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With the Windflowers – Anemone Cup

Spring is proving slow to arrive, but it’s getting better. So when the mood takes you, get out on a woodland walk to find yourself some springtime fungi. But in this case, keep your eyes peeled for some pretty spring flowers – you may find some small surprises there!

One of the first flowers to bloom are the Anemone, especially the daisy-like Grecian Windflower (Anemone blanda), also known as the Winter Windflower or Balkan Anemone. They appear in violet-blue, pink or white varieties and are very attractive. They often carpet woodland clearings, forming extensive colonies via their underground rooting system.

Enlarged structures on their roots (called tubers) are storage organs containing nutrients for their perennial rebirth. It’s here, attached to their underground tubers, that the fungus’ resting body of hyphal threads remains dorment (sclerotum), until ready to produce the Anemone Cup (Dumontinia tuberosa), the only member of the Dumontinia genus.

Being a cup fungi it comes as no surprise as to the shape of these small fruiting bodies; but they’re so deeply ‘cupped’ they seem to have more of a bowl or goblet-like appearance. They have rich tan-brown colouring and will expand flatter with age, usually in an irregular fashion. Their appearance at this time may lead you to believe they could be small Jelly Ear fungi, which is quite understandable when you see them.

The images shown below only show you a small part of the dark black/brown stem. They’re actually rooted beneath the soil (attached to the tubers of the flower) and can be up to 10cm in length. I’ll try and get a photo of this for next time if I’m lucky enough, as these fungi are considered rare, but this is probably due to the fact that they are often overlooked.

No doubt you’ll be more interested in finding Morels for the pan this spring, but it’s always worth a peep amongst these beautiful flowers to see if you can spot one or two; they’ll be around until the middle of May. Happy hunting.

Different growth stages of the Anemone Cup fungus. Bottom right: The Winter Windflower – violet-blue colouring (Credit: Wikimedia Commons from user: Rasbak, Netherlands).

Anemone nemorosa

A covering of young Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa), where the flowers are not yet open.

QUICK ID TABLE: ANEMONE CUP Dumontinia tuberosa

FRUITING BODY

1-3cm across. Deeply cup-shaped, expanding with age. Tan brown colouring.

STEM

Long, dark brown/black brown and smooth. Rooting; up to 10cm long.

HABITAT / SEASON

In soil of open woodland. A parasite of the Anemone flower species and sometimes Ranunculus (buttercups, spearworts, water crowfoots etc). Early Spring. Rare.

EDIBILITY

Not edible.

Liquorice on a log – The Black Bulgar

For one reason or another I didn’t get the chance to get out much over winter, but a recent visit to some nearby woodland turned up these little black beauties.

As they were well camouflaged, I nearly walked by this mass of Black Bulgar (Bulgaria inquinans) on a fallen trunk (possibly Ash). There were many dozens of these small black jelly-like buttons scattered across the bark. They genuinely look and feel like a typical jelly fungus, but they’re actually not jelly fungi at all – scientifically speaking, as they are in the class/division of Ascomycetes, instead of the real ‘Jelly fungi’ (heterobasidiomycetes) which are in the division Basidiomycetes. So there you go – lesson over!

They grow in large clusters on deciduous fallen/felled trunks and branches, especially oak, beech and less often, on ash. But with the recent Ash Dieback disease and many felled trees as a result, they may well become more of a common sight.

When young, the margin is tightly enrolled, giving the fruiting body a tiny cup like appearance with a brown/dark drown outer surface which has a rough, scurfy texture. As they mature they spread out flat exposing their smooth ‘spore bearing’ top side in a distinctive disc shape. The ‘gummie bear’ flesh inside is dark ochre-brown which is more rubbery and gelatinous in damp conditions. It becomes much tougher as it begins to dry out.

Rubbery or tough – it doesn’t really mater because this isn’t a fungus for the foragers list. However, in Northeastern China it is considered a delicacy. After careful preparation I believe it’s fine to eat – but quite poisonous otherwise. Phytochromes (photoreceptors in fruiting body pigment) can cause serious food-sensitised solar dermatitis – which sounds rather uncomfortable. I think I’ll give it a miss!

Black Bulgar Fungus

Top: Flat disc shapes of the mature fruiting bodies. Bottom left: Younger cup like examples with a scurfy brown exterior. Due to the damp conditions, this surface appears much darker.

QUICK ID TABLE: Black Bulgar Bulgaria inquinans

FRUITING BODY

Approx 1-4cm across. Jelly-like, rubbery texture. Top fertile surface is smooth, Underside scurfy brown/dark brown. Margin enrolled when young, expanding to a flat disc shape.

STEM

N/A – Minimal/small stump.

SPORE PRINT
Spore Print: Dark brown/blackish (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

On fallen/felled oaks, Beech, Sweet Chestnut and Ash. September to March

LOOKALIKES

Witches’ Butter (Exidia glandulosa)

EDIBILITY

Inedible. Poisonous if not prepared properly.

Lost in the Moss – The Collared Mosscap

I often have a little scout around the garden if I’m moping about, just to see if there are any interesting little mushrooms popping up in the short grass. I was actually going to mow the lawn. Honest.

Rickenella swartzii‘Small’ is the key word here. In fact ‘very small’ would be a better phrase. I had to bend down, take a real close look, and there it was – a Collared Mosscap (Rickenella swartzii), along with several others scattered about the place, was poking its cap out above the grass languishing in the moist moss that now makes up a lot of my lawn! Good thing too. These tiny mushrooms are very attractive and interesting – and dare I say it? Quite cute.

The usual season for this mushroom is spring to early winter, but I tend to notice them more in late spring, perhaps because of the conditions and shortness of the grass with its mossy undergrowth.

The caps are barely 1cm across at best, and are usually slightly smaller. They are a subtle pale-ochre (or slightly darker ochre-brown) colour, faintly straited with a dark brown centre. At first, the cap is convex, but soon develops a central depression while still maintaining the curved shape.

Pale gills on the underside are widely spaced and extend slightly down the stem (decurrent). It’s at this point (the apex of the stem) that gives this mushroom its common English name. Its ‘collar’, so to speak, is violet (or dark brown with a violet hue) and noticeably much darker than the rest of the pallid ochre stem. This feature is a reliable and distinctive characteristic.

Although labelled as inedible due to their tiny size, they are not known to be poisonous but may actually contain very small amounts of psilocybin (a naturally occurring psychedelic compound), so best not to have a taste if you felt the need. Why not take a look around in short grassland and damp mossy areas to see if you can spot any. And I mean have a really good look, because as you can believe, they are very often overlooked.
Collared Mosscap mushroom photographs

The Collared Mosscap mushroom: Notice the darker violet hue at the apex of the stem and dark brown centred cap.

QUICK ID TABLE: COLLARED MOSSCAP Rickenella swartzii

CAP / FLESH

0.5-1cm across. Ochre-cream or light brown with dark brown centre. Initially slightly rounded then flat with central depression.

STEM

2-4cm x 0.1-0.2cm. pale yellowish, violet coloured at apex.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

Decurrent. White or creamy coloured.
Spore Print: White (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

In moss on grassland in damp places, such as gardens or marshes etc. Late Spring to early Winter.

EDIBILITY

Too small to be worth eating.

Rickenella swartzii drawing

A scattering of Yellow Fieldcaps

A walk though the park today I was pleasantly surprised to find many small yellow and slightly larger pale mushrooms peppered around in the short grass. And as I suspected, these were actually all the same mushroom species, just in different stages of growth.

Bolbitius titubans

Credit: Caroline Hooper, Gloucestershire UK.

The Yellow Fieldcap (Bolbitius titubans) is a very widespread and common little mushroom, fruiting during summer to autumn, but I often see them in mid-late spring time too, as in this case. It mainly frequents well manured grassland but is also found on rotting straw, manure, dung and wood chippings.

When very young, its small cap is distinctly rounded, elliptical or sometimes ball-like and is a striking bright yellow colour. It also has a slimy surface texture which sticks to your finger after a gentle prod of the cap! As is grows, the cap opens into a bell shape and eventually spreads to almost flat. During this process, the viscosity fades as well as the chrome yellow colouring until it is nothing more than a pallid straw colour or greyish-white. Some yellow however does remain (for a while) at the very apex of the cap, and the margin becomes noticeably striated and very thin.

The gills on the underside are pale yellow and quite crowded. With age these change colour too, becoming light brown and eventually rusty brown. This is a good identification feature to look out for on older specimens.

The hollow stem, just like the cap, is very fragile and is relatively long when compared to the size of the cap (this can be helpful for locating them amongst the grass to be honest). On closer inspection you’ll see it is covered in fine white powder and more downy at the base.

And as a quick sign off, it’s interesting (albeit a little confusing) to know that although the common ‘Fieldcap’ name is used, the Yellow Fieldcap isn’t actually part of the Agrocybe genus, which are commonly known as Fieldcaps. So make of that what you will!

Mushroom montage

Different ages: Bottom left – Very young chrome yellow, viscous cap. Top left – Middle aged fading yellow cap. Top right – Yellow gills mature deeper brown. Bottom right – Old and faded cap with distinct striations.

QUICK ID TABLE: YELLOW FIELDCAP Bolbitius titubans

CAP / FLESH

1-5cm across. ball shaped or elliptical and chrome yellow when young. Pallid yellow to greyish white, bell shaped to almost flat when older. Striate margin. Thin, fragile flesh.

STEM

3-10cm x 0.2-0.4cm. Pale yellow or whitish. Hollow. Covered in fine white powder. Downy base.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

Adnate to free. Crowded. Pale yellow maturing to light brown, then rusty brown.
Spore Print: Rust brown (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

Manured grassland, rotting straw, dung, wood chip. Mid spring through to autumn.

EDIBILITY

Not edible.

Mushroom sketch - Bolbitius species

Jelly and Ice (no cream) – Jelly Ear or Jews Ear

I’m still out there in the freezing cold, treading on the ice crusted mud and woodland grass in search of any of those winter treats still hanging around on the old dead wood. And I also need a change from mince pies, turkey, wine etc… and pretend I’m losing a few pounds in the process.

I was oJelley Ear Fungus on the side of a treeut in one of the National Forest woods, closest to where I live. It had to be close as I was on the motorbike and had to make the journey short. After all, it was ‘zero’ degrees celcius!

Initially I was looking for any signs of Oyster mushrooms. I know they’re around pretty much all year, but I need to find out more of where that is!

Instead I stumbled across (nearly literally) a modest collection of Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae) or Jew’s Ear. They are genuinely funky in appearance, and absolutely great to touch, almost like a mixture between silk and rubber! However, it was so cold that some had completely frozen solid with some only half frozen. I quickly took some snaps to show the ice and ear together.

They’re around most of the year and grow on living and dead wood, mainly elder but also with beech and sycamore.

They are edible but not full of flavour. I didn’t pick any of them at this time, but I’m interested to know if anyone has any interesting recipes to use with them. I believe they are used extensively in Chinese cooking – broths and soups etc. generally to add substance rather than for added taste.

Update Feb 2014:
Since I received a recent comment from a blog follower mentioning the health benefits of this particular fungus, I had to check it out. It’s fascinating to see how many vitamins and minerals it possesses. It really is a super food! To see the health benefits of the Jelly Ear, click here.

Jelly Ear Fungas

Jelly Ear feeling the ice cold of January