We had another very frosty morning, crisper underfoot than yesterday, and I was delighted to find these fungi, covered in beautiful ice crystals.
I know we usually speak of starry skies rather than starry soils but, three years ago, when I still lived in Cardiff, I found this one small patch of dirt, ’neath towering conifers in a local cemetery, where the stars could be found emerging from the soil.
These Collared earthstars are the reason for the name of this blog: they show how amazing things can be found in everyday places if we only look; they show how incredible Nature is; they inspired me to write this blog, to try to get people to open their eyes to the beauty our world has to offer, even ten minutes’ walk from home.
This cemetery is no longer managed with wildlife in mind – it is overly neatened and tidied – so I was particularly delighted, during a recent walk, to find these earthstars had escaped the over enthusiast strimming and pruning and scraping and chopping of the council’s operatives. Fingers crossed they continue to thrive.
It seems appropriate that I should be ‘in my cups’ on a Friday night, the traditional night at the end of the working week for downing an alcoholic beverage or three. But, in my case, I neither work nor drink, and my ‘cups’ are fungi, Scarlet elfcups to be precise. As these are one of my favourite species of fungi I’ve blogged about them several times before and explained, in a blog back in 2017, how I know these are Scarlet, not the less common Ruby elfcups. They are always a joy to find, and they recur at this particular site every year.
(Though, as you’ll see in that previous blog, I was excited to learn how to identify fungi using microscopy, I didn’t continue with it. SEWBReC moved to an out-of-town location so it would now be a two-bus ninety-minute journey to their office, and I didn’t want the expense of buying my own microscope.)
It was so misty and soggy out today that I could hear more than I could see, particularly as my specs were alternately splattered with raindrops or steamed up.
Yet, these gorgeous fungi were impossible to miss, a burst of golden orange amongst the drab browns and greys and greens.
‘Nearly always associated with dead oak trees, this easily-overlooked crust fungus varies considerably in its appearance, sometimes mainly resupinate beneath fallen logs but usually in bracket form when on dead stumps,’ writes Pat O’Reilly on his First Nature website. The specimens of Oak curtain crust fungi I found yesterday, in Cardiff’s Grangemoor Park, were definitely growing on oak but, in this case, they were on thick, solid oak logs that have been used to construct benches and signposts.
I always enjoy reading the etymology entries on O’Reilly’s website. Oak curtain crust’s binomial name is Hymenochaete rubiginosa, which is explained as follows:
Hymenochaete, the genus name, comes from hymen – a prefix referring to the fertile membrane (the crust surface), and -chaete perhaps from the Greek noun chaite meaning long hair and perhaps referring to the fine hairs (settae) on the upper surfaces of fungi in this generic group.
The specific epithet rubiginosa means rusty and refers to the reddish-brown colour of the hymenial (fertile) surface of this crust fungus.
In this case, Plums and custard does not refer to a tasty Friday night dessert, sadly, but rather to a deliciously named fungus with the scientific name Tricholomopsis rutilans, which certainly does not roll off the tongue.
The Plums and custard name (and the alternate, Strawberry fungus) don’t refer to taste or edibility, however – at its most vibrant, this fungus displays rich shades of a plum-like colour on its cap and its gills are a lovely custard yellow.
These wood-rotting fungi are usually found growing on decaying conifers, and you can read more about them, their habitats, and their identification features on the First Nature website.
At this time of year, I am often caught out by curious passers-by, pulling dead umbellifer stems carefully out of the ground and, as I don’t wear my reading glasses when out walking, pushing up my other specs and pulling the stems very near to my face for close examination.
Most people walk quickly past with a hurried but cautious hello to the ‘mad woman’ but some, the braver or more curious, will dare to ask what I’m looking at. And after I show them the gorgeous little things I’ve found, I like to think they might actually, at some future date, pull up the odd stem themselves for a look.
I think these tiny lollipops are from the Comatricha family of slime moulds, possibly Comatricha nigra. They start off very light in colour, gradually darken to a very dark brown, almost black, before drying and crumbling to release their spores.
Finally some fungi I can identify with confidence because, as Pat O’Reilly explains on the First Nature website,
Cap colour is rarely of much help when you are struggling to identify a Mycena, as they vary so much with age, location, humidity and growing substrate. If you look closely at the stem of a Grooved Bonnet you will see that it has longitudinal striations, whereas other common bonnet mushrooms have smooth stems.
So, the striated stems you can, hopefully, see in my second photo below prove that these lovely little bonnets I found growing in a tree in the grounds of a local church are … taaa daas! … Grooved bonnets (Mycena polygramma).
One of the advantages of all the recent wet weather is that it aids the development of slime moulds.
I found this lovely stuff on some small dead bramble twigs during today’s walk along the south Wales coastal path.
It may be Mucilago crustacea but I can’t be sure about that identification.
I’m sure you’ll be relieved to read that, despite its title, this blog has nothing to do with cow intestines. Rather, this is about a fungus, Tripe fungus (Auricularia mesenterica), not the loveliest of fungi but still an interesting find as it’s usually found growing on Elm trees. And Elms are few and far between following their devastation by Dutch Elm disease.
I found these Tripe on a dead tree in Cogan Wood at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park this morning, in an area where I’ve previously found other fungi specific to Elm trees, so there were obviously several growing there in past days.