University of the West of Scotland
Life Sciences, Paisley Campus



(Background to the field visits)
Page 2

This page continues notes on the fungi of the grassland sites visited as part of the field excursions for this module. Page 1 dealt with those taxonomic groups of fungi that are considered to be markers of high-grade waxcap grasslands. This page gives supplementary notes on some of the other fungi present, principally those notable for their abundance, regularity or some other feature. Again the aim is to give visual meaning to a long list of Latin names. There is no intention to cover all the remaining fungi here and you should also use whatever identification handbooks to which you have access. Remember that none of the popular guides is in any way comprehensive and a number of species are described only in specialist literature or original papers in journals. This page may be developed and extended as/if time allows.

Armillaria borealis
(not illustrated)

This species appears consistently in tha data-set but it is not a grassland fungus and a few words of explanation seem necessary.
The sampling instructions are to avoid trees and dead wood, and collection of such wood-rotting species as Calocera viscosa suggests that this instruction is being forgotten. A. borealis is a northern and boreal species of Honey Fungus, parasitic and saprotrophic on various trees but often on Birch. Certainly, during the sampling it is sometimes being collected off dead birch-wood when it should not be. However, it is also appearing in turf by the path where it must be coming up from buried wood. Thus it looks like any other grassland fungus and understandably is being collected. The data are not being adjusted to remove this or other wood-decomposers, or mycorrhizal fungi associated with the trees. They can be distinguished in the data by their eco-taxonomic codings.

Galerina vittiformis, studio shot

Galerina vittiformis
Photographed material from Ardentinny, Argyllshire, 1984.

Galerina species are mostly delicate, brown-spored fungi of mossy, base-poor conditions, with many clearly associated with the mosses themselves, apparently as saprotrophs and weak parasites on older moss material. G. vittiformis is a typical example, often being abundant in acid turf and mostly or always amongst the moss Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus.
A darker base to the stem is typical (but not constant) in this species and it is the only common Galerina in grassland that has a minutely pruinose stem (abundant projecting cells - caulocystidia - throughout its length).
["vittiformis" is now considered the correct spelling, though you may encounter a different version in books.]

Often equally common is G. pumila, which looks very similar but which has a non-pruinose stem streaked with white fibrils from the veil that initially protected the developing gills. However, a microscope is necessary for confident identification. It is usually more robust than G. vittiformis and occurs in a wider range of habitats.

G. mniophila is another very similar species that probably gets mixed with G. pumila during sampling. It has more muted colours and a pale stem but again needs microscopic examination. It seems to be more restricted to conditions where there is plenty of wet moss in the turf and it is common in some years and unrecorded in others. Its fruiting may correlate with recent heavy rain.

Other Galerina species are recorded from time to time and it is likely that more species of these very similar fungi are being overlooked. A number are northern and upland in their distribution in Europe and a more detailed examination of Muirshiel material may produce surprises.

Mycena aetites, studio shot

Mycena aetites
Photographed material from Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, 1988.

The majority of Mycena species are slender, delicate fungi, often with conical caps, and so typical is this appearance that the adjective "mycenoid" is much used in mycology.

Mycena species have white spores (actually colourless, but appearing white in a spore print). This character instantly distinguishes them from "mycenoid" brown-spored genera such as Conocybe or Galerina or from similar dark-spored genera such as Psilocybe or Panaeolus. Such Mycena species are litter decomposers, on dead leaves, dead grass and similar substrates. There are, however, more robust species in the genus and many of these are wood decomposers, such as Mycena galericulata which somehow gets into the Muirshiel data-set.

Mycena aetites is a widespread grassland species, quite common in lawns and fertilised grassland as well as in unfertilised "waxcap grasslands". Very similar is Mycena leptocephala, which has a strong cleaning-fluid smell. It grows in similar places and is often the more common of the two.

Mycena epipterygia is more a species of moorland (especially under heather) and acid woodland than open grassland, but it is sometimes plentiful at Muirshiel in damp, heathy turf. It is variable, but usually has a sticky, grey to brown cap and a sticky stem which is yellow, at least at the apex.

Other species recorded in the heathy grassland at Muirshiel include Mycena sanguinolenta, a delicate species that produces red juice when broken, and M. metata and M. filopes, two rather featureless species macroscopically, but which are distinctive under the microscope. All