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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...

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...

Introducing woodlandsTV videos on LICHENS

Introducing woodlandsTV videos on LICHENS

by Chris ~ 24 September, 2019 ~ comments welcome

In winter, woods can seem a bit ‘naked’ and empty. Trees and shrubs have entered into a dormant state in order to survive the rigours of the winter months. Their buds await the signals that herald Spring. Many birds will have migrated to warmer climes, some animals will be hibernating. Many insects will be spending the winter as eggs or pupae, whilst herbaceous plants will over-winter as seeds, corms or bulbs. 

But on the bark of many trees and on the surfaces of fences and walls, there will be lichens they are there in summer, winter, spring and autumn.  Lichens are rather unusual in that they are an amalgam of two (or occasionally three) organisms : a fungus and algae. They are symbiotic systems, where two partners work together for mutual benefit (occasionally there are more than two partners). The fungus makes up the bulk of the lichen’s structure (known as the thallus), but the algae (green algae or cyanobacteria) are essential as they can photosynthesise and provide the organism with carbohydrates.  The nature of the biochemistry and physiology of the lichen symbiosis is largely due to the pioneering work of Dr David Smith at the University of Oxford in the 1960's and 70's. Read more...

Horse chestnut update

Horse chestnut update

by Chris ~ 13 September, 2019 ~ comments welcome

The woodlands blog has reported on the problems facing the horse chestnut. Whilst not particularly a woodland tree in the U.K., horse chestnut trees were often planted by local authorities, in part because of their impressive appearance, particularly when in flower but also because of their low incidence of fungal disease and pests. However, it now seems that councils are having to remove many of these trees in order to protect people at risk of diseased branches (when they fall). For example, an avenue of horse chestnut trees planted in the 1930s at Avebury, Wiltshire, has had to be felled after becoming diseased.  The National Trust reported the trees had 'bleeding canker'.  Planting of horse chestnut trees has declined as the young trees quickly succumb to the activities of the leaf miner moth, the leaf blotch fungus and / or bleeding canker. Read more...

June’s Monthly Mushroom: Deer Shield mushroom (Pluteus cervinus)

June’s Monthly Mushroom: Deer Shield mushroom (Pluteus cervinus)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 14 June, 2019 ~ comments welcome

After last month’s epic two-parter on the Elder Whitewash fungus, I’m reining in my focus to something more traditionally mushroom-looking this month.     The recent combination of generally warmer temperatures coupled with the odd cooling cloudburst and resulting humidity has prompted the appearance of a number of mushroom sproutings in recent weeks, and one of my recent sightings has been the Deer Shield Mushroom (Pluteus Cervinus), which Roger Phillips’ Mushrooms and other Fungi of Great Britain & Europe says can be found from “early summer to late autumn, but also sporadically throughout the year.” I found specimens of this elegant looking species from October to mid-December last year and early May this year, so they are pretty prevalent throughout the seasons. Read more...

May’s Monthly Mushroom: Elder Whitewash (Hyphodontia sambuci) - Part 2.

May’s Monthly Mushroom: Elder Whitewash (Hyphodontia sambuci) – Part 2.

by Jasper Sharp ~ 15 May, 2019 ~ comments welcome

In the last post [see related posts to the side], I broadly introduced the Elder Whitewash as an example of a resupinate crust fungus that is typically found growing on elder.    At first glance, this particular species might not seem the most obvious candidate from these regular Monthly Mushroom posts to be split into a one-off two-part focus, save for the fact that is so regularly seen yet little remarked upon.

No doubt we’ve all seen it and probably passed it by. Hugill and Lucas in The Resupinates of Hampshire (2019 edition)  describe it as “surface rough, waxy when fresh, somewhat fissured when dry. Pure white to greyish white. Very common.” Michael Jordan in The Encyclopedia of Fungi of Britain and Europe writes of its “white, chalky fruiting body tightly attached to substrate, looking like matt emulsion paint or distemper… resupinate with irregular margin, the hymenial (upper) surface having a chalky consistency.” Read more...

May’s Monthly Mushroom: Elder Whitewash (Hyphodontia sambuci) pt 1

May’s Monthly Mushroom: Elder Whitewash (Hyphodontia sambuci) pt 1

by Jasper Sharp ~ 13 May, 2019 ~ comments welcome

They are among the first of our trees to burst into leaf, and any moment now they should be yielding up their perfumed blossoms for cordials, champagnes, fritters or whatever your fancy is. There are those, however, who believe our native Black Elder, Sambucus nigra, to be something of a mixed blessing, best confined to the hedgerow rather than the woodlands. Fast growing, spindly and brittle branched, they spring up in unsightly shrub-like tangles in those nitrogen-loaded hotspots left uncolonised by more majestic species. The featured image is the Elder Whitewash - a crust fungus regularly found on elder .

As John Lewis-Stempel poetically writes in The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood (2018), Read more...

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