Tag Archives: Saprobic Fungi

Get off the log! (Again)

It was a beautiful day today.

November DayIt really was a day for shirtsleeves. It is hard to believe that it is nearly December.

November DayWhat was really great was that this wonderful weather coincided with National “Take your Idiot to Work” Day.

I picked up the nearest idiot and off we went. We are going fungus shooting.

SelfieWe are going back up to the Sweet Chestnut coppice because there was so much to see up there. In fact today I shot about six species but I am only going to show you one in this post because I am still working on identifying the others.

Today’s fungi is Sulphur Tuft, Hypholoma fasciculare and it is a pretty one. In fact I think that this one was invented by Walt Disney and appeared in several of his films before escaping from his studios and becoming the familiar woodland mushroom that we know today.

Here are some old photographs. The first from last February and the other two are from some years back.

Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur TuftThat growing formation is very typical of this species. It is called Sulphur Tuft because it is sulphur in colour and it grows in tufts. The specimen that I found today was not typical in it’s growth habit, being very spread out but I have had my ID checked by the experts.

Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur Tuft

IdiotGet off the log!

IdiotSo let us have a closer look at this beautiful fungi.

Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur Tuft



Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur Tuft

Sulphur Tuft

AssistantAs always Fizz was a great help to me and I probably couldn’t have got any of these pictures without her 🙂

Look up! That’s November.November Sky

Long ShadowsI have some other beautiful fungi and some shockingly bad behaviour still to show you but I must work on my ID’s first.

Jew’s Ear?

I don’t like that name  It is a corruption of Judas’s Ear and comes from the idea that Judas hanged himself from an Elder tree. It is very unlikely that Judas did choose an Elder, they don’t grow very tall and they just don’t have the right growth habit for suicide.

I don’t think that there is any mention of an Elder Tree in the New Testament (Scholars of the Bible feel free to correct me). The idea that an Elder was involved stems from fourteenth century English literature. A time when it was the practice to malign trees as well as people. It was the oppression of Paganism because Pagans worshipped trees.

Now I am not Anti-Semitic and I quite like Pagans and their trees, so I have two reasons for not liking the name Jew’s Ear.

It is hard to escape though because the Latin name is  Auricularia auricula-judae. From the Latin Auricula meaning “Ear,” It is an Ear Ear-Judas.

That Latin is in itself wrong because the rules of taxonomy (Binomial nomenclature) say that a species name can comprise of only two words but they have got around that by adding a hyphen. Some people still refer to this species as Auricularia auricula which is actually more correct and drops all of the oppressive connotations.

‘Ere ‘Ere!

Wood EarWell it does look a bit like an ear.

Other common names for this fungus are Jelly Ear and Wood Ear. It is a Jelly Fungus and it does grow on wood, so they are both good names.

Imagine finding Ears…

Wood Ear….and brains, at the same time.

Purple Jelly DiscYou would be looking around for Nose Fungus next. (My apologies to anyone who has actually got nose fungus)

Wood Ear

Wood EarSo where does the Elder Tree come into this?

Well you will almost always find it growing on Elder. 90% of the time, it does grow on other wood like Sycamore, Beech and Spindle but nearly always you will find it on Elder.

It is saprobic, it mostly feeds on dead wood but occasionally parasitic too.

Wood Ear

Wood Ear

Wood Ear

Wood EarTechnically it is edible but nobody eats it in the West. (it is a “wont’t kill you but is horrible” type). It has a history of  use in Herbal Medicine where it has long been used specifically to cure sore throats (Boil in milk and gargle with it).  I think that this is probably nonsense based on the idea that Judas would have had a sore throat when he hanged himself.

It is widely eaten in the East. There is a Chinese culture of serving medicines in food and a medicinal soup is made from this fungi to cure colds and fevers.

Wood Ear

Wood Ear

Wood EarWhat else can I tell you?

When the fruit dies it looks like this.

Wood EarThat is my little Wood Ear.

Now a Pixie must be looking for these..Wood Ear

The Clouded Agaric

If I had found just one of these fungi on it’s own I would probably have passed it by. It would have seemed unexceptional and pretty indistinct to me.Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded AgaricWhat made it beautiful was the scale. These were big mushrooms.

Clouded Agaric

Clouded AgaricSo now we need to find out what it is. The pictures above are nice and they contain some important information but not enough for an ID.

