Ashplats Wood fungi (and a slime mould)

Until the weekend I’d never been to Ashplats Wood. I’d noticed it on the map, since it is only a few miles away at East Grinstead, but most of my local walking has taken me either within the bounds of Forest Row or south to Ashdown Forest, so knowing that Sussex Fungi Group were meeting there I didn’t have any excuse not to tag along.

Hosted by Ashplats Conservation Group, and led by Nick Aplin, we met at the north end of the wood, which included some of the wetter habitats, and dived in. It has been pretty dry recently, so at first sight it didn’t look very promising for fungi, but once you start looking it is surprising what you can uncover.

One of the first things Nick pointed out was a Hazel (Corylus avellana), which you’d easily walk past, but it was host to some Glue Crust (Hymenochaete corrugate), a curious fungus, the mycelium of which can join twigs of the tree together and (it is presumed) thereby stopping them falling to the ground and enabling it to extract nutrients from them rather than other, ground-based fungi.

Picture of Hymenochaete corrugate

Glue Crust (Hymenochaete corrugate)

Also on dead Hazel, and especially common, are these dark brownish lumps some 3mm or so across, Hazel Woodwart (Hypoxylon fuscum), though they can sometimes also grow on alder or birch[1]:

Picture of Hypoxylon fuscum

Hazel Woodwart (Hypoxylon fuscum)

There are several variously-related woodwarts, each generally being closely associated with a particular host species. This larger second one, Birch Woodwart (Annulohypoxylon multiforme), is typically associated with birch, though also occurs on alder, and has been recorded on several other trees.[2] Like many other fungal groups (and, indeed, most organisms), the classification of these has been undergoing revision as a result of DNA studies, and it is only a few years since this latter species was moved from the genus Hypoxylon to its new one.[3]

Picture of Annulohypoxylon multiforme

Birch Woodwart (Annulohypoxylon multiforme)

Turning our eyes to the ground we quickly found the wood decomposer Jelly Rot (Phlebia tremellosa)

Picture of Phlebia tremellosa

Jelly Rot (Phlebia tremellosa)

and several inhabitants of the leaf litter, including the Dog Stinkhorn (Mutinus caninus):

Picture of Mutinus caninus

Dog Stinkhorn (Mutinus caninus)

So far the fungi were of quite a variety of forms and not too difficult to tell apart, but then we started to look at examples of some of the larger and harder groups. First was the Wood Pinkgill (Entoloma rhodopolium), one I also saw last week at Broadwater Warren, a frequent and poisonous inhabitant of deciduous woods:

Picture of Entoloma rhodopolium

Wood Pinkgill (Entoloma rhodopolium)

quickly followed by a small brittlestem (Psathyrella pygmaea),

Picture of Psathyrella pygmaea

Psathyrella pygmaea

its cousin the Pale Brittlestem (Psathyrella candolleana) with its ragged gill margins,

Picture of Psathyrella candolleana

Pale Brittlestem (Psathyrella candolleana)

and many examples of the fairly common Glistening Inkcap (Coprinellus micaceus):

Picture of Coprinellus micaceus

Glistening Inkcap (Coprinellus micaceus)

The sheer range of mushroom-looking things started to make my head spin, as we were faced with things like Sweet Poisonpie (Hebeloma sacchariolens), with its delightful, distinctive odour, which itself might be a complex of several species:

Picture of Hebeloma sacchariolens

Sweet Poisonpie (Hebeloma sacchariolens)

and then Pearly Parachute (Marasmius wynneae), when I started to wonder if I’d ever be able to even get a vague grasp of which group some of these fit into, let alone the species:

Picture of Marasmius wynneae

Pearly Parachute (Marasmius wynneae)

Mercifully, there were also some that may well be a bit easier to remember and identify again in the field. This tiny Twig Parachute (Marasmiellus ramealis) is closely related to the previous one and grows on old stems, as its name suggests:

Picture of Marasmiellus ramealis

Twig Parachute (Marasmiellus ramealis)

And, though the genus Mycena are a bit challenging, the Saffrondrop Bonnet (Mycena crocata) is pretty distinctive, since it grows on old beech logs and exudes a saffron-coloured latex when you squeeze it, which you can see on the cap here:

Picture of Mycena crocata

Saffrondrop Bonnet (Mycena crocata)

Another one I’d recognise again (since it can’t really be mistaken for anything else) is the Parasitic Bolete (Pseudoboletus parasiticus), which Nick was excited to see. It is supposed to be quite rare, though there were lots of them about in the corner of wood we were meandering through. Unlike most of the boletes, it isn’t edible, and has what may well be a mutualistic relationship with the earthball (Scleroderma citrinum) to which it is attached. It used to be thought to be parasitizing the earthball, but it’s likely they are both getting something out of the relationship.

Picture of Pseudoboletus parasiticus

Parasitic Bolete (Pseudoboletus parasiticus)

Among the things we found were other fungal forms, such as Oak Curtain Crust (Hymenochaete rubiginosa), a large and distinctive organism on rotting oak (as you might expect). Interestingly, this is in the same genus as the Glue Crust which we saw growing on hazel at the beginning of the walk, though at a macro scale they look very different indeed.

Picture of Hymenochaete rubiginosa

Oak Curtain Crust (Hymenochaete rubiginosa)

Just to demonstrate the range of things that you can find fungi growing on, Nick then found us Ochre Cushion (Hypocrea pulvinata), a yellow growth on the undersides of old Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus):

Picture of Hypocrea pulvinata

Ochre Cushion (Hypocrea pulvinata)

And the Lemon Disco (Bisporella citrina) was one of the two species in this genus that we found:

Picture of Bisporella citrina

Lemon Disco (Bisporella citrina)

Finally, I was particularly pleased to see a slime mould, Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, also on a rotting log. Though they’re not fungi, it is the mycologists that normally find them. They are in fact a very diverse group of very strange organisms and it’s normally possible to find one or more of them in the woods at this time of year. I think a future blog post should be devoted just to them…[4]

Picture of the slime mould Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa

The slime mould Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa

So, a great morning out, and I came home and had to re-read Peter Marren’s fabulous book.[5]

  1. Anderson, Roy. “Hypoxylon in Britain and Ireland: 3. Hypoxylon other than the rubiginosum Group.” Field Mycology 9.3 (2009): 97-103. Web. 16 September 2014. <http://www.britmycolsoc.org.uk/files/5612/8294/9082/Hypoxylon_part_3.pdf>
  2. Anderson, Roy. “Hypoxylon in Britain and Ireland: 1. Changing perspectives in Hypoxylon.” Field Mycology1 (2009): 5-12. Web. 16 September 2014. <http://www.britmycolsoc.org.uk/files/8812/8294/4011/Hypoxylon_part1.pdf>
  3. Hsieh, Huei-Mei, Yu-Ming Ju and Jack D. Rogers. “Molecular phylogeny of Hypoxylon and closely related genera.” Mycologia4 (2005): 844-865. Web. 16 September 2014. <http://dx.doi.org/10.3852/mycologia.97.4.844>
  4. “Slime mold.” Wikipedia. Web. 16 September 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slime_mold>
  5. Marren, Peter. Mushrooms. Gillingham: British Wildlife Publishing, 2012.
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