Sunday, 18 October 2009

Extreme rarity

I immediately knew that I had never seen this mushroom either in the field or in any literature. The cap was covered in a brown powder, and the stipe (stem) had a distinctly bitter almond smell. A search through all my books revealed no close match, so the internet was the next port of call. I had almost chosen Rozites caperatus as the likely candidate when I was very lucky to find a comment on a swiss website that mentioned that some Rozites could be mistaken for Phaeolepiota aurea. A quick check confirmed that this extremely rare mushroom was the correct identification. It's a nettle associate, documented in european literature, but not in English. The almond smell is due to the presence of cyanide compounds, but strangely I was the only person out of four who could detect it, and for me it was so strong I recoiled from the smell. There are a few Irish records. Provisional red data list.

Some fungi are successional, depending on other fungi to have been present before they can fruit. This succession can take decades to occur, and there may be several links in the chain, so some rare fungi are only found in our oldest forests, and they might not make fruitbodies every year. Ards forest in west Donegal is very special: it's an ancient forest on the first landfall from the atlantic, so it's old and very clean. It has many rare fungi and is home to some very rare lichens that need extremely clean air, so it's a wonderful place to visit.

Phellodon melaleucus is one of the rarest fungi, and most mycologists will never see it in a lifetime. I've been privileged to see it for a few years now, always in exactly the same location. It smells strongly of fenugreek, especially when dry.

Right next to the Phellodon, I found a small stand of Clavaria vermicularis:

I feel priviledged to have seen these three species in the space of a few days.


Greenfingers said...

Wonderful finds... absoluetly fascinating!

Yoke, said...

Great Finds, Stuart.
The Phaeolepiota aurea sounds like a very interesting fungi, once you start reading about it on-line.
As are the other two, of course.

Your forest sounds like a good area to spent some time in too. I'd imagine that Lichen thrive there also.