The cap colour is indicative, the name “Clouded” comes from the grey/white colour of the cap which is always darker in the centre and the crinkled edges of the older fruits are also true to this species but many fungi have these characteristics. The other information that I am getting from these pictures is the way that they are growing together in quantity, that is also indicative of this species.

We want to find out what it is, so I am going to gather as much information as I can.

I need to look at the stem and the underside of the mushroom. Is there a ring on the stem? does it sit in a cup? Is it hairy or scaly? I need to know if this mushroom has gills, many of them don’t, they often have a flat porous underside and it is absolutely vital to record this. When I cut it I am looking at how the gills join to the stem and the colour of them.

The way that I approach this is to try and photograph everything that I can possibly think of.

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded AgaricEven with these pictures there is still a very good chance that I won’t be able to identify the species. There are other things that you can look at. Does the fungi have a noticeable odour.

Sometimes scent is quite faint and the best way to smell a mushroom is to put some in a bag.

Clouded AgaricLet the scent concentrate in the bag for a few minutes, then open it up and breathe it in deeply. (Scratch you screen now)

Clouded AgaricWow! OW! That wasn’t really necessary. This mushroom has a very strong odour. I have heard this smell described as unpleasant but I didn’t think so. It had a strong mushroomy/earthy smell and my first thought was that I would like to eat it 🙂

Something else that you should look at is if it discolours when cut or bruised.

Here is an old video of a friend and I demonstrating a fungi called Blushing Bracket. “Blushing” because it bruises very easily.

Some fungi does, ours didn’t.

Clouded Agaric

Clouded AgaricBut it is just as important to know that it doesn’t discolour as it is to know that it does.

The other thing that you should take note of is where you found it. If it was growing on wood do you know what kind of wood? What trees are around and what other plants. Soil type might be important and if you know what plants are growing there that can say a lot about the soil. If you don’t know then photograph them.

The next thing that you can do is to take a spore print but up until now everything that I have done has been on location and has only taken me a few minutes. I didn’t need a spore print for this one so we will do that in another post.

This may all seem like a lot of trouble to go to but this is what I like. I go out looking for things that I don’t recognise and I identify them and learn about them. I was pretty determined to identify this mushroom.

If you do want to identify a fungus then please at least give us the cap, stem and gills if it has these things. It makes it so much easier.

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded AgaricSo what did I get from all of this discovery?

The most interesting thing that I found out concerned it’s edibility. The common advice is to avoid it. It is not poisonous but it can have an adverse effect. It causes gastric upset in a lot of people and some people it doesn’t effect at all. Tummy upset? Not very serious 🙂

I quickly found two blogs where people described eating it, one of them said…

“My God, what a lovely flavour.”

and the other one said…

“Really really tasty strong flavour”

The trick is to try a little and then wait for twenty four hours. Find out if you are one of the lucky ones. There is a lot of it and it will regrow in the same spot. I think that if it is that good it is worth taking the test 🙂

Note: there are a few white gilled, pale capped fungi that are more poisonous than this one. Make sure that you know what you are playing with.

Clouded Agaric

Is this Blue?

I don’t know. I can’t tell without a microscope. It is probably blue. It is beautiful and I am going to post it.

You have probably seen this a hundred times. Somebody will post a picture of a fungi…

Unidentified Toadstool.

Unidentified ToadstoolCan anyone tell me what this is?

No of course they cant! I don’t do that I photograph specimens in great detail and when I still can’t get a positive ID I get very frustrated.

FrustratedI know that you are frustrated too but you see, I am being paid to be mean to you.

Friends are just the stepping stones on the path to success.

I was ambitious once. I will get a bottle of whiskey for looking after her for five days and some things are more important than friendship 🙂

Before I even think about photographing a new mushroom there are certain criteria that must be met.

There must be something distinctive about it, something that makes it stand out from the rest. That will make it easier to identify and it also means that I will recognise it again when I see it.

The other thing is that I must have good specimens. There is no point at all in photographing a single, old, half decayed cap, that will tell you nothing. I want a fresh young fungus in good condition but even better than that is a group of them showing different stages of development.

The big plus for me is if it can also be beautiful (almost a necessity)

This group tick all of the boxes.

