Saturday, 2 November 2013

Not animals, not plants

  There are about 1000 species of larger fungi in Britain, and autumn is the season when they are most easily seen.  The bits we see, the toadstools and the brackets and the other strange forms, are just the fruiting bodies.  The main part of the fungus is the white threads of mycelium which grow out of sight under the soil or inside wood.
 
 
The fruitng bodies produce spores which give rise to more individuals of the species.  These spores usually fall out of the gills or the pores on the underside of the fruiting body.  Under this little parasol in the grass you can just about make out the gills radiating from the centre.
 
         
 
Most of the bracket fungi have little holes or pores instead of gills and the powdery spores drop out of these.  Here we have four brackets of The Blushing Bracket (Daedaleopsis confragosa), which specialises on willow.

 
You can tell the brackets grew after the branch fell down because they grow parallel to the ground.

 
Underneath, the bracket is grey but if bruised when fresh it turns red .  Hence thename "blushing bracket".  The little pores start off like dots but elongate into slots.
 

Some striking, edible or poisonous fungi have English names but most only have scientific names in a sort of Latin.  Efforts are being made to give them all English names so that they become more familiar to more people.  Fungi are very important in the ecosystem, breaking down wood and leaves and animal remains but this makes them rather unattractive to most people.

 
I know about 30 so far, which means only about 970 more to master.  This one is the Candle Snuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon).  You can see how tiny it is.
   
 
All these pics were taken at Filnore last Friday, 29th October.  Now's the time to go and hunt for more.  If you can get over the inbuilt prejudice we have against them in Britain, there is a host of new fungal friends to make.

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