Category Archives: Pathogenic Fungi

Corruption and Decay in Darkest England

Now with new improved Fizz.

By the time Fizz and I got out yesterday it was getting dark and there was no chance of getting any decent pictures. This morning it seemed a bit brighter and we decided to have another try.

FogThis fog was to the South and on the hills. First we are heading North to Badger Alley, it is not so bad there.

Yesterday I found some more Oysterlings and I want a chance to photograph them.

Badger AlleyI have heard Oysterlings described as the most photogenic of fungi and I didn’t think that when I found them growing on slimy green vegetation.

Oysterlings

Oysterlings

Oysterlings

OysterlingsThese look quite a bit nicer. These mushrooms have got legs, there are lots of little ones still to come so I shall be back to visit these again soon.

So that is the Oysterlings. Next….

Don’t eat yellow snow!

Remember our Pear-shaped Puffballs?

Pear-shaped PuffballI told you that all Puffballs were edible but that you must cut them and make sure that they are pure white inside. I need to show you what I mean.

I am reluctant to take another one of these as I want to watch them mature and decay but this is an important stage in their development. So selecting the biggest one….

Pear-shaped PuffballThis one has started to yellow. You shouldn’t eat them like this.

Pear-shaped Puffball

Pear-shaped PuffballNow this isn’t where we are going today. Fizz and I are going back up to the Sweet Chestnut Coppice to look at the Honey mushrooms that we saw about two weeks ago. The coppice is up there in the fog.

FogI have to keep Fizz off the road as much as possible so we are going through the fields. Here are your Fizz shots for today.

FizzI am afraid that I have already got her messed up a bit and she is no longer “fresh back from the cleaners.”

Fizz in Fog.

Fizz

Fizz

FizzEventually we have to take to the road but we have by-passed the narrowest parts.

Fog

Fog

FogOnce we get up here we are safe and can walk on the grass.

FogHere is the wood we have come to visit. You can just tell that the light in there is going to be perfect for photography.

FogThis is what I have to put up with every day in England!

I quite like fog it is better than constant rain 🙂

So where did we leave that tree?

FogSo here is our first fungi in the coppice. This is Hairy Curtain Crust, Stereum hirsutum. This grows all over the world and you will find it in Australia and North America. It is very common and we will see a lot more in the next couple of months.

Hairy Curtain Crust

Hairy Curtain Crust

Hairy Curtain CrustWho is rocking the log!

A IdiotWhat sort of an idiot are you? Just asking.

A IdiotGet off the log.

A IdiotHairy Curtain Crust.

Hairy Curtain CrustNotice that she was on a lead in those last pictures. I have just heard an animal moving about in the woods. We don’t get to see it. It was probably Deer, there are a lot of them around here but there are also Wild Boar and Boar would be dangerous for Fizz. (they might knock her off her log) She is safe so long as she stays close.

My next find is a stinker.

Stinkhorn FungusPhallus impudicus, this is a Stinkhorn Fungus and it is living up to it’s name. I don’t often find them with the gleba intact like this (Gleba is the disgusting bit), flies are usually quick to eat that bit but I guess in Winter there are not so many flies around. This specimen has been hanging about for a bit and is truly repulsive.

Stinkhorn FungusI want to have a closer look. I am a boy and I like disgusting things 🙂

I need to dig it up and see it’s egg.

Stinkhorn FungusSadly it broke when I lifted it. The stem is very hard and brittle.

Stinkhorn FungusInside the stem is sitting in the egg but does not seem to be attached to it in any way.

Stinkhorn FungusIt just slides out.

Stinkhorn FungusThe jelly like egg remains.

Stinkhorn FungusUp at the other end the stem didn’t seem to have any attachment to the cap either. The cap just slid off and slimed everywhere and it stank.

Stinkhorn FungusInteresting but that’s enough of that.

Let’s move on to the Pigskin Poison Puffball.

These are the decaying remains of the Common Earthball,  Scleroderma citrinum.

Common EarthballQuite a few of them had opened like cups and now contain a soup of poisonous spores and rainwater. (I need to photograph all aspects of a fungi’s development.)

