Tag Archives: Pathogenic Fungi

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.

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