The weather has been absolutely hateful for a couple of weeks, and it was good to get out in daylight for a change.
A Beech tree shed this huge branch a couple of years ago, probably due to a fungal attack by Ganoderma applanatum, which is all over the tree. Various fungi are now busy decomposing the dead branch and I took a few shots.
This is Stereum hirsutum which can be resupinate (flat and crusty) or can form continuous waves of brackets:
Some clusters were in tiered groups:
Last year I showed the Oak leaf-miner Ectoedemia herengi, which makes mines in 'green islands' in fallen leaves.
The tree would normally withdraw all chlorophyll from the leaves before shedding them, but leaves with Ectoedemia larvae retain some of the chlorophyll and the miners continue to use the food source, thereby extending their active breeding season. The mechanism whereby the larvae blocked the chlorophyll has been largely unknown, but recent research has revealed a stunningly complex answer to the mystery.
Plants are largely controlled by hormones and some insects have managed to use this feature to their own advantage. (Gall-making insects use a similar technique to force non-standard growth of leaves, buds and roots.) The hormonal signature of the Ectoedemia larvae was noted to be similar to that of some bacteria, and the bacteria were found to be present in the larvae. When the larvae were dosed with an antibacterial, the leaves failed to make mines, so the bacteria are essential for the green islands to form. It looks like the larvae have formed a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria in order to perform their season-extending trick. The closer you look, the more complex our wildlife appears.
This is a good time of year to look at mosses and lichens: the season's growth has died back to reveal our smaller species and many of them are now fruiting or making spores.
This Cladonia lichen has bright red fruitbodies. Looks to be Cladonia macilenta.
Lycogala terrestre is a slime mould which forms purplish spherical bodies which later split to reveal a bright pink spore-bearing interior: