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January’s Fungi Focus: Witches’ Butter, Warlock’s Butter and Yellow Brain

January’s Fungi Focus: Witches’ Butter, Warlock’s Butter and Yellow Brain

by Jasper Sharp ~ 1 January, 2020 ~ comments welcome

There are some who argue that the prime fungi hunting season basically comes to an end with the first frosts around November time. There is still plenty to see on those wintry woodland walks around the turn of the year however. In these mid to late winter months, the more conventional cap-and-stem types might be thinner on the ground, but if you care to cast your eyes around to more woody substrates, you should be sure to find a variety of crusts, brackets, tiny ascomycetes and, the subject of this month’s fungi focus, jellies.  Examples of fungi that form soft and gelatinous fruitbodies include the blobby types like Orange Jelly Spot (Dacrymyces stillatus) and Crystal Brain (Exidia nucleata) to more complex and distinctive fruiting forms like the branching Yellow Stagshorn (Calocera viscosa) and the subject of a former post, the Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae).  Read more...

coniferous forest

German forest dieback : waldsterben 2

by Lewis ~ 6 December, 2019 ~ comments welcome

In recent times, new or different threats have emerged to upset the balance of woodland and forest ecosystems.   In the 1960’s and early 70’s concern focussed on the effects of air pollution, particularly the effects of acid rain.  This type of pollution was characterised by the deposition / assimilation of sulphur dioxide and its derivatives (sulphuric & sulphurous acid), plus various nitrogen oxides.  This air pollution was largely due to industry and traffic.

Some of the most striking effects of ‘acid rain’ pollution were seen in the coniferous forests of Germany - where it was termed : Waldsterben [Wald=forest plus sterben=to die].  Read more...

December’s Fungi Focus: Holly Speckle (Trochila ilicina)

December’s Fungi Focus: Holly Speckle (Trochila ilicina)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 2 December, 2019 ~ one comment

I’ve written about the ascomycetes, or sac fungi, in several previous blog posts, but as well as giving a special festive twist to this December’s Fungi Focus, the Holly Speckle (Trochila ilicina) provides as good an opportunity as any other for a recap on the subject.

Quite distinct from basidiomyces, which produce their spores on specialised spore-bearing structures known as basidia found on the gills of our more familiar cap-and-stem types (or in the pores of the boletes ), the ascomycetes are characterised by the way in which they produce their spores inside tube-like sacs contained within specialised fruiting bodies known as ascocarps, which are then shot out dramatically like balls from a ping-pong ball gun into the atmosphere. Read more...

Rosy bonnets

November’s Fungi Focus: Rosy Bonnet (Mycena rosea) 

by Chris ~ 5 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

For well over half of the year, I rather struggle to come up with a suitable subject for these monthly mushroom blog posts. As we now, however, find ourselves at the peak of the season, the explosion of suitably fetching candidates that have appeared over the past 4-6 weeks alone has left me wondering where to place my focus this time.   The past October seems to have presented a particular abundance, even by usual standards for the time of year, if the various specialist fungi spotting and forager forums and social media sites have been anything to go by, with many seasonal species popping up simultaneously across the country. “It is always around the 15th October that, seemingly out of nowhere, the honey fungus suddenly appears in the woods.”, the BBC Woman’s Hour website claims and sure enough, it was on this exact date but a few weeks back that I popped down to my local park and found the specimens snapped for this recent Woodlands  posting. Read more...

October’s Fungi Focus: Ochre brittlegill (Russula ochroleuca)

October’s Fungi Focus: Ochre brittlegill (Russula ochroleuca)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 4 October, 2019 ~ comments welcome

It should be pretty easy, one would think, to recognise the various species within the Russula genus, or brittlegills, the bright-coloured little mushrooms that have been popping up vigorously across the country over the past few months. Their vibrant cap colours render them immediately conspicuous among the Autumn leaf litter surrounding the bases of the trees with which they form mycorrhizal relationships. while their shared features make them relatively easy to situate within this wide grouping. All are particularly prone to crumbling and breaking under rough handling and all have white or slightly off-white stems, gills and flesh, often exposed beneath the holes left in their vivid cap cuticles by snacking woodland creatures. Read more...

September’s Fungi Focus: Boletes and the Bolete Eater (Hypomyces chrysospermus)

September’s Fungi Focus: Boletes and the Bolete Eater (Hypomyces chrysospermus)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 9 September, 2019 ~ one comment

It wouldn’t be too bold to suggest that the main lure into the mystical world of mycology for many is the promise of finding something tasty to eat. However, my own reckoning is that a large proportion of would-be wild food gourmands soon move on to pastures new after discovering that the number of commonly found fungi that are actually edible, readily identifiable or even particularly tasty is relatively low. 

Moreover, as those who do know what they are looking for soon discover, you have to get out there pretty early and possess particularly keen eyes to stay ahead of the competition - be this from the new generation of food-for-free fanatics whose heads have been turned ground-wards over the past decade or so by TV foragers such as Ray Mears or Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, or from those members of the woodland ecosystem more reliant on the fruits of the forest, such as squirrels, slugs, grubs, bugs and, yes, even other fungi. Read more...

"Neolithic mushrooms"

“Neolithic mushrooms”

by Chris ~ 2 August, 2019 ~ comments welcome

 Some years back, the blog talked about a 5000 year old ‘mummy’ - called Otzi.   Otzi was a Neolithic man, and was found frozen, high in the mountains between Austria and Italy.   Careful examination of his body, clothing and possessions gives us some insights into his daily life and diet.  Otzi and, we presume, his contemporaries made good use of the plants and natural materials around them. Thus, 

  • His bow was made from Yew 
  • Ash provided his dagger handle 
  • Woven grass and bast for his cloak (bast is made from the fibres of the linden tree)
  • goats hide for his leggings and jerkin, 
  • bear skin for his cap
  • deer skin for shoes 
  • arrows from a wayfaring tree and dogwood

Read more...

July’s Fungi Focus: Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus)

July’s Fungi Focus: Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 12 July, 2019 ~ one comment

Members of the kingdom of the fungi can essentially be divided into the two basic categories of basidiomycetes and ascomycetes. The basidiomycetes form and release their spores on specialised cells called basidia, which can be found on the underside gills of our more familiar mushroom and toadstool-shaped types, or within the pores of boletes and brackets and suchlike. 

Ascomycetes, however, produce their spores in the elongated cells known as asci that cover their spore releasing surface. Each individual ascus can contain usually around 8 spores, like snooker balls in a sock, which then get released out of the end when ready: the word is derived from the Greek for wineskin or sac. Typically we might think of cup fungi, such as the various members of the Peziza genus, like the Blistered Cup (Peziza vesiculosa) depicted here, whose favoured substrates of well-rotted manure or compost heaps lends has led to its alternate common name of the Common Dung Cup.  Read more...

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