Thursday, 25 September 2008

September Sun

At last, after 4 months of rain, we have had some sunshine.

That should bring the fungi out: this is Coprinus comatus, or Lawyers Wig. Edible and good (and they were).

And now one of the tiniest of fungi: Marasmius hudsonii. These grow only on dead Holly leaves:

The close-up shows the thick gills and hairs on the cap, which is about 2mm. across:

The Willow Leaf Beetle - Lochmaea caprea is about 7mm long:

Moths are still coming to light in small numbers. This appears to be November Moth - Epirrita dilutata, but I'd better put an agg. on that to be on the safe side.

This is also a new species to me: Frosted Orange - Gortyna flavago.

Thursday, 18 September 2008


I have occasionally been relating the story of the Nematus pavidus larvae and their primary and secondary parasites. The latest post is here.

I have now been told that the ichneumonid that is ovipositing from under the leaf is one of the Ctenopelmatinae, possibly one of the Campodorus sp., which have been reared from Nematus sp. larvae.

The under-the-leaf oviposition technique is not in the literature, so this might be one of the first times it has been observed, and certainly the first time it has been recorded. One reasonable theory is that the larvae are very aggressive with their defence reflex (a sudden whipping of the rear of the body, pulling it up into the characteristic 'S' shape), so the Campodorus is actually protecting itself from the Nematus larva's protection reflex. This ties in nicely with the observation that the secondary parasite checks for the presence/absence of this response before it lays its own eggs from a straddle position. I suspect that the Campodorus egg subdues the Nematus larva to some extent (but why? Certainly, it differentiates an already parasitised larva from a clean one, thereby avoiding duplicate [and therefore wasteful] primary parasitisation, but it also makes it easier for the secondary parasite to detect the primary parasite and lay its own egg. A double-edged sword. )

Moving on to the Entoloma from Ards forest: it appears to be Entoloma serrulatum. These are the spores:

Magnification is 400x, the spores are mounted in water and the individual spores are around 10 microns long.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Rain and New Computer

The title explains the gap in new postings.

The hedgerow is beginning to show signs of autumn: leaves are falling, and the season's growth is beginning to return to the soil. A few insects are still braving the Donegal 'humidity':

Eristalis tenax is the proper 'Drone Fly', although most other Eristalis sp. are known by the same common name.

It's a bit 'chunkier' than other similar species, although the dark wing shade and very broad facial band offer good close-up confirmation.

Leaf-miners don't have to brave the weather: they have a rather nice, dry habitat inside the leaf. This is Phytomyza crassiseta, and must be rather scarce, since the UK reference sites didn't have any images (they do, now!).

It mines Germander Speedwell, which is common enough, so it must be dependant on some other environmental conditions. New to me, and to Co. Donegal.

In passing, I've included a shot of the twin rows of hairs which are diagnostic, if you're in any doubt about your Speedwells.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Foray to Ards

Ards Forest is the first landfall from the Atlantic, so it has a great deal going for it. Ancient deciduous, mixed with some mature Spruce (ugh!) and the cleanest air you can get. I decided that it was time to make my first journey of the year to see what was about. The forest is split into many different eco-habitats. Some parts are deciduous in deep shade; other parts have a lot of light, some are drier and there is an old quarry surrounded by tall trees. This quarry is always dark and cold, no matter what the weather is doing. These are in no particular order.

A wonderful wine-coloured Russula under old Cypress:

And in the same location, Pseudocantharellus infundibuliformis, a close relative of the Chanterelle. I think this is what the French call Giroles.

The moss is Mnium hornum.

Out in the sunlight, at the edge of the road, I looked at the usual place and found the extraordinarily rare Phellodon melaleucus. Most mycologists will never see this in a lifetime. This is the only current location known in Ireland. Dried specimens smell strongly of fenugreek.

The rather common (in old woodland) Inocybe geophyllum var. lilacina. There is always a lilac tinge (see the younger specimen to the right). Poisonous.

Horn of Plenty - Pseudocraterellus cornucopioides - is absolutely delicious. I smelled these before I saw them. This is actually a new location for these: I know of one other location several hundred metres away.

One of the Myxomycetes, or Slime Moulds, this is Fuligo septica. These are actually mobile (see the slug-like trail), and some serious research and discussions are tending to move these more towards the animal kingdom than fungi.

This is an Entoloma sp. These have wonderful multi-angular spores, but can be the devil to identify to species (I have over 1600pp of monograph on these). Still, I'll give it a go.

