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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...

from wiki When a fire rages through a woodland or forest, lots of ash and other ‘material’ is left on the ground. From this debris, fungi are amongst the first forms of life to appear. Often these are the fruiting bodies of what are termed pyrophilous fungi. That is to say, they are fungi that cannot complete their life cycle without a fire and shortly after a fire, their fruiting bodies - the mushrooms appear. Quite how and where these fungi survive in between fires has long been debated. Now some answers have been provided by mycologists at the University of Illinois. It would seem that in between fires, these fungi ‘hide’ in mosses and lichens. The Illinois mycologists proposed that the fungi were present in the structures of various mosses and lichens and the burning of their ‘home’ initiated a reproductive phase of development. To test their working hypothesis, they collected soil samples, mosses and lichens from burned and unburned areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The samples were surface disinfected to remove any spores etc that might have been present on the outside, but then the lichens and mosses were examined in detail to see if the fungi were indeed present within their structures. One ‘fire-loving fungus’ - Pholiota highlandensis, was cultured from various moss samples and DNA studies confirmed the presence of other pyrophilous fungi in various moss and lichen species. The mosses and lichens may be acting as ‘protective shields’ that burn away during fire, but allow the fungus to survive. The soil temperatures during a fire would see a reduction in the number of other micro-organisms in the soil, so the lack of immediate competition would favour the pyrophilous fungi - as would the increase in soil alkalinity. It is known that pyrophilous fungi ‘prefer’ more alkaline condition for spore germination and growth of the mycelium (compared to other soil fungi). Pyrophilous fungal DNA was also found in the burned and unburned soil, so it is quite possible that their spores persist in the soil for long period of time but the fungi will only form fruiting bodies (sporocarps) after a fire. Quite what the exact trigger for this behaviour remains to be determined. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pholiota_highlandensis,_Carbofil1.jpg Аимаина хикари

Fungi that ‘need’ a fire

by Lewis ~ 28 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

When a fire rages through a woodland or forest, lots of ash and other ‘material’ is left on the ground.   From this debris, fungi are amongst the first forms of life to appear.  Often these are the fruiting bodies of what are termed pyrophilous fungi.  That is to say, they are fungi that cannot complete their life cycle without a fire and shortly after a fire,  their fruiting bodies - the mushrooms appear.   Quite how and where these fungi survive in between fires has long been debated.   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...

August’s Fungi Focus: Blackberry Leaf Rust Fungus (Phragmidium violaceum)

August’s Fungi Focus: Blackberry Leaf Rust Fungus (Phragmidium violaceum)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 5 August, 2019 ~ 3 comments

We have now entered those glorious few weeks in the foragers’ yearbook when the proliferation of brambles across the country is at last yielding its fruits. For the bulk of the seasons, however, Rubus fruticosus can be viewed as little more than an annoyance, an invasive native with barbed, snaking canes that spread across pathways and woodland floors to form impenetrable thickets, snare up by passers-by and crowd out surrounding biodiversity (See ‘Native dominants or botanical ‘thugs’ in woodlands).  Or so it might seem. You will have probably noticed the tracks left by moth caterpillars munching on bramble leaves. Any blackberry-picker will also be well aware of the close association brambles seem to have with stinging nettles. Both attract a wide variety of insect life during their flowering months.  Deer and small mammals such as dormice, not to mention numerous bird species, are also the beneficiaries in terms of food and shelter of the bramble’s vigorous growth .

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...

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...

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