Toadstools: Tiny and translucent

Fungi on log

Fungi on log

There are a lot of fungi around at the moment – logs are covered with fungi of all kinds, toadstools sprout from the woodland paths and under the trees, and clusters of fungi appear at the base of hollow trees and old rotting logs.

Mycena fungi on log

Mycena fungi on log

The perpetual rain makes these little fungi into small and shiny jewels in the damp woodland.  Many are extremely small, just a few millimetres across, such as the mycena fungi on the log pictured above, and the tiny little toadstools on the woodland paths – these are only a few millimetres tall, and you can see their size in comparison with the acorn in the photo.

Tiny toadstools on woodland path

Tiny toadstools on woodland path

One of the best finds of the last couple of weeks was an extraordinarily delicate little toadstool close to our main building.  This beautiful little creation was so delicate that it was translucent, and you could see the green of the grass behind through its gills.  I chose to photograph it with a very narrow depth of field to show the delicacy of the markings.  Fungi are often overlooked, or taken for granted, but they can be stunningly beautiful.

Translucent toadstool

Translucent toadstool

Translucent toadstool

Translucent toadstool

Translucent toadstool

Translucent toadstool

 

 

 

Autumn Fungi and Lichens

Early in the morning, a tiny toadstool

Early in the morning, a tiny toadstool

An autumnal feel to the weather this week, with cold temperatures, fog in the morning and now strong winds and rain.  But there is always a plus-side to the changing of the seasons, and one of the best of all is the appearance of fruiting bodies on the fungi and lichens in the wood.  There are just a few fungi around in the summertime, but autumn is when they really get going.

I use the words fruiting bodies intentionally:  fungi are present as complex webs of threads known as mycelium all year round.  The mycelium of a fungus can be extraordinarily large in a woodland setting, sometimes spreading among a whole root system, or several root systems, or even a whole woodland.  The mycelium can be extremely important, part of a system that effectively extends the roots of the trees.  The fungi are organisms that feed on decaying organic matter, breaking it down and returning the nutrients to the soil.  This is a vital role in the forest ecosystem.  The decaying matter can be in the form of small particles in the soil, larger lumps of organic matter on the surface of the woodland floor, or even huge fallen trees and logs.  The mycelium of the fungus is tiny, microscopic even, but so important, and yet almost invisible.  These tiny hair-like webs perform their task underground, under the leaft litter, on the woodland floor and below, returning nutrients to the soil, and in many cases the fungi work in a very close and harmonious relationship with the tree roots, as mycorrhiza, so the tree can benefit rapidly from the nutrients released by the fungi, while the fungi benefit from sugars and starches produced by the trees.  A symbiosis.

rging from the grass

Tiny toadsthool emerging from the grass

The fruiting bodies we see appear only when the fungus is reproducing.  They are the toadstools or mushrooms of the woodland, appearing in many different forms:  traditional toadstools, tiny fairy toadstools, bracket fungi of all sizes and shapes, little club-like fungi, large jelly-ear fungi on the surface of trees, clusters of toadstools emerging from rotting trees and logs.  Just bewildering.  There are fungi that last for week, and fungi that last for just a single day.  All shapes, colours and sizes.

Lichen fruiting bodies

Lichen fruiting bodies

As well as fungi, some of the lichens are fruiting at this time of year, some forming little cup-like structures bearing spores, others forming little club-like structures.  Lichens are amazing organisms – again, a symbiosis of a fungus with algae or cyanobacteria, the former providing a structure, water and nutrients, and the latter producing sugars by photosynthesis.  They are amazing things, growing on rotting logs, forming a tiny ecosystem in their own right with a variety of mosses and fungi.  One major reason why rotting wood should be left on the woodland floor and not tidied up.  They are vital in the rotting process, and in turn provide habitat for insects such as beetles, flatworms, roundworms and many other creatures at the base of a complex ecological web.

There will be many more fungi emerging over the next few weeks, and I hope to capture more of them,  but these are some photos taken at the weekend of the first ones.

Fungi on log

Fungi on log

Detail on toadstool

Detail on toadstool

Tallest toadstool only 30mm, in our path.

Tallest toadstool only 30mm, in our path.

Lichen fruiting body

Lichen fruiting body

Lichen fruiting bodies

Lichen fruiting bodies

Lichen fruiting body and Moss

Lichen fruiting body and Moss

Lichen fruiting bodies

Lichen fruiting bodies