Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Fungi survey - The Decievers

Just to pre-warn, in this blogpost I'm not going to talk about which fungi are edible or not... in fact, it is best to just assume that they are not. Apparently, those we found which were are not even very palatable anyway!

Rosy Bonnet (Mycena rosea)

There has been a bit of media coverage recently on the over-harvesting of fungi on protected land. The aim of this day was simply for conservation purposes; observing the diversity of fungi species and appreciating them in their different habitats. Fungi are a mind-blowingly huge group of organisms and in one lifetime (taking into account the need to eat, sleep and preferably interact with other humans) you would be hard pushed to know them all. Fortunately for science, some people are willing to at least give it a shot! 

Nick and members of the Sussex Fungi Group, braving the elements

I joke really. These guys and girls are actually a sociable lot and on one of the wettest days of autumn, Nick Aplin and members of the Sussex Fungi Group set out at the Land East of the Railway Line. We had missed the peak time for certain species as the cold and the rain turned many things to mush, but there was still plenty about to see. We began our route in Upper Picketts Wood, which I swiftly learned is not a good place for an umbrella.

Liver Milkcap (Lactarius hepaticus) is a species closely associated with pines

Dead Man's Fingers (Xylaria longipes)

Apart from their fantastic diversity of colours and forms, one of the best things about fungi are the bizarre but often brilliantly apt names...

Candlewick or Candle Snuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon

We are fortunate that Nick knows this patch of land fairly well; he has already shared his recent Gatwick fungi records with us. All of this data will go into the central database we are building for Gatwick's biodiversity.

Rain is hard to photograph! This does not give justice to the fantastical amount pouring down on us

The controversially named 'Jew's Ear' (Auricularia auricula-judae)... 
now often referred to as Jelly Ear

Crystal Brain Fungus (Exidia nucleata), named for the crystal-like mineral inclusions

Cushion Bracket (Phellinus pomaceus) a pathogenic fungus growing on Blackthorn.

We continued into Goat Meadow where the habitat changes to grassland and thinned-out young woodland. The recent bad weather and mushiness of specimens made identification an even greater challenge for Nick and co. An overwhelmingly abundant species in this area was the intriguingly named 'The Deceiver'. Its form changes as it ages and weathers, causing it to resemble other species.

The Deciever (Laccaria laccata)

A field of Deceivers. In places they literally carpeted the ground

The incredible diversity of fungi forms means that many can only be accurately identified by examination of their spores under a microscope. Failing that, a sample is sent off for genetic analysis.
    The one advantage of the seasonal weather was that a layer of oak leaves previously covering the ground had all blown away, revealing a beautiful carpet of fungal fruiting bodies.

Amethyst Deciever (Laccaria amethystina) - this stunning specimen was my favourite find of the day

Amethyst Deciever (Laccaria amethystina) with Jellybaby (Leotia lubrica)

Jellybaby (Leotia lubrica) Nope, not recommended for the kids.

Collared Mosscap (Rickenella swartzii) a tiny species which inhabits moss

We found over 60 species in one day, which might have been an even higher number earlier on in the season. Nick's highlight of the day was this rather cryptic looking specimen...

(Melanconiella/Melanconis spodiaea), under peeling Hornbeam bark (Photo by Nick Aplin)

This species is only the fourth record for the UK, so a pretty good find and a new one for Nick.

(Melanconiella spodiaea) cross-section. The black squiggles inside the chambers are the spores of the fungus, nearly ready to eject. (Photo by Nick Aplin)

Many thanks again to all who turned out for the day. All identifications are courtesy of Nick (except for where they are wrong/spelt incorrectly, then I shall claim them as mine).
http://www.sussexfungigroup.org.uk/