During a wander around Cardiff’s Cathays Cemetery last Friday, I found my first Earpick fungi (Auriscalpium vulgare).
Now, you might think Earpick is a very odd name for a fungus – you certainly wouldn’t want to use them to clean your ears out! – but it’s actually quite logical. Auriscalpium is a combination of the Latin words auris, meaning ear, and scalpare, the verb ‘to scratch’. The stem of the fungus certainly does look quite scratchy, as does the underside of the cap, with its mass of tiny cone-shaped rods. And it’s those rods that are the connection to the word ‘ear’ in the fungi’s name – have you ever seen a magnified photo of the sensory hair cells of the human inner ear?
Vulgare just means common, though this fungus is certainly not that – when I checked the biological database for Wales, I found only 10 previous recorded sightings.
These fungi were growing at the base of a conifer but I didn’t realise until I started reading up about them when I got home that the fungi nearly always grow on the rotting cones of pines and other conifers. I didn’t notice any cones but they must have been there, under the moss and grass. Fascinating!