Sunday, September 25, 2011
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
There are two very similar brain fungi with yellow jelly-like and both are members of the family Tremellaceae. Most often here in West Wales we come across Tremella mesenterica, which is parasistic on crust fungi of the genus Peniophora. The other is Tremella aurantia, and it is not quite so common in our area; this jelly fungus is parasitic on Stereum hirsutum, the Hairy Curtain Crust. There is little to distinguish these two, and perhaps the best way to identify them is to take a close look at the substrate they are attached to; you should find that your brain fungus is growing from the remains of some kind of crust fungus, and you now know which is which (if you know your Peniophora from your Stereum, that is! Ain't fungi fun?).
Here is a picture of Stereum hirsutum:
And here is a Peniophora species:
Incidentally, the normally reddish-brown Leafy Brain (Tremella foliacea) has a pinkish-white form that could also cause confusion; however both Tremella mesenterica and Tremella aurantia are yellow or orange (or brown when totally dried up!) so if you do come across a whitish brain-like fungus it's neither of them.
Here's hoping you have/have had a very Happy Christmas!
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Oops! There I go, falling in to the trap of using the word 'normal' in the same sentence as 'weather'. What I should have said is 'in the days when patterns of British weather bore at least some resemblance to normality'. Climate Change (Climate Chaos, as I prefer to call it) has abolished all norms. Where I wandered, at least, the early November weather seems to have suited August-fruiting fungi rather better than August did.
What is special about Parasol Mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera) apart from their undeniable gracefulness is their perfect fit in a frying pan. I won't go in to recipes here - I'm saving that topic for my new book about fungi, which is at last entering the home straight towards completion - but these really are Pizza-on-a-Stick pickable if you enjoy eating wild mushrooms.
The genus name Lepiota simply means scaly, while the specific epithet procera, meaning tall, is self-explanatory when applied to these stately parasols. Found in grassland, Parasol Mushrooms have a strange habit of springing up on roadside verges on the most dangerous of bends, diverting drivers' attention from the road at critical times. Unfortunately, fungi are very good at accumulating heavy metals and other toxins, and so it is best to avoid eating Parasol Mushrooms (or other edible fungi) from roadside verges. Golf course margins, parkland and dune slacks are better places to try - the latter, warmed by the sea air, often proving to be fertile fungi foray territory well in to winter when inland sites have been thoroughly frosted off. Food for thought...
Friday, October 29, 2010
Cap: olivaceous fawn, darkest at the centre, margin much paler; margin has strong radial lines; irregular grey veil fragments mainly in cap centre; convex, eventually flattening; 6 to 12cm across.
Gills: creamy white, greying with age; free, with frequent short gills; not very crowded.
Stem: pale grey, surface developing snakeskin pattern of scales; no ring; 8 to 17 cm long, 1 to 2cm dia.; stem base not swollen; bag-like white volva that soon collapses leaving patches on stem base.
Spore print: white.
I have pictures of fully expanded caps, but I am saving those for my new book, which is nearing completion... probably! The trouble is, it's such a fascinating subject that deciding what to omit is very difficult. It's not an ID guide, but a broad introduction to the beauty, science, fantasy, uses and modus vivendi of fungi of woodlands, grasslands and some marginal habitats. Early next year, I hope... I'll keep you posted via this blog and I'll be making chunks downloadable as PDFs to (I hope) whet appetites. Thanks to all who have offered pictures - much appreciated.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Suillus bovinus, the Jersey cow bolete, is also found under pine trees, with which it forms an ectomycorrhizal relationship, the fungus and the tree providing each other with some of their nutrient needs.
In fact we now know that Gomphideus roseus is a parasite, feeding on the mycorrhizae created by the bolete and the pine tree. This month I came across a group of these fungi so closely packed that it looked almost as though the Gomphidius and the Suillus species were conjoined at the base. Here's a picture showing the stem bases of one of the spike caps and two young boletes:
Sunday, August 1, 2010
The most common types of fairy ring cause the turf to grow a darker green, but other types of fungi may cause the grass to turn yellow or reddish. The grass inside a ring may die back because the soil there has been depleted of organic material and resists watering. When two fairy rings meet they gebnerally cannot cross one another (because the nutrients needed by the mycellia have already been consumed) and so the rimgs break and become arcs. Ring expansion is also broken when the perimeter comes up against a deeply-rooted tree, a wall or a deeply sunk concrete post etc. These grassland fungi don't always form rings, therefore, and in fact lines of the little brown mushrooms are rather more common than complete rings.
Although quite small, this is a good edible mushroom, and it's very easy to gather enough for a meals small because they fruit in such great numbers. Discard the tough stalks and dry the caps on a radiator, in an open warm oven, or threaded on twine and hung up in a warm dry place (an airing cupboard will do, provided it is well ventilated. Stored in jars, dried mushrooms can be kept for as long as you like.
The family Marasmiaceae (within the order Agaricales) are white-spored fungi, many of which are able to survive drought and near desiccation and can later recover when it rains. Another edible mushroom within this family is the Shiitake mushroom, Lentinula edodes.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
There seems to be little dount that Boletus parasiticus cannot live without its earthball associate, and every specimen that I find is with an earthball partner. Often a single earthball is 'host' (if that is an appropriate term for the true relationship between these two fungi) to several fruitbodies of the parasitic bolete. Parasitic boletes are hard to find, and stumbling across a patch of common earthballs is no guarantee that you are about to see this rather dull and unimpressive member of the family Boletaceae: most earthballs occur without parasitic boletes.
If you ever go across the sea to Ireland, as the song says... some way south of Galway bay is the lovely town of Killarney and its nearby lakes and mountains. Within the woodland there, and most particularly near Mucross Abbey, common earthballs line many of the drainage ditches, and quite a high proportion of those earthballs have parasitic boletes attached to them.
Where else is good? Well. my favourite hunting ground is in the narrow strip of woodland along the gorge of the River Teifi at Henllan, in West Wales. There, every year, while hunting rare fungi and lichen I come across dozens of parasitic boletes with, of course, common earthballs.
I have looked out for these intriguing boletes in so many other places and failed. The New Forest, in southern England; the Caledonian Forest, in Scotland; the Forest of Dean, in the Wye Valley; numerous pinewoods in France, Portugal, Bulgaria... But of course, not finding them doesn't mean that they are not there. These are fairly inconspicuous fungi, almost always in deeply shaded habitats with plenty of leaf litter, with which backgrounds they blend in very well.
One final point... this is always a woodland mushroom, as indeed are most if not all other boletes. The common earthball, Scleroderma citrinum, is ectomycorrhizal with both hardwood and softwood trees (broadleaves and conifers), meaning that it lives in a mutually beneficial relationship (termed symbiosis) with the fine rootlets at the ends of the roots of trees. The fungus in effect feeds the tree and the tree also delivers vital chemicals to the fungus. Meanwhile, within this ménage à trois, the parasitic bolete is also up to something, and I suspect it is up to no good! How often we find that these interrelationships between fungi and plants are far from simple. For example the rare wild orchid Limodorum abortivum is now known to depend on certain kinds of Russula fungi which themselves require pine trees - explaining why the violet limodore, to quote the orchid's common name, is found only beneath pine trees.
We certainly do live in an amazing (and amazingly complex) world.
Do let me know if you are able to add to (or correct) any of the above...