My local fungus group has a new challenge going for the month of January, to find a ‘living fossil fungus’. Sounds weird? Well, the ‘living fossil’ is the Ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba), a tree that’s been around since the time of the dinosaurs (read more about this beautiful tree on my sconzani blog here), and the fungus is Bartheletia paradoxa, a basidiomycete that only grows on Ginkgo leaves and has characteristics that are unique amongst basidiomycetes (for the science geeks out there, here’s a link to an expert article).
The fungus was not formally recognised until 1932 and was first found in Britain, on the leaves of a Ginkgo at Kew Gardens, in 2008. There are still very few official records for it but, as members of our fungus group are now discovering, it seems to be on almost every Ginkgo tree we can find.
As you can see from the photos, the fungus looks like black spots on the fallen leaves. Of course, autumn is long gone and the winter winds that have been roaring across Britain this past week have blown away a lot of fallen leaf litter but it’s still worth looking look around any Ginkgo trees you know of in your local parks. I found these leaves on Wednesday around the magnificent Ginkgo avenue in Bute Park, behind Cardiff Castle, and I have another couple of places to go looking in the next few days. So, do see if you can find yourself a ‘living fossil fungus’ as well.