Guest author: Nick AplinA post about Elm trees, bryo-parasites, cannibalistic fungi, new species and the joys of microecology...
One of the problems with recording fungi is that the bloomin’ things are everywhere.
Seriously, everywhere. They’re in your fridge. They’re on every single leaf. They’re even in your lungs whilst you’re reading this. Considering their ubiquity, surveying a whole piece of woodland can be somewhat daunting for the average mycologist. Where should one start?
I think the best thing to do is earmark a microhabitat or two; perhaps an old stump, a muddy ditch or maybe a little mossy patch. Around Picketts Wood there are thankfully many such nooks and crannies: A fallen Pine trunk here, a dead hedge there...
Late last year I stumbled upon a little stand of Elm trees, presumably struggling in their war against Ophiostoma novo-ulmi, a nasty fungus which is to blame for the fact we generally doesn’t see Elms around much anymore (Dutch Elm Disease has so far claimed the lives of about 100 million Elm trees in the Northern Hemisphere).
These trees at Picketts Wood are a bit sad looking, with many droopy dead bits. Luckily the decomposing branches are home to lots of other organisms, including some curious little fungi. To give you a snapshot of the sheer omnipresence and diversity of the fungus kingdom, I’d like to tell you about some of the many species I found on just one Elm branch over the last few weeks:
The first two species are largely dependent on dead Elm wood for survival – I wonder whether they will both be in decline considering the effects of Dutch Elm Disease?
(OK you have to squint a bit whilst using your imagination….)
Cryptodiscus (Karstenia) rhopaloides
Can you spot it in the branch photo above?
Isn’t it strange to think that there are undescribed species around Gatwick?
I should say that I have no idea what species of Elm I've been looking at. Elm taxonomy eludes me. If you happen to find an Elm expert (Pteleologist!) hanging around Gatwick, please point them in my direction!
Nick Aplin (Sussex Fungi Group)