in Frith Wood.

For the record
Date: 16/07/2017
Location: Frith Wood, near Northchapel, West Sussex
Grid reference: SU9530

Scratlee wood

I was up on the Downs on Saturday, near East Dean (West Sussex), exploring a triangle of woodland wedged between Wood Lea and Scratlee wood, just south of Charlton Forest.


Fallen boughs and a windblown Beech tree held the promise of fungi; and I wasn't disappointed.

Although the woods were very dry up there on the Downs, this Ganoderma species was still looking fresh. I really must learn how to identify these to species. I think it's a spore size thing (unless there are galls from the Yellow Flat-footed Platypezid Fly Agathomyia wankowiczii present, which I always look for but never find).


This rotting bough was hosting a few fruit bodies of Wolf's Milk Lycogala sp.


I haven't sorted out how to identify these to species either, after getting thoroughly confused about the difference between L. terrestre and L. epidendrum last year (here).

This windblown Beech had delivered an impressive crop of oyster mushrooms Pleurotus sp.


... Unfortunately all very dried out.

They were growing in two distinct patches. This patch had turned tan and leathery; and every fruit body appeared to sprout from a separate stem. The edges of each fruit body rolled neatly inwards.





Whereas this small cluster were paler and all sprouting from a common base...



... and the edges appeared more uneven.


This leads me to speculate there may be two separate species here. But which?

Despite poring over the field guides, I can't seem to get my head around whether the Pleurotus are separable / identifiable in the field. I gather that the Oyster Mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus can be very variable and differences compared to other species are rather subtle... So if anyone would care to offer any advice, it would be most welcome!

Finally I spotted this little trio, growing up from a soil substrate in the centre of the path.


I assume the difference in cap colour is a sign of an 'hygrophanous' character. The gills were a dark chocolate brown colour. I also noted the stem was very brittle which I thought might indicate a brittlestem Psathyrella species. But the key to the Psathyrella in Funga Nordica is rather fierce and I don't think I'm feeling brave enough to attempt it today.

For the record
Date: 15 July 2017
Location: Woods on North Down, near East Dean (West Sussex)
Grid reference: SU8914

Friday, 14 July 2017

Mushroom in the bathroom

Look what popped up in our bathroom on Wednesday evening:



A lovely yellow mushroom! Sprouting out from our potted cactus.

A quick glimpse underneath revealed lemon yellow gills.


I couldn't find anything like it in the Collins photo guide (Sterry & Hughes) or the illustrated guide (Buczacki et al). But then spotted the Plantpot Dapperling Leucocoprinus birnbaumii in Phillips' Mushrooms.


It's a match!

Plantpot Dapperling is a tropical/subtropical species which can be found in Britain in heated greenhouses, or indoors situations like this. A little beauty!

I posted these photographs on the British Mycological Society Facebook page where this identification was confirmed by Richard Shotbolt.

For the record
Date: 12/07/2017
Location: Small Dole
Grid reference: TQ2112

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Summer Fungi at Burton & Chingford Ponds

It hardly seemed like fungus-hunting weather at Burton and Chingford Ponds yesterday.


But I'd had a tip-off. Michael had led a Sussex Wildlife Trust members' walk around Burton Pond the day before and returned with this tantalising photograph of an oyster mushroom.



What a difference a day makes!


By the time I got there, the mushrooms were all dried out and stained yellow with age. The fruit bodies were hard and brittle. Snapping one off revealed a writhing mass of black-tipped maggots, chomping away on the dessicated flesh.


The maggots rather put me off taking a sample. And anyway, I thought it might be difficult obtaining some spores from the dried out gills. So I settled for taking a bunch of photographs.

This one shows some of the stems, fused together into a common base. But I don't think they're truly 'branching' in the way you'd expect from the Branching Oyster Pleurotus cornucopiae.


This photograph shows the stem a little better.


As you'd expect from an oyster mushroom, the gills are strongly decurrent (running down the stem); but the gills/ridges don't extend all the way down the stem. Again, I think this feature means it's unlikely to be P. cornucopiae.

But what is it? Having also consulted with Funga Nordica, I think the combination of pale flesh and summer fruiting mean it's likely to be the Pale Oyster P. pumonarius. This species occurs on both living and dead deciduous wood, including birch (Betula), as it is here.

Continuing on, this standing dead tree was covered in swarms of King Alfred's Cakes Daldinia concentrica.


And I was delighted to come across this large mushroom, growing in parkland -type habitat, under some old oaks.


As you can just-about-make-out in the photograph, it had a large round bulge at the bottom – a volva – which had become partially hollowed-out and was providing a home to a very active family of woodlice.


The cap was this rather attractive olive-green colour.


And while the gills were still covered in the remnants of a partial veil (?) I could see no hint of a ring.

This leaves me in something of a quandary, as the mushroom matches many features of the Deathcap Amanita phalloides, but it doesn't have a 'pendulous ring' around the stem.

I wondered if it could be a Grisette Amanita vaginata. But a key feature of that species is its 'striate' (stripy) margin. And this mushroom doesn't have that.

I found a couple of younger specimens growing nearby, so I looked to see if those showed any signs of a 'pendulous' ring. But they didn't.


The partial veil's falling off in the wrong direction! Towards the cap margin, rather than the stem.

Note also the mottled lower stem – showing the same colouring as the cap. This is also a feature of A. phalloides. And the cap has a sweet and slightly vinegar-y smell to me, which the books say is also a feature of A. phalloides.

I think it probably is the Deathcap A. phalloides.

UPDATE 08/07/2017: I posted these pictures on the British Mycological Society Facebook page and Geoffrey Kibby was kind enough to confirm my identification. Success! 

Then I saw this Common Toad Bufo bufo. Hello!


Thought I'd give it a guest appearance in this fungus blog, given toads' long association with the mushroom kingdom!

One of the nice things about the walk around Burton & Chingford Ponds is the great variety of habitats it takes you past: woodland, heath, bogs and ponds. As you reach the furthest point from the car park at Burton Mill, the route goes through an area of pine plantation. And it was here I spotted a smattering of earthballs.

Earthballs are covered in the new book by Geoffrey Kibby, so I thought, I CAN DO THIS! (Other field guides have always left me a little confused as to how you separate the different species).


The earthballs were growing at the side of the path, under conifers, amongst leaf litter over very sandy soil.


The earthball seemed almost fused into the leaflitter by mycelia; the stem was almost absent. In the young fruit body the spore mass ('gleba') was white and just starting to flush a purplish-black colour. The surface of the fruit body was covered in tan-brown patches, broken up into an irregular pattern.

I think it probably is the common species, Common Earthball Scleroderma citrinum. But Kibby's book makes me think I should check the spore ornamentation to be sure. I don't think I can do this without mature spores, and without staining chemicals to highlight the ornamentation. Oh well, at least I know what to do next time.

In what proved to be a surprisingly fruitful trip for a dry day in July, I found a few little mushrooms growing at the side of the footpath, on sandy soil.


They had crowded gills, which were a pale mousy-brown colour.


The caps were quite conical and rounded at the top (without a discernable 'umbo'). The cap colour was a sort of non-descript beige, overlain with tan speckling (veil remnants?).

I think it might be a Psathyrella species. I'll try and get a spore print and see where that gets me.

I also found another earthball, this time growing in the heathy grassland near the Black Bog. This one had more obvious 'patches' on the surface.


I assume the spores had just recently matured, as the gleba was this glistening blue-black colour.


I'll see if I can get some spores out of this one...

UPDATE 08/07/2017: 

Geoffrey Kibby's book explains that spore ornamentation is a key identification feature in the genus Scleroderma the Earthballs. Spores are typically spiny and can also be covered in a network of ridges, in which case they are described as 'reticulate'. This graphic from Michael Kuo's mushroomexpert.com site shows the different kinds of ornamentation you might see in Scleroderma species.

Image reproduced from www.mushroomexpert.com. © Michael Kuo


This is the best image I've been able to get of the spores from my collection.



You can see they've got some impressive spikes on them, but I can't get the image clear enough to tell if the spores are reticulate or not. 

So, there we go. I'm stuck again. 

For the record
Date: 8 July 2017
Location: Burton & Chingford Ponds
Grid ref: SU9717