StrophariaThe pictures that you are about to see are not good enough/ do not contain enough information for a positive ID. Please keep that in mind when you are photographing new fungi for yourself. You have to give us a chance if you want to know what it is.





StrophariaOkay  I am going to leave that little family group intact in case I want to come back and have another look. There is a little one on the outside of the picture that I am  going to look at closer.

StrophariaHello Baby 🙂









StrophariaSo it is Stropharia species. If you find a blue mushroom like this it is almost certainly a Stropharia. They are commonly called Roundheads.

These are probably Stropharia caerulea, Blue Roundheads, they are the most common species but without microscopic examination we can’t know for sure. It might not be blue, it could be Verdigris. (much rarer)

So it goes. They are beautiful and worth posting.

StrophariaNow I am going to take Miss Grumpy out and try and put a smile on her face, even if that means feeding the sheep some popcorn 🙂


Oranges and Lemons

I am going out to look for oranges, Fizz is chasing the lemons. I am not certain that she is really interested in Fungi. Her primary interest in the natural world seems to lie in the ones that run away when you chase them. At least she has some interest in nature and doesn’t get too bored on these walks.

This is where we are going.

Conifer PlantationThe dark line of trees on the horizon is a conifer plantation and I am hoping to find something there that we would’t find here.

The walk to the plantation is predictably pleasant. You can look at some pictures while Fizz and I do the legwork.

Beautiful Autumn colours.

Autumn Colours

Autumn Colours

Autumn Colours

Autumn Colours

Autumn Colours

Leg work.Leg Work

Nearly there now….Forest Track

Here we are, Forestry Commission land.Forestry CommisionNow I am not a big fan of these plantations but it is not the trees fault. The trees and the forest itself have an undeniable character and beauty. If this was Norway or Canada then I would love to see thousands of acres of Norway Spruce and Douglas Fir but this is the heart of England and they do not belong here.

The FC and I don’t exactly get on but it is nothing to worry about, I don’t like them but they couldn’t care less, so it is not like we are going to come to blows or anything. I just need to get this off my chest.

Gripe One: Back in the nineteen seventies there was a big public outcry about the FC cutting down our ancient woodland and planting conifers. They said that they were sorry and that they would change. At that time 58% of the Forest of Dean was conifer plantation, forty years later it stands at 50%. They have tried but they haven’t tried very hard.

Ancient woodland is a special and unique habitat and it is a dwindling resource. You can not make new “ancient” woodland. Once 98% of Britain was wooded and today it is about 2%.

These plantations are known as PAWS (plantations on ancient woodland sites). Today this woodland can still be converted back to ancient woodland, so in a world where you can not create new ancient woodland you can actually make a lot more. It has to be done now. The seed bank that exists in these woods is covered in pine needles and it is dying and scientists say that one more generation of growing and felling will kill the land. They are not going to give it back. Lost forever and that annoys me.

Conifer PlantationIt is very dark in there and that will make photography more challenging.

Conifer Plantation

Conifer PlantationAs a former small woodland owner I have another little gripe that I could call number two. The FC are strongly opposed to “change of use” of our woodland. It is there for cutting down. If you try to get planning permission for a six by four wooden shed on your own woodland the FC will oppose it and you will be refused because conservation or amenity use represents “change of use.” If you want to clear fell a thousand acres of ancient woodland and plant a pine forest they will probably give you a grant, that is proper forestry. It is very easy to get felling licences.

Look a little animal has been nibbling at a fir cone.

Douglas FirIt is a cone from a Douglas Fir and it shouldn’t even be here, nice one Squiz. 🙂

Douglas FirGripe numero three is just that the FC patrol their woods shooting every animal that lives there. They say that wild life damages the forest and must be controlled and yet before people industrialised the whole country was forested and animals lived in it. Animals don’t harm forests (people do) animals interfere with us maximising our profits, that’s all.

So we don’t get along. It is not really their fault. The FC was formed just after the First World War. We had used so much timber in the trenches that the government feared we would run out. The FC was formed to ensure the nation’s supply of timber. They are the governments lumberjacks, that is their remit and they do exactly what they are supposed to do but they are not always completely honest about what they are doing when dealing with the public. They omit things and put a spin on other things.

Our ancient woodland should be looked after by conservationists and not the government’s lumberjacks.

End of rant. Totally finished.

We are here to look for oranges and here is the first one.

Yellow StagshornThis is called a Yellow Stagshorn, Calocera viscosa it is saprobic on conifers.

Yellow StagshornThis particular one was fairly well attached to the forest floor so I had to find another, it is just very dark in there.

Yellow StagshornI found some growing on a branch and brought it out into the light.

Yellow StagshornThis is what they call a jelly fungus.

The name Calocera breaks down like this, Calo means “beautiful” and cera means “like wax.” It is very descriptive. The second part, viscosa just means “sticky” which it is a bit.Yellow StagshornIt is sometimes confused with coral fungi but most of those grow in the ground and this one always grows on dead wood, (conifer wood).

Yellow Stagshorn“I have found a lemon.”



LemonYou are a lemon.

Our next orange is something different. The first shot is just to show you the location and habit, it was too dark to photograph there.

Slime mouldThis is Tubifera ferruginosa and it is not a fungi.

Slime MouldThis is a Slime Mould and Slime Moulds belong to Kingdom Amoebozoa and not Kingdom Fungi. I am a bit taken aback to find myself embracing a whole new kingdom and I must confess that I don’t know very much about these.

Slime MouldNever mind, this is exactly what we went looking for. I have to look at it closely.

Slime Mould

Slime Mould

Slime Mould

Slime Mould

Slime Mould

Slime MouldMaybe if I looked at Forestry Commissioners this closely I would understand them better too. (sorry)

This mould has a common name. It has not passed unnoticed. It is just me that walks around with closed eyes.

This is called the Red Raspberry Slime. These can vary a lot in colour and some of them are very red and look just like Raspberries, mine is a bit orange.

Tubifera ferruginosa

Tubifera ferruginosa

Tubifera ferruginosa

I am not going to write a lot about Slime Moulds today because I don’t know a lot about them but I love it and I will find out.

Then we became tired and hungry and so we went home. We need to leave some things for another day.



“The process by which a substance absorbs moisture from the atmosphere until it dissolves in the absorbed water and forms a solution” (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Go on then, deliquesce, you know that you want to.

Glistening Ink Cap

This is a post about the Glistening Ink Cap, Coprinellus micaceus.

I have two very interesting things to show and tell you about the Glistening Ink Cap.

It Glistens..

Glistening Ink Cap…and it is an Ink Cap.

Glistening Ink CapSo starting with the glistening. This mushroom is covered in tiny reflective beads that give it’s name.

Glistening Ink CapThey are the remnants of a veil that once covered and protected the young mushroom. As the mushroom grows the veil breaks up leaving little reflective particles..

Glistening Ink CapI have an excellent book in front of me, “Mushrooms and other fungi of Great Britain and Europe” by Roger Phillips and he describes this veil as white and powdery.

Wikiwotsit says it is, ” a fine layer of reflective mica-like cells.”

I can only say, “this is what it looks like.”

Glistening Ink Cap

Glistening Ink Cap

Glistening Ink CapI have got some absolutely tiny little specimens in front of me and none of them show a complete and unbroken veil. I am just assuming that it is a veil for the purpose of protection because that is the only reason that I know for a mushroom to have a veil. (and some books do say that is what it is)

So that is the Glistening, now lets get on to the deliquescence.

Another name for this phenomenon is autodigestion. I don’t like to think that this mushroom eats itself, I think that it deliquescifies (Why is that word underlined in red?) but then I am a romantic.

The young caps start of with white gills.

Glistening Ink Cap

Glistening Ink CapAs the mushroom ages they darken.

Glistening Ink Cap

Glistening Ink Cap

Glistening Ink CapIn death the gills change to a black liquid and it is almost as if the caps were full of ink. 🙂

Glistening Ink CapIt does get all over you if you play with them at this stage.

The Glistening Ink Cap is edible. You have to get to them before they start to deliquesce and cooking stops that process.

Your window of opportunity is fairly narrow.

Yesterday at 5 pm.
Glistening Ink Cap

Today 10 am.Glistening Ink CapThey would have been good yesterday.

This Ink Cap is saprobic, it feeds on decaying wood. Sometimes that decaying wood is buried underground and it appears to spring from  the grass.

That is my post about the interesting Glistening Ink Cap.

Glistening Ink Cap


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.