Sunday, 19 September 2021

Finding fungi again

 The realm of fungi is looking more interesting again after a bit of a lull with no significant finds for me for a while. We've had rain, so things are damp, and temperatures are climbing. This seems to be a good formula for fungi to fruit.

A few weeks ago I did the Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness and I scored in jelly fungus finds. Until then I'd only every found the bright yellow fan-shaped jelly fungus. On this one outing I saw the bright yellow Witch's Butter, White Jelly Fungus, possibly Snow Fungus and two separate gatherings of Jelly Ear fungus.

Tremella mesenterica  - Witch's Butter

About a week after these finds, I was out on my usual trails when I found a collection of litter next to a log. I've picked up stuff here often, probably because people sit on the log, eat junk foods, drink energy drinks in cans and leave their rubbish behind. It makes me see red. I picked up the trash. And moved the log to prevent other litter bugs from sitting here. My efforts were rewarded with finding a jelly fungus (maybe two different ones!) on the log and a coal fungus (Daldinia concentrica probably) on the stump behind me, which I wouldn't have seen if I hadn't been hefting the heavy log.

I have a thing for the coal fungus because of the first one I found, which I kept an eye on over a period of 2-3 weeks. I really wasn't sure what it was until it matured, burst and lay on the ground looking like a piece of coal with concentric rings that I was able to identify it. When I was putting out the checkpoint flags two weeks ago for the Find It Checkpoint Challenge, I saw a bunch along the one trail. I was chasing sunset and too much in a hurry to stop and photograph. I went out this past week to find them. I found those and more in about a 15km stretch. My eyes seem to quite tuned to spotting this un-eye-catching fungus that looks like a brown lump on logs.

Daldinia concentrica - aka King Alfred's cake* or coal fungus. Matured and finished ones look like lumps of coal.  *According to legend, King Alfred once hid out in a countryside homestead during war, and was put in charge of removing baking from the oven when it was done. He fell asleep and the cakes burned. (from Wiki)

I tend to bring bits home with me, leave them on a shelf for a few days, see what they do and then toss them into my YOLO Compost Tumbler. The one coal fungus that I brought home on Wednesday began shedding spores and made two awesome spore prints.

On Wednesday, I also found another Jelly Ear Fungus. I do like them because they're quirky and some look quite like an ear! 

Auricularia auricula-judae. Also known as jelly ear or wood ear. Gotta love fungi names.

This jelly fungus has a great texture - soft, pliable and jelly-like. When it comes to fungi, it is hard not to have favourites. Jelly ears are right up there for me together with the stinkhorns. These are edible (they taste like nothing) and are used in Chinese dishes, like soups, for their jelly texture.

What I love about fungi is that they are always around, even if it is some 'boring' varieties. Finding any fungi is a bit hit-and-miss because you can walk a route today and there is nothing there but tomorrow they may be in abundance and then gone the next day as many fruiting bodies are short lived. There are also so many different types. For me, there is always something new because I'm a beginner at finding and identifying fungi. 

I'm quite sure that I miss a lot because 1) I move quickly and 2) I'm on trails. If I spent time scratching around and under logs, I'd probably find a lot more - especially tiny fungi, of which there are thousands. The vegetation here is such that you can't go offtrail so pretty much everything that I find is to the sides of trails. I'm sure that there are some gems lying just out of sight and deep in parts of the forests here.

Finding fungi doesn't get boring. I'm looking forward to see what this summer brings.

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