My friends and I from the Glamorgan Fungus Group have a team challenge going on and, if you live in Britain and enjoy fungi forays, this is something you might also like to have a go at. The Holly parachute fungus (Marasmius hudsonii) is usually described in fungi guides, if it’s included at all, as being a rare find but we wonder if it is, in fact, just rarely recorded because of its incredibly tiny size – its maximum cap size is 5mm and it’s frequently less than half that measurement.
As the name suggests, this small and very delicate mushroom is shaped a little like a parachute, though it has one interesting feature that makes identification easy – it’s covered in microscopic hairs that are a real challenge to see with the naked eye but are easier if you use a hand lens or a macro lens on a camera.
As its name also suggests, the Holly parachute grows exclusively on holly, specifically on dead and damp holly leaves like those you can find in the leaf litter beneath a holly tree. You might think that would make it easy to find but it’s not. Holly trees are usually evergreen so shed few leaves and they often grow amongst deciduous trees so, at this time of year, the ground is awash with all kinds of leaves that often smother the few holly leaves that have fallen.
However, members of our group have found Holly parachutes in more than 20 locations in our county since we began our challenge a month ago (I’ve found it twice) so we are leaning towards the idea that it is more common that the records might suggest. How about taking up the challenge and seeing if you can find it in your area?