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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...

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...

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...

March’s Fungi Focus: Split Porecrust and Cinnamon Porecrust 

March’s Fungi Focus: Split Porecrust and Cinnamon Porecrust 

by Jasper Sharp ~ 1 March, 2020 ~ comments welcome

There are many reasons why resupinate or crust fungi fail to attract much in the way of love or attention even among fungi fanatics. For starters, there are hundreds of different types, and the vast bulk of them are incredibly difficult to identify, lacking that one significant feature amongst other identifying criteria such as colour and habitat: a three-dimensional form. They instead appear as flat blotches, skins or coatings of various hues and textures, and mainly on dead standing or fallen trunks and branches, sometimes parasitizing living wood. Read more...

February’s Fungi Focus: Tripe fungus (Auricularia mesenterica)

February’s Fungi Focus: Tripe fungus (Auricularia mesenterica)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 1 February, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Brackets, crusts and jellies are the most commonly found fungi in the winter months, as I mentioned in my last post on the various species referred to as Witches’ Butter. These categories are essentially descriptive ones, however, aimed at helping one negotiate ones way to the correct pages in general field guides, rather than relating to particular family groupings and relationships based on more scientific principles.

One might find countless instances where the dividing line between a particular specimen is not particularly clear. Crusts, or resupinate fungi, often grow as brackets, for example, if the fallen trunk or log they are growing from them is oriented in a particular direction, and a good number possess fruitbodies with a gelatinous texture. Read more...

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...

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...

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