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April’s Fungi Focus: Anatomy of a Slime Mould - Trichia decipien

April’s Fungi Focus: Anatomy of a Slime Mould – Trichia decipien

by Jasper Sharp ~ 13 April, 2021 ~ comments welcome

It is that slime mould time of year again, and so a fitting excuse for me to return to a subject so dear to my heart that I’ve already written about it here and here in previous blog posts, as well as authoring a full-length book on the subject entitled The Creeping Garden to tie in with the documentary film of the same name. 

In fact it’s always that slime mould time of year, although different species seem to be more prevalent at different points in the calendar. In March and April, for instance, the False Puffball (Reticularia lycoperdon) is commonly reported. At some point very recently it appears to have inherited the common name of ‘Moon Poo’, derived from the Spanish sobriquet ‘Caca de luna’ under which it is known in certain Mexican communities. Its silvery grey blobs, up to 10cm in diameter and with a slightly pinkish sheen, appear around eye level on standing tree trunks, making it particularly conspicuous at a time when other larger fungi have all but disappeared. The vivid sulphurous yellow Flowers of Tan slime mould (Fuligo septica) is more a Summer species. It too seems to have captured the imagination of a certain sector of British nature lovers, who have come to refer to it as the Dogs Vomit slime, although historically this rather unpleasant label has referred in Britain to a wholly different white species usually found on grass, Mucilago crustacea, with its new application making its way over from the North American vernacular. Read more...

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March’s Fungi Focus: Wet Rot and Fawn Starweb 

by Jasper Sharp ~ 17 March, 2021 ~ comments welcome

There is not a lot of love for resupinate or crust fungi even amongst fungi specialists, yet alone the wider community of naturalists and nature recorders. I’ve outlined some of the reasons why this might be so in my previous postings on Hairy Curtain Crusts, Elder Whitewash, and Cinnamon Porecrusts – these are mainly related to their inedibility and difficulty in identifying them. However, in last month’s focus on Antrodia carbonica, I did hint at why one might, perhaps even should, develop an interest in the subject, or at least an awareness – especially if you are an arborist, builder or anyone else who deals with wood or timber for a living.

I remember an occasion shortly after I first started dipping my toes into the subject, when I found a striking example of a corticioid fungus (i.e. possessing a smooth surface, without pores) on one of the trees in an avenue of cypresses stretching alongside a public right of way through farmland. The bulk of the crust that spread thinly across the bark of its host was white, with a distinctive cobwebby margin. Read more...

February’s Fungi Focus: Antrodia carbonica

February’s Fungi Focus: Antrodia carbonica

by Jasper Sharp ~ 9 February, 2021 ~ 3 comments

There is an aspect to going out on a fungi foray, and indeed looking at all parts of the natural world (I’m sure insect hunters will tell you the same), that makes one think of ‘Pokémon Go’.  You head out into the woods, not knowing what you’ll find, but with the awareness that some of your discoveries definitively trump others in terms of their impressiveness and rarity. Of course, not everything that is rare is particularly impressive to look at, but that doesn’t dampen the excitement when you realise you have found something that has been very seldom recorded and which you might have been the only person ever to notice in your area.  Many crust fungi can be considered rare precisely because they are so rarely recorded. Part of the reason they are so rarely recorded is because they are so rarely identified, and part of the reason they are so rarely identified is because, on the surface, many appear as relatively nondescript compared with more flamboyant members of their kingdom. You have to look long and carefully, often through a microscope, to work out what they are.  Read more...

January’s Fungi Focus: Crimped Gills

January’s Fungi Focus: Crimped Gills

by Jasper Sharp ~ 20 January, 2021 ~ comments welcome

They grow in dense overlapping tiers on dead stumps and branches, the felty topside of these semi-circular shelves primarily an orange to tawny brown colour demarcated to form zones of different colours, including a rather striking blue in places, and tending towards white at the edges. The Crimped Gill, or Plicatura crispa (also Plicaturopsis crispa), does indeed from such descriptions, sound remarkably similar to the Turkey Tails described in last month’s post.

In these winter months when bracket fungi are plentiful in our woodlands, there are a good number of fungi that might be confused with Turkey Tails, in fact, from the False Turkey Tails and Hairy Curtain Crusts described last month, through the Tripe Fungus covered in a Fungi Focus from last February and other lookalike species such as the Smokey Bracket (Bjerkandera adusta).  Read more...

December’s Fungi Focus: Turkey Tails and False Turkey Tails

December’s Fungi Focus: Turkey Tails and False Turkey Tails

by Jasper Sharp ~ 10 December, 2020 ~ 2 comments

While the winter woodlands are now largely bereft of the colourful cornucopia of mushrooms we’ve been seeing over the past few months, bracket fungi abound. It only seems fitting, then, to add a seasonal twist to this month’s fungi focus and take a look at one of our most commonplace and picturesque examples, the Turkey Tail (or Turkeytail), as well as one of its closest lookalikes.   Turkey Tails are very much a fixture of woodlands across Britain, and indeed are widespread throughout much of the world. This catchy common name, which succinctly describes the colours and forms of its variegated fan-shaped shelves, seems to have crept over from America fairly recently. Previously it was known over here by the rather more prosaic yet equally descriptive name of the Many-Zoned Polypore, a fair rendition of its Latin binomial Trametes versicolor.  Read more...


November Fungi Focus: Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina) and the documentary Fantastic Fungi

by Jasper Sharp ~ 12 November, 2020 ~ comments welcome

There has been such a diversity of interesting things popping up in the woods recently then fading right back almost as soon as they appear that it is almost overwhelmingly difficult to know where to lay ones focus for November’s post. In just a few weeks or so the peak mushroom season will be over, and then these monthly articles will be move away from our more typical looking types to the whatever crusts, rusts, slimes or jellies are out at any given time. At the moment, however, it seems like a Sisyphean task just trying to keep up with monitoring and capturing on camera the rich and colourful array of species appearing in brief successive waves in my local woods after spending so much of the year lying dormant – a task tinged with the sadness of knowing it will all be easing off again shortly. Read more...

October Fungi Focus: The Sulphur Knight (Tricholoma sulphureum)

October Fungi Focus: The Sulphur Knight (Tricholoma sulphureum)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 15 October, 2020 ~ 4 comments

There is something quite exhilarating about the smell of autumn, and I immediately picked up on it on my first evening woodland walk after the Autumn equinox a few weeks back. The earthy richness that hits the nostrils as your feet scuffle through the newly fallen leaves, and the overwhelmingly sharp freshness of the damp air tinged with the lingering perfume of ivy seems to reawaken the senses after the torpor of Summer. Camus put it nicely when he wrote, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” 

Smell is a sense that is often overlooked when it comes to identifying fungi, although any encounter with a stinkhorn, its viscid dark green tip (or gleba) swarming with flies attracted by its ripe miasma, is proof enough of the importance of these chemical signals in the spore dispersal process. Read more...

September’s Fungi Focus: Green and Turquoise Elfcups

September’s Fungi Focus: Green and Turquoise Elfcups

by Jasper Sharp ~ 11 September, 2020 ~ 2 comments

I love this time of year. At the height of summer, wooded environments can feel gloomy, humid, oppressive and swarming with mosquitoes and other biting stinging things. September marks the seasonal tipping point when these habitats take on a new lease of life, as the things begin to cool down a bit and the more colourful and easily recognisable mushrooms, toadstools and other fungal forms start popping up in earnest. Of course, the fungi themselves have been there throughout the year. These fruiting bodies are only their temporary manifestations, like ghosts - transient hints as to the complex invisible processes and interactions constantly at work beneath the surface of the forest floor or whatever woody substrates that play host to the larger organisms. It is only in the coming months that we might truly appreciate the huge diversity of the plethora of species harboured within the fallen log that we might habitually take rest on, or the rotting fence post or tree stumps or whatever else that we use to orient ourselves around our favourite woodland haunts. Read more...

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