Cut‐leaved Dead‐nettle, above and Corn Spurrey, below, frequent in Philip Jones various parts of the vegetable rows.
Photo: Richard Pryce
An end of year newspaper report about rainfall in 2011 said that spring across England and Wales was the driest since 1839. My impression in looking for fungi was that there had been less rain since December 2010 and this is confirmed by records kindly supplied by Sqn. Ldr. Guy Jeffs for RAF Pembrey Sands and Keith Williams for Gelli Aur. As might be expected, rainfall for the coast was considerably less than for a few miles inland. Although it is reported that 2011 was the second warmest year on record for the UK (the summer months, however, had below average temperatures), it looks as if rainfall more than temperature has a profound effect on the appearance of fungal ‘fruiting’. As well as the ground being dry, branches on trees and fallen logs remained so dry that they supported few of the usual fungi. No Morels were seen during spring at the usual sites in Pembrey Forest. Intermittent rain showers did stimulate the occasional flush of ‘fruiting’ but these were few and far between.
We had rain for our first foray, Abergorlech (Sept 17th), see report on page 34. At Pembrey Country Park (Oct 16th), fungi were hard to find and some of those that had emerged had not found sufficient moisture to fully expand their caps. One such species was Copper Spike Chroogomphus rutilus which I had found in Pembrey forest in September. This fungus seems to be associated with Weeping Bolete Suillus granulatus, a species mycorrhizal with pine. Copper Spike, also mycorrhizal with pine, is said to be parasitic on the mycelium of this Bolete. David Hughes, of Pembrey Country Park, kindly helped with this foray, as did Nigel Stringer.
The same dry conditions were present for the foray at the Lower Lliedi Reservoir on Oct 22nd. This walk was made much more interesting because of those attending rather than for the fungi found. It was good to have David John (retired algologist at the London Natural History Museum) and his wife Judith with us again at a field meeting and very much hope they can join future Naturalists events. On returning to the car park, Nigel Stringer invited all to share in a piece of cake, shaped as a poisonous toadstool, made by Ceri. He also thanked PAJ for leading annual forays over the past 30 or so years. It so happened that, on this foray, we went as far as the drive leading to the Upper Lliedi Reservoir, which is the spot where my interest in fungi started. This was on the first field meeting held by the recently formed Llanelli Naturalists in 1973 and led by boys (including Ian Morgan) from the grammar school when we found False Morel, Gyromitra esculenta.
At the National Botanic Garden of Wales (NBGW), Bruce Langridge continues to promote interest in fungi for visitors by organising a varied programme. He has also secured an exhibition ‘From Another Kingdom: The Amazing World of Fungi’ which is well worth visiting. Another event at NBGW was the launch of the book ‘Fascinated by Fungi’ by Pat O’Reilly who lives at Llandysul. This is not a conventional field‐guide, although many species are described, but gives much general information not available in most books and all is explained in a non‐technical and user‐friendly way.
PAJ would like to thank Nigel, the only ‘proper’ mycologist in the society, for his help and support over the years. With increasing age, I hope others can take a greater interest in fungi, helping with organising fungus finding walks and gain experience in documenting finds. I will, of course, continue what I have enjoyed doing for as long as I can but feel it is prudent to try to find others to take over some tasks. I knew nothing about fungi back in 1973 but was fortunate to be able to discuss finds with Noel Tallowin so that gradually I became more confident with the identification of fungi. Fortunately, Bruce Langridge is developing a strong mycological interest at the Garden as well as leading a series of walks. Several others, following our forays, have agreed to help, so fungus recording and field meetings looking for fungi, should continue.
An unusual fungus on Camellia
In June 2011 Nigel Stringer and Philip Jones were asked to visit a garden at Swiss Valley, Llanelli where the householder was concerned over an unusual “growth” on his Camellia bush. The growth was a white mass about the size of a child’s hand which had totally engulfed one of the leaves of the plant. The gall was caused by the parasitic fungus Exobasidium camelliae, which is specific to sasanqua varieties of Camellias. The white outer surface is the spore bearing tissue of the fungus from which the spores are released to infect other plants. A cold wet spring is thought to be favourable for the disease, but it is not that common in Britain.
The first specimen was sent to Kew from Handcross in Sussex in June 1944. Since then there have been 37 other records and, interestingly, these are all from the south of England and Wales. The first Welsh record was from Denbighshire in 1961 by Bruce Ing and since then the fungus has been reported from Dyfed, Glamorganshire and, in 2005, from Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, near Dylan Thomas’s writing shed. The Laugharne specimen was identified by the authors: it is very localised on the Camellia but doesn’t kill it. The shrub in the Llanelli garden had been in place for thirty years but this was the first year that it had been infected. Two other fruit bodies were present on the plant but these were in an advanced state of decay. The owners were worried about the presence of the fungus and wanted to treat the plant with a fungicide. However, once they were told about how rare it is they were keen to conserve it, especially as it does no long‐term harm to its host.
Panic over fungi on lawns.
On December 5th, I had a phone call from a friend living in Llanelli who has a garden with a super large lawn on which his grandchildren play. He sounded rather desperate, saying he had never seen so many fungi on his lawn and was terrified these might poison the children. I visited soon after the call but found my friend had already strimmed the lot. There had been a splendid display of colourful waxcap fungi, more than I had seen anywhere this year. I found no fungi toxic to humans after a careful look all over the garden. I doubt if he is reassured. It is not possible to have a garden with no fungi and better to have colourful harmless (beneficial to the garden) species than inconspicuous toxic varieties. As Pat O’Reilly says in his new book, “it is unwise to destroy these fungi, as in most cases they do far more good than harm”.
The cat’s been sick!
On a wet morning dog walk, I saw a white mess coating a clump of grass. I took a photo but, as I had no container, returned the following morning to collect some for examination. I was surprised that, after a careful search, I could not find any trace of it. However I was glad to read in ‘Myxomycetes’ by Bruce Ing, that this is what generally happens with Mucilago crustacea. The species has been given the unofficial name ‘the cat’s been sick’ as it is commonly found on lawns making owners think their pet (cat or dog) has been ill. No damage is done to the vegetation. Myxomycetes or Slime Moulds are not fungi but members of the kingdom Protozoa and studied by mycologists as they occur in the same habitats as fungi.
Yellow Bird’s‐nest Monotropa hypopitys.
The population of this interesting flower at Burry Port community woodland (Ashpits) is still present but many fewer scapes were seen in 2011 than in recent years. The fungus Girdled Knight Tricholoma cingulatum, essential to the survival of this flower, was present a month later (mid‐November) and also in far fewer numbers than usual. This is possibly due to lower rainfall during the year and I am wondering if this might affect the population of Yellow Bird’s‐nest in future years.
I was very pleased to find a few Yellow Bird’s‐nest scapes in Pembrey Forest in mid‐August. This flower has been seen at various locations in the forest over the years but I do not think since 1996. There were only about six scapes with seed capsules in a small patch of willow and I found no Girdled Knight fungi in this area later in the year. A careful search next June/July in this area must be made.