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September’s Fungi Focus: Green and Turquise Elfcups

September’s Fungi Focus: Green and Turquise Elfcups

by Jasper Sharp ~ 11 September, 2020 ~ one comment

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...

collared paracute

August’s Fungi Focus: The Collared Parachute (Marasmius rotula)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 11 August, 2020 ~ one comment

There are quite a few conspicuous Summer fungi that you might have seen popping up recently. One of the most commonly found and easy to identify is the subject of this month’s focus, the Collared Parachute (Marasmius rotula) referred to alternatively by the names of the Pinwheel Mushroom or the Horse Hair fungus.   These alternate names present fairly accurate descriptions of the characteristic appearance of this dainty looking but tough mushroom, which you’ll find growing in groups in the leaf litter from the first June rains through to November. The thin and fibrous stem that is the same ivory white colour at the top as the tough, dry pleated cap that it supports but darkens from russet brown to near black towards its base is one feature that it shares with a number of other species in the Marasmius genus. More distinctive is the collar, or collarium to give it its technical name, that separates the gills from the stem, with the gills themselves fairly widely spaced and running outwards to the cap edges. Read more...

July’s Fungi Focus: Death Caps, False Death Caps and other amanitas

July’s Fungi Focus: Death Caps, False Death Caps and other amanitas

by Jasper Sharp ~ 1 July, 2020 ~ comments welcome

We are just easing into that time of year when the mushroom hunting season looks about set to kick off in earnest. No longer is the more fervent fungi fanatic forced into gazing obsessively into the undergrowth in search of tiny black dots on dried stalks and twigs and left to wonder which of literally thousands of potential candidates they might have found - you’ll have to wait until next year for that post, I’m afraid. No, now is the time when we can prepare to lay aside the camera’s macro lens and focus on the more readily identifiable and photogenic cap-and-stem-and-gills varieties we know as agarics. Read more...

Common Tarcrust (Diatrype stigma)

June’s Fungi Focus: Woodwarts, Blackheads and Tarcrusts. Part 2

by Jasper Sharp ~ 4 June, 2020 ~ one comment

It is worth mentioning that while the majority of the hard pyrenomycetous fungi that are the subject of this two-part post are decomposers of dead wood, and therefore invaluable to any woodland ecosystem, there are types that are less benign. For example, one might question why anyone would need to be able to identify the 90 species of Rosellinia, none of which have a common English name and are nearly identical in all aspects aside from their dimensions, until one realises that a number are serious pathogens. Rosellinia desmazieri, for example, can attack living willow trees. There’s a tropical species called Rosellinia bunodes that causes black root rot on a wide range of cash crops like coffee and bananas, while closer to home we have Rosellinia necatrix, another root rotter. Read more...

June’s Fungi Focus: Woodwarts, Blackheads and Tarcrusts. Part 1

June’s Fungi Focus: Woodwarts, Blackheads and Tarcrusts. Part 1

by Jasper Sharp ~ 3 June, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Overlooked and understudied. We can say that about many aspects of the natural world, not just fungi. However, for those hard, black, carbonaceous types falling within the wider category of pyrenomycetes, this is especially true and, alas, appears to have ever been thus.  The Rolfe’s showed no love for them in their 1925 book The Romance of the Fungus World, writing that “in this order are a great number of fungi which are of little interest to folk other than those engaged in their actual study. Most of them are small, and even the larger ones are far from attractive.”  Read more...

bluebell rust

May’s Fungi Focus: Bluebell Rust (Uromyces muscari – part 2

by Jasper Sharp ~ 9 May, 2020 ~ 2 comments

Rust fruiting bodies are pretty tiny, and I think it is safe to say that the bulk of them look remarkable similar to the naked eye. As many rusts are limited to a particular plant, identifying the host should be the first step when it comes to identification. I used the example of Alexanders in my piece on Blackberry Leaf Rust and I’ll use it again, because they are rife around coastal areas such as where I live in East Kent. The Romans introduced them to Britain, and presumably they introduced Puccinia smyrnii, the Alexanders Rust, along with them. Another commonly found one that is easy one to identify is Hollyhock Rust, or Mallow Rust (Puccinia malvacearum).

So turning back to our new bible Dutch Rust Fungi, if I were to find a rust growing on my garden mint, I would search for the word mentha in the section on host plants and sure enough, we see a Puccinia menthae listed, the Mint Rust - yes, one potential source of frustration is that to learn about rusts, you are going to have to cultivate a basic knowledge of Latin names for plants too! Read more...

bluebell rust

May’s Fungi Focus: Bluebell Rust (Uromyces muscari) – part 1

by Jasper Sharp ~ 8 May, 2020 ~ 2 comments

Spring might be a wonderful season for nature lovers in general, but for those with a specialist interest in fungi, it can be something of a dry period. This past April has been drier than usual and, dare we mention it, the past couple of months of lockdown have kept many of us housebound anyway, with far fewer opportunities to get out and amongst it looking for things of interest.

So is there really not that much to see or discover around this time of year? Well, one might think so, but my own eyes were opened recently when Helen Baker on the British Mycological Society Facebook group organised a wonderfully touching initiative to mark the sad and untimely recent passing of the group’s moderator and founder, Richard Shotbolt, whose encouragement and advice has acted as a spur to many a fledgling mycologist over the years. Read more...

The Birch Mazegill (Trametes betulina)

April’s Fungi Focus: Lumpy Bracket (Trametes gibbosa) and Birch Mazegill (Trametes betulina)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 1 April, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Mushrooms may be thin on the forest floor at the moment, but if you raise your eyes you can find more permanent fixtures higher up on tree trunks and stumps in the form of a surprisingly diverse array of tough and hard-wearing bracket fungi. It is a class I have tended to avoid, largely because many of them look so similar, but also because they can be quite difficult to manipulate into aesthetically pleasing photographic compositions. However, this is only if you look at them from a certain angle.

Anyone who has ever expressed an interest in the mycological world may well be familiar with the frustrating habit some friends have of sending them “What is it?” messages alongside blurry smartphone snaps of the top of the nondescript muddy brown shelves of certain finds. The crucial thing one has to remember about bracket fungi is always to look underneath.  Read more...

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