This is a close-up of the gill edges:

Clavulina cinerea also grows along the edge of the verge in large clumps:

Another Hygrocybe nigricans which is just beginning to show signs of black.

Friday, 5 September 2008

The Stump

There's an old deciduous stump in Drumboe that demands that I photograph it on each visit. It's covered in lichens and mosses, with visits from occasional fungi, including the wonderful 'Jelly Tooth' that I might see there again soon. Here is a small (15cm.) fragment:

It's the kind of environment that draws you right into it. "You have to get down to its level", as a good friend told me (you know who you are).

I made another image, so that I can point out the various species:

1) and 4) Polytrichum commune - one of the 'Hair Cap' mosses.

2) Cladonia fimbriata - a lichen.

3) Pleurozium schreberi - a moss.

5) Cladonia portentosa - a 'Reindeer Lichen'.

6) A Birch seedling.

There will be more that I can't make out from the pictures.

Here's a close-up of the Cladonia portentosa:

Incidentally, this is a perfect example of lichens getting on with their work. The stump started off as clean dead wood and lichens (not Cladonias: they come later) colonised it, converting the wood into poor, thin, soil. The mosses need hardly any soil, so they come in after the lichens and then they, too die off and leave more organic material behind them. Eventually the soil is sufficient for a tree to take root above the old stump. I don't know how old the stump is (perhaps 20 years?), but the sequence of events is classic: Lichens are the pioneers, lower plants follow in and higher-order plants arrive last. Without lichens there is nothing. The same process takes place on rocks (and gravestones) but the process takes slightly longer.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

First fungal foray

I paid a visit to Drumboe wood, which is usually quite good for fungi. (If you're looking for good fungi, then choose the oldest deciduous woodand you can find, the older the better: some fungi are successional, and it can take centuries for those down the dependency chain to grace a woodland with their presence.)

One of the most elegant fungi is the Porcelain Fungus - Oudemansiella mucida. The cap is so thin it transmits light through the pearly flesh. Pictures hardly do them justice:

These only grow on dead Beech branches, and usually a metre or so above ground level. They make a wonderful undershot with light behind them:

I find these Cortinarius sp. in the same place every year (this is a common experience with fungi, since their mycelium is static, and they often pop up the same spot year after year.) No id, yet (Corts are a notoriously difficult group). The cap is extremely viscid:

The Common Earthball - Scleroderma citrinum - is easier to identify:

One of the most common Russulas is Russula ochroleuca: I find it on virtually every foray. It's a broadleaf associate.

A record shot of the Blusher - Amanita rubescens. There were quite a few of these, all knocked over by hungry slugs or snails. This fungus is poisonous, as are most of the Amanitas, and some are deadly.

Talking about deadly fungi, you might have seen in the press that a well known writer was poisoned (and how!.....serious - perhaps permanent - kidney damage) by the deadly fungus Cortinarius speciosus. He is apparently a regular mushroom hunter and was on holiday in the north of Scotland when the incident happened. I found the best pictures on the web to be:


Now I simply wouldn't eat that regardless of what I thought it was (it shouts out Cort to me), so it must have been confused with something else. The Chanterelle has been suggested as a possible confusion species. Not to my eyes! I suppose it just might have been taken along with a batch of Lactarius sp, some of which are edible, or maybe Brown Roll Rim (which has recently been reclassified as deadly, anyway!).

The bottom line is: don't eat wild fungi unless you absolutely know what you're doing. I play safe with fungi that can't reasonably be confused with anything else...Chanterelle, Horn of Plenty, Cep, Hedgehog. I have also taken a few Millers (the best of all fungi) in my time. But that's one where you have to be absolutely absolutely sure, because Clitocybe dealbata looks very like it and grows in the same sort of environments, and is deadly. Smell is the clue with the smells of meal, although I reckon I can get notes of metallic fish oil, too.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Another mixture

Waxcaps tend to be amongst the brightest of our fungi. This is the Blackening Waxcap - Hygrocybe nigricans. They vary from yellow to orange to red, but will always end up jet black.

The autumn generation of the Peacock butterfly has just emerged. These will overwinter as adults, and their offspring will emerge next autumn.

I put out a Heath trap the other night (thanks, Peter) and found a few interesting moths mixed in with plenty of Large Yellow Underwings. This is the Pink-barred Sallow - Xanthia togata, which feeds on Willows.
Moth traps usually attract Caddis Flies and Beetles, but I also found this Ichneumonid with extraordinarily long antennae. I guess it's a male.