Though the word stagshorn might conjure up images of majestic antlered beasts, I’ve got more small stuff for you today. In fact, the Small stagshorns (Calocera cornea) grow no more than 12mm tall so small is an over-statement.
The Stagshorns are jelly fungi so feel spongy when poked and that’s reflected in their scientific name: Calo comes from the ancient Greek καλός (kalos) which means beautiful, cēra is Latin for wax, and cornea is from the Latin cornu meaning horn-shaped, thus beautiful wax horns. The English name staghorn seems a little odd though as these fungi usually remain single stalked and unbranching.
There are two other species of Calocera to be found in Britain, though I have only photographed one so far, the Pale Stagshorn (Calocera pallidospathulata), shown above. All are small and grow on wood, and this is one of the characteristics that distinguishes them from the Spindles, as they grow in unimproved grassland (i.e. grassland which has not been improved with fertilisers or lime – I find Spindles often in my local cemetery which has been closed to burials for more than 30 years).
The White Spindles (Clavaria fragilis), above left, and Smoky Spindles (Clavaria fumosa), right, are two examples of these. Though sometimes forming clumps, Stagshorns tend to grow singly, whereas Spindles prefer to clump together, like little beds of eels or worms standing on end. Clavaria comes from the Latin word for club, which is why the Spindles as a group are often referred to as Club fungi.