Interesting fungi records: mainly from West Sussex 2011

Source: Matcham, Howard. “Interesting fungi records: mainly from West Sussex 2011.” Sussex Botanical Recording Society Newsletter, no. 75 (January 2013).


“Titter thee not,” as the late, great, Frankie Howerd would have said; for I have had my nose immersed within the dung heap, more precisely, a surfeit of deer pellets, horse middens and individual heaps of lovely excreta, and what a jolly lot of fungal delights were sniffed out, excavated with my trusty trowel, scraped off with a knife or dug out with my finger nails.  Lots of ‘gloop’ in moist chamber cultures decorate shelves and bookcase ledges in my study, quietly producing seldom recorded Sussex fimicolous taxa.  Just getting out of bed in the morning is such fun, greeting my dog, skipping into my study checking on the previous night’s fungal results, and then making my wife a cup of tea!

After the miserable December of 2010 fungi were a considerable while in emerging from any substrate and it was not until April that I found anything of interest.  A conglomerate of deer pellets in woodland had the common orange discomycete Cheilymenia granulata which is extremely unusual as this species is normally confined to cattle dung. I can only assume that as cattle were in a field immediately adjacent to the wood, deer were jumping the boundary fence and consuming grass with spores attached.  A local bridleway is always a good source of horse dung in various stages of decay and I frequently collect from here, with the dung covered with dozens of the minute Thelebolus stercoreus, the single ascus containing about 1000 spores. Early morning with dew on the grass is the time to spot phycomycetes on horse dung: when the dung appears to be covered in a white felt, this is usually Pilaira anomala with cylindrical sporangiophores elongating rapidly when the sporangiophore is ripe, placing it in contact with an adjacent grass blade. This summer I found the much less common Oedocephalum pallidum abundant on the horse dung deposited on one ride; this phycomycete covers the dung as mealy colonies, very attractive under the microscope.

At the end of April wandering through woodland I came across wet depressions in the woodland floor and decided to look at the small acrocarpous mosses growing within them; while doing so I noticed a small orange discomycete that I assumed in the field to be growing on moss protonema, and on looking at it under the microscope I was able to confirm that, out of the four mosses in the collection, the fungus was growing on the protonema of Pohlia lutescens (Yellow Thread-moss).  This convinced me that I had collected a bryophilous fungus, which only grow on mosses and are seldom recorded. I subsequently identified it as Octospora melina as it had ellipsoid spores with coarsely verrucose walls which are unique to the genus in Britain. Allowing the substrate of mud to dry, I sent the collection to Brian Coppins at Kew who to my surprise replied that it was in fact Octospora phagospora, new to Britain.  This species is unique in the genus in auto-digesting four spores leaving four remaining, but when I had first looked at the specimen the asci contained eight spores as they had not yet auto-digested; while drying and the asci maturing the auto-digestion took place.  I have published a short note on this species in the November edition of Field Bryology, No.105, page 37, with a light microscope photograph showing four warted spores, each containing a de Bary bubble.

Walking in the same wood during early August I turned over a Picea abies (Norway Spruce) log and saw underneath on the spruce litter a beautiful blue-black felted resupinate fungus. Looking at it microscopically in 2% KOH it turned an intense blue-green. Puzzled, I perused my extensive literature and decided it was Tomentella botryoides which would be new to Europe!  Sending it on to Kew, it was initially thought to be this species but, to be sure, Martin Bidartondo kindly DNA sequenced part of the collection and it was found to be a Pseudotomentella species possibly new to science!  However, Alick Henrici to whom I sent the collection spent a day in the Kew herbarium checking Pseudotomentella species until the answer was found to be P. atrofusca.  This species is new to Britain and a consolation in not being my first species new to science.  This spruce plantation has good colonies of Cantharellus cibarius (Chanterelle); Hydnum rufescens (Terracotta Hedgehog) and Cantharellus ferruginascens (Pale Chanterelle).  I sent a voucher specimen of the latter to Kew as this is a Vulnerable Red Data Book species and extremely local in its distribution; Martin Ainsworth confirmed the collection – the species is new to Sussex and few specimens are in the Kew herbarium.

During September the same plantation had good colonies of Clavulina cinerea (Grey Coral), which had been parasitized by the ascomycete Helminthosphaeria clavariarum. The conidial state is very conspicuous as it markedly blackens the stipe. Associated with C. cinerea was C. coralloides (Crested Coral), distinctive in the much finer pointed branches, and also Ramaria flaccida, another Coral fungus seldom recorded in Sussex. Also present is Ramariopsis kunzei (Ivory Coral), another seldom recorded species.

Early October saw an explosion of Geastraceae with four species of puffball and Geastrum triplex (Collared Earthstar) all in close proximity.  Lycoperdon molle (Soft-spined Puffball) is not often recorded in West Sussex (this is the sixth record – it was last recorded in 1999) and L. nigrescens (Blackish Puffball) is seldom recorded in either vice-county. The former is possibly overlooked while the latter, if it is present, should be easily spotted. L. perlatum (Common Puffball) and Handkea excipuliformis (Pestle-shaped Puffball) were exceptionally abundant under Picea in mixed, deciduous and conifer woodland.


The above is an abridged version of an article I wrote for publication in Adastra (2011), an annual review of wildlife recording in Sussex published by the Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre.