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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.