Common Earthball

Common Earthball

Common Earthball

Common EarthballThen finally we found our Honey Fungus. That too was decaying.

Honey FungusI was very interested to find that my Honey Fungus, Armillaria ostoyae was itself being attacked by another fungus. This is some kind of parasitic fungi. I don’t expect to be able to get an ID on it but I am trying to find out more as we speak.

One expert has already advised me to collect some in a tupperware container and see what develops. Hmm….. Not sure that I am ready for the responsibility of keeping another pet.

If I find out anything then I shall let you know.

Honey Fungus

Honey Fungus

Honey Fungus

Honey Fungus

Honey FungusDid I tell you that Winter cut really suits you? You look lovely.

(Ha ha! I remembered to read the back of my hand)

FizzCome on. Let’s go home before the Boar get us 🙂

Fizz

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Dark Honey

At last I have found something really exciting.

I have dragged Fizz up to look  at some old Sweet Chestnut coppice and she isn’t over excited because we have to walk on the road and there isn’t any playing ball as we go.

It is okay once we reach the wood.

CoppiceThe floor is thick with the Sweet Chestnut leaves. These leaves contain toxins that inhibit the growth of other plants but some things do well here and we will have a look at them when we return tomorrow.

FizzThis is what I have found.

Dark Honey FungusArmillaria ostoyae. It is the same Honey Fungus that used to grow in woodland that I owned some years ago.

I wrote a post about it recently About Honey Monsters using pictures that I had taken years ago. I am excited to have the opportunity to photograph it again and that is why we are going back for another look tomorrow.

When I saw it today I had a good idea what it was but I couldn’t get proper confirmation until I got home, it has been a few years since I found one of these. There are some key identification features that I still want to photograph and we could eat it.

I probably won’t eat it just because I like to see it on the tree but I will try a little bit just to see if I have a reaction and then I can eat it next time. You should always try a little bit first if you haven’t eaten a species before.

Here are some of the pictures that I took today.

Dark Honey Fungus

Dark Honey Fungus

Dark Honey Fungus

Dark Honey Fungus

Dark Honey Fungus

Dark Honey Fungus

Dark Honey Fungus

Dark Honey Fungus

Dark Honey FungusIt’s a tree. Somebody tell him it’s a tree, we’ve got things to play.

Dark  Honey FungusSensing that my companion was  somewhat less enthusiastic about mushrooms than I was, I dragged her off to a field for some playtime.

We are at the top of he hills now and the fields are dry, close cropped and full of sunshine.


Happiness is round and yellow.

Who do you think I am, Scooby Doo?

Sccoby DooYou sit over there, where you will be safe. I’ll do the dangerous stuff.

Today Fizz and I have gone to the woods to photograph a tree previously believed to be possessed by demons.

When we got to the wood we met a nice man called Sam who was collecting Chestnuts. This wood is an old Sweet Chestnut coppice. It is neglected and the trees are mature, there is a good crop of chestnuts.

Sam works for a company who sell tree and shrub seed. He offered me £2 a kilo if I would collect chestnuts for him. He wants to buy a hundred kilo’s at a time and thinks that I could collect them in one day. It is a tempting offer.

Cash CropThe trouble is that I don’t drive and I can’t carry a hundred kilo’s of chestnuts. Do you think Fizz could pull a sled?

I am just rabbiting on here to take Fizz’s mind off the danger.

This is the tree in question.

Silver BirchIt is an apparently healthy Silver Birch with plenty of leaves on it.

So what do you think this next picture is? A mushroom?

Fungus?It doesn’t look like a mushroom to me.

There is something very dark inside this tree and it is bursting out of it.

This is a very old and dark part of the wood. There are some big old Yew trees close by. This is just the kind of place that you might expect country folk to meet late at night. With robes and hoods over their heads. Chanting and…

Is it time to go home yet?

Scooby DooYou just think about pulling your sled.

There is something in this tree and I would like to know what it is.

Fungus

Fungus

Inonotus obliquus

Inonotus obliquusI first saw this tree about a year ago. As a naturalist I have trained my mind not to jump to conclusions without proof and without getting things confirmed by the experts.

Well, I don’t know any demon experts. I decided that this tree was most probably possessed by the darkest sort there is and that we should probably avoid this area at night.

That was until a few days ago….

I was reading through some of the blogs that I follow, some of them are written by very clever people and I came across this post

Harvesting Chaga on a blog called Partridge, Pine and Peavey (now I don’t know how to do ping backs and stuff so I have just set it up as a link)

The blog is written by Hazel Stark and she writes, “Anyone who has lived around birch trees has probably seen it, but not known what it was.” Hmmm… So I did some more research.

I think we might be about to put a name to this demon.

Chaga Fungus

Chaga FungusIt is a demon and it has possessed this tree but it is one of the lesser ones and it can not get out and chase us around the wood except on Halloween.

Inonotus obliquus is a parasite and it will kill this tree, so technically that makes it a parasitoid.

Inonotus obliquusWhile we have got the tripod out would you like to have your photograph taken with me?

Fizz and Colin

Colin and FizzI am just trying to lighten the mood for her a bit.

Back to the demons.

Inonotus obliquusIt is not a mushroom, we were right about that. A mushroom is the fruit of a fungus but this is the body of the fungus, called the mycelium. This is the part of a fungi that you would not normally see because it would be inside of the tree. There will be some inside of this tree but it is also bursting out.

Chaga, Wikipedia tells me that this is pronounced “Tsjaa-ga” but that isn’t helping me much because I have no idea how to pronounce “Tsjaa-ga.”

Chaga fungus is a medicinal fungus. Unproven in clinical tests but then so are my demons and I know that they exist. Chaga is used in the treatment of cancer and taken in the form of tea.

Hazel goes into some detail about how to prepare it and how to make the tea. You should read her post for more information.

You do not have to find and harvest Chaga in the wild it is easily available to buy. Just Google for it if you want it.

Chaga FungusChaga is also known as Tinder Fungus and that interests me. I want to do a post about starting fires soon.

I couldn’t get it off the tree with my little knife, it is quite tough old stuff. An axe is required, I am told. We will have to come back with something heavier.

Chaga FungusI just want to take a little bit of demon home with me.

I am sorry if you found this post a little bit scary but Halloween is coming, I am only trying to prepare you. 🙂

About Honey Monsters

Yesterday I was photographing a fungi that I think is a Honey Fungus, growing out in the orchard. I haven’t been able to get a positive ID on that one yet but Honey Monsters are on my mind so I am going to write about one that I do know.

This is Armillaria solidipes.

Honey FungusAbout names: There are quite a lot of different species of Honey Fungus, they used to be known collectively as Armillaria mellea but that doesn’t make much sense as they don’t all do the same things.

I think that there are six species in the UK. Four of them are saprobic, they do no harm to living trees, they break down already dead wood. Two of them are pathogenic, they kill trees.

This one was called Armillaria ostoyae when I found it and took these pictures but it has had a name change since then. It is a killer.

Honey FungusThis one was growing in my wood in East Sussex.

We need to understand this killer that lives amongst us. I well understand that if you have a prized tree in your garden that you find infected with Honey Fungus then you are going to be upset but on a larger scale this fungus isn’t doing any harm it is an important part of the forest ecology.

Armillaria ostoyea is a good example to talk about because there is a very famous one growing in Oregon.

DNA testing has proved that the specimen in Oregon covers an area of 2,200 acres, about 3.4 square miles and is possibly the largest single living organism on the planet. It is estimated to be 2,400 years old but some people suggest it may be 8000 years or more.

But this is the thing, this giant fungi lives under the Malheur National Forest, one of the most  beautiful forests in the world and it has been there for thousands of years. If it was really such a prolific tree killer then you would expect it to be living under a desert by now. It seems to live in harmony with the forest.

Honey FungusThere are a couple of important things to understand about these fungi.

Firstly saprobic and pathogenic fungi. They break down dead organic matter. When they do this they release vast quantities of carbon dioxide that is stored in the plants. Carbon dioxide is an important ingredient in photosynthesis, the thing that plants do.

Photosynthesis is basically…

Carbon dioxide + Water + Sunlight = Glucose + Oxygen

So, no fungi, no carbon dioxide, no oxygen and no people. We need them. You do get carbon dioxide from many other sources (volcanoes, old geysers, mothers-in law and things like that) but we can’t do without the fungi’s contribution, plants would soon lock the rest of it up and it needs to be recycled. That is fungi in general…

Honey FungusOur pathogen kills living trees but dead wood is a vital part of the forest’s ecology. It is a good thing. Many different creatures are totally dependent on dead wood habitat at some stage of their lives. What the Honey Monster is doing is creating dead wood habitat but also creating clearings within the forest that allow other plants to grow, it all works to improve the bio-diversity within the forest and make it a better place and it doesn’t kill forests just trees.

Honey Fungus

Honey FungusThat information is not going to be much comfort to you if you don’t own a 1.4 million acre forest. You might be surprised how many people do. The forest that I have been talking about is a National Forest and “belongs” to the people of America.

For us Brits it is more likely to be a prized Cherry tree that our Grandfather planted at he bottom of the garden.

What can you do? I think that the usual advice is to cut down the tree and do not replant for two years or so. Try this…

Hypholoma fasciculare (fight fire with fire)

Sulphur TuftAs a cure for Honey Fungus this has not been proven yet, it is being investigated. What we do know is that Honey Fungus can not survive in the presence of Sulphur Tuft, it out competes the pathogen and takes the space.

It is saprobic (doesn’t harm live trees) and it is beautiful.

Honey Fungus

Sulphur TuftIf you have got Honey Fungus on a loved tree don’t panic. Many of them are not pathogenic. If it is then that is a more difficult situation. Honey Fungus is a very long lived fungus that can cover a large area. Sulphur Tuft may be your only chance.

Sulphur TuftYou can collect your new pet from any old woodland it grows everywhere but it is the decaying wood that it is growing from that you need, not the fruits. The fruits contain the spores which is good but the mycelium (the body of the fungus) is in the dead wood that they are growing from.

mycelliumYou do not need to exercise Sulphur Tuft but you should feed it with plenty of dead wood to get it started.

mycelliumI really don’t know if this will work but it is worth a try. 🙂

If you are really bothered by Honey Fungus then there is a product called Armillotox (which doesn’t seem to work) and there are resistant plants that you can grow. Most advice that I read is to learn to live with it. I would try Fungi.

The Honey Fungus that lived in my wood didn’t bother me, I just took it as another interesting part of the wood that I was learning about.

The Insect Destroyer

Entomophthora muscae: Entomophthora translates from the Greek as “Entomo” insect, “phthor” destroyer. The second part of the name “muscae” means Fly.

There is no such animal as a Marzipan Fly.

Entomophthora muscaeWelcome to the extraordinary world of Fungi.

The animal in the picture above is the handsome and formidable Yellow Dung Fly an animal that some ladies consider to be the “Robert De Niro” of Flies and it is sad to see it in such dire straits.

Yellow Dung Fly

But this isn’t a post about an animal.

The pathogenic fungus that is attacking this animal is called Entomophthora muscae and this is a post about Fungi.

2I am a bit sorry that the first time that a fungi appears on this blog it should be in the form of a pathogen and I shall make my very next post about the toadstool house that Big Ears lives in. I love fungi, I just haven’t seen a lot of it about recently but back to the insect destroyer.

Entomophthora muscaeThe fungus, Entomophthora muscae, settles on the fly’s body in the form of an airborne spore. The tiny threads that make up the body of the fungus (hyphae) enter the fly’s body and grow within, expanding the abdomen. The white marzipan stripes are actually spore bearing structures of the fungus called sporangia.

At the same time the fungus attacks the animals brain causing a change in behaviour which is called “summit disease”. This causes the animal to seek out a high point on a flower and then spread out it’s legs and stretch it’s wings in the posture seen in these photographs.

The Fungi also produces a glue which the animal will then use to stick itself to the flower or plant that it is on. It will then remain in this posture for days or even weeks until it dies.

By doing this the fungi ensures that the animal is in the best position to distribute the airborne spores when they are released.

Entomophthora muscaeIsn’t Nature wonderful?

Well it is diverse. Nature is very diverse.

Next I will show you a more visually attractive fungi and a very useful one.

Entomophthora muscae