Saturday, 8 November 2014

Week 42: Fungi Unearthed: Bonnets, Bells, Shanks & More

Dellfield meadow leading up to Hay Wood

Fungi! The stuff of fairy tales and the home of the Smurfs! Who could resist that?! Tuesday morning, I shunned the crisp bright sunshine and sought out the dappled, dank, darkness of Hay Wood, in search of Fruiting Bodies (that should probably be followed by some kind of menacing hallowe’en cackle!). I won’t pretend that I had a clue as to what I was looking at. Everything I know about fungi could fit on the teeny weeny 3mm wide cap of a Frosty Bonnet. But, it was fun discovering all these weird and wonderful eruptions in amongst the musty autumn leaves and rotting stumps of the woodland floor. Above my head, I could hear the many Goldcrests singing away. Wrens too piped up. Mostly, I was absorbed in trying to photograph bonnets, bells, shanks and all manner of imaginatively named growths (full species list at the end).

Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes), cap diameter approx 60mm


Conifer Tuft (Hypholoma capnoides)
cap diameter approx 12mm

Crust fungus sp (perhaps Yellowing Curtain Crust
[Stereum subtomentosum]) width approx 20mm

Frosty Bonnet (Mycena adscendens)
cap diameter approx 3mm

Other than providing a comfy seat for posing Fairies or a cosy hearth for a hard working Smurf, fungi obviously play a vital role in the context of the woodland ecosystem. It and bacteria are the primary recyclers of nutrients, breaking down dead and decaying matter into a form which is then readily available for reabsorption. I suspect that all of the fungi I’ve encountered this week fit into this category. Of course, it has other niches, such as the vital mycorrhizal associations with plant roots (see Week 3 for more on that). It’s also a food source for both animals and humans although you definitely want to avoid the appropriately named Funeral Bell. Certain fungi have medicinal use (e.g. Penicillin); whilst others cause disease in plants (like the fungal pathogen Phytophthora affecting some of the trees on the Trust’s moors); others cause disease in animals/humans (Athletes Foot anyone?!). The extent to which fungi weaves its way into our lives is quite striking and perhaps surprising. It seems to live at the extremes of enhancing life or hastening decay and death.

Apart from a forage in Hay Wood, I also took a stroll over the moors on Wednesday morning, ending up at Roughdown Common. A Red Admiral butterfly was fluttering about on Old Fishery Lane. On Fishery Moor, I found what is likely to be Stubble Rosegill whilst, in the dell at Roughdown, I unearthed some lovely Fairy Inkcap (although I rather like its other unofficial common name of Fairies' Bonnets. However, the term Bonnet is more strictly applied to Mycena species, which this isn't).

Fairy Inkcap (Coprinellus disseminates), Roughdown Common, cap diameter approx 12mm


Funeral Bell (Galerina marginata)
cap diameter approx 30mm

Stubble Rosegill (Volvariella gloiocephala)
cap diameter approx 130mm

Candlesnuff (Xylaria hypoxylon)
approx height 30mm

Whilst doing a little reading in preparation for this post, I remembered some photos I took a few weeks back of fungi rings on Preston Hill. I had intended to return when the weather improved and capture both the rings and the autumn trees. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t perk up in time and the mushrooms died back. Anyway, it fits in nicely with this week’s theme. Apparently, when Fairies aren’t dangling their toes off Fly Agaric, they are dancing with wild abandon inside Fairy Rings. Folklore aside, these curious rings of fungi have a very simple biological explanation. They begin with a single spore which beds down, sending out a network of underground roots or mycelium. “Each summer it produces fruiting bodies - mushrooms - which are temporary reproductive bits akin to flower blossoms. The mycelium draws heavily on the nitrogen in the soil as it grows and fruits, and the mushrooms appear at the outer edge of the network, where the nitrogen is richest. As the mycelium network expands, so does the fairy ring formed by the mushrooms. There are two types of fairy rings. Tethered rings are formed by species that are partially dependent on the roots of certain tree species for nutrition, and often occur with a tree growing at their center. Untethered rings don't require tree roots and so are often found in meadows and lawns.” (reference here). I’m afraid I didn’t look closely at the mushrooms forming the rings on Preston Hill so didn’t identify the species. The network of mycelium going into producing that large ring (approx 2.5 metres diameter) must be quite something!

Fairy Rings on Preston Hill 15 October 2014

Another interesting find in Hay Wood were 2 locations where a bird of prey (likely a Buzzard) had spent some time plucking fur from a rabbit (I think). In the photograph below, the bird had perhaps used the raised stump as a means of anchoring the rabbit whilst preparing it.


Ok, a list of this week’s 13 fungus finds with links to further reading if you fancy it:

Angel’s Bonnet (Mycena arcangeliana)
Frosty Bonnet (Mycena adscendens)
Snapping Bonnet (Mycena vitilis) (possible ID)
Yellowing Curtain Crust (Stereum subtomentosum)(possible ID)
Funeral Bell (Galerina marginata)
Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes)
Blushing Bracket (Daedaleopsis confragosa) (poss ID)
King Alfred’s Cakes (Daldinia concentrica)
Stubble Rosegill (Volvariella gloiocephala) (poss ID)(Fishery Moor)
Fairy Inkcap (Coprinellus disseminatus) (Roughdown Common)
Conical Brittlestem (Parasola conopilus)
Candlesnuff (Xylaria hypoxylon)
Conifer Tuft (Hypholoma capnoides)

Frosty Bonnet, showing the sugar-like "frosting"

Velvet Shank, showing the...velvety shank

Finally, this week's Oak photograph

2 comments:

Martin Parr said...

Another excellent post Lucy, and great pics! I'm amazed at how far you have widened your interests from birds since I first knew you, I think you now cover pretty much the whole natural world! And fungi are not an easy group to tackle so well done - you did miss a key fungal use that is vitally important to man however - yeast! ;0) Great work and a very interesting read!

Boxmoor, naturally... said...

Hi Martin. Thank you :o). Yeast! Of course! Where would be without that?! Sober and slender, I suppose ;o). It's certainly been a year of discovery around Box Moor and you're not wrong about fungi - tricky group to explore, lol.