Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - January 2005 - No 71
Phillip Jones

In the last Newsletter I said I had unearthed a truffle from my small garden. My determination was, however, incorrect, as Brian Spooner at Kew, identified it as Stephensia bombycina (Strong-scented Stephensia).  He also reminded me that I had collected this species from Pembrey Forest in 1985. During my annual weeding effort I found another specimen in the garden this year. The common name accurately describes it as it does have a very powerful, but not unpleasant, odour.

This spring, fine specimens of Morchella esculeuta (Morel) were found in Pembrey Forest which made a splendid meal for some Naturalists’ members!  During our Ferryside walk (May 5th) another ascomycete (cup fungus family) Paxina acetabulum was found in good numbers.  A cup fungus collected from Pembrey Forest in September was determined as Peziza limnea by Mariko Parslow, a Kew mycologist.  This species is rare and found on damp soil, often under Alder, which is exactly where this was found.

During the Llanelli Naturalists evening walk at Furnace Pond (6th May), I spotted a small yellow fungus that seemed attached to a liverwort. When I got home I washed the mud away and found that the fungus was not attached to the liverwort but growing from a dead fly. The fungus looks like a small matchstick but a pale buff colour. This was Cordyceps forquingonii which is a Red Data list species on the Welsh list. The Cordyceps fungi are parasitic on various insects and two species of truffles.  C. forquingonii is probably not all that rare but more likely inconspicuous and overlooked as it has been found several times previously in the area.

July is the time to look for Armillaria ectypa (Marsh Honey Fungus) at Ffrwd Fen. This year the rare fungus was first seen on 15th July so I let those interested know. Martyn Ainsworth, a mycologist working for English Nature, came from Windsor on the 20th when we spent a day at Ffrwd. We found only a few specimens despite of a thorough search.  As well as taking photos, Martyn carefully examined the bases of A. ectypa to see they were connected to any particular plant.  In the field nothing could be seen but he took a specimen (plus lump of soil) back with him and reports that careful examination shows it does have rhizomorphs (root-like mycelia). He also discovered it is bioluminescent in complete darkness. Interestingly the gills glow but not the cap surface so it looks like a lampshade.  Despite frequent visits to Ffrwd, A. ectypa was only seen for one week this year.

Fairy rings are fascinating and produced by many fungi. It is however unusual to find a fairy ring made by a vascular plant. An almost complete ring of (Monotropa hypopitys subsp. hypophegea (Yellow Bird’s-nest) was found in the ‘Ashpits area’ between Pwll and Burry Port in June. The fairy ring is explained by the fact that the roots of Monotropa have an intimate association with a fungus: a myco-rhizal or fungus - root association.  Because of scattered willow bushes in the area it was not at first obvious that a self-sown Corsican Pine (Pinus nigra subsp. laricio) was at the centre of this ring which was 7m or 8m in diameter.  The fungus forms a myco-rhizal association with the roots of both the Monotropa and the pine.  Only the pine has chlorophyll to produce sugars which are needed by the Monotropa so the fungus transmits these nutrients to the Monotropa making this plant a parasite on the Pine rather than just being a saprophyte. About 350 spikes of Yellow Bird’s-nest were counted.  No obvious toadstool fruiting bodies were seen close to this ring until September when a partial ring of Tricholoma cingulatum (Girdled Knight) were noted about 10cm outside the Monotropa ring. It will need observations over several years to see what fungal species, if any, grow in the vicinity of the Monotropa.

While looking at the Monotropa ring I found a fungus not previously seen by me, Thelephora caryophylea.  The related T. terrestris (Earth Fan) is common and widespread but there have only been ten records of  T. caryophylea in the UK since 1920. There are 37 UK records prior to 1920 but only two of these from Wales, both in 1918 and both from Gower.

Many more fungi were seen during the organised fungus finding walks this year than in the previous two or three years as the mild wet weather favoured fruiting body production.  An enthusiastic group met at Pembrey Country Park on 16th October.  Plenty of Geastrum triplex (Collared Earthstar) were found as well as G. fimbriatum (Sessile Earthstar). Waxcaps (Hygrocybe) as well as earthtongues (Geoglossum) were plentiful in suitable grassy areas.

In spite of steady rain a dozen people braved the elements on 23rd October at Mynydd Mawr Woodlands, including Dennis Smith and Wildlife Trust members and we had a good walk with enough species to look at including several ‘jelly fungi’, Tremella mesenterica (Yellow Brain), T. foliacea (Leafy Brain) and Exidia nucleata (Crystal Brain). One area had numerous Leotia lubrica (Jellybaby), which is one of the cup fungus family rather than a ‘jelly fungus’. Confusing?

You will note that many fungi have been given a common name as well as the scientific name.  A booklet has recently been published giving a list of recommended English names for about 1,000 species of fungi in order to give them a more popular, accessible identity.  This list is available on both the Plantlife (www.plantlife.org.uk) and British Mycological Society (www.britmycolsoc.org.uk) websites.  I will gladly photocopy the list for the cost of doing so for anyone interested who does not have access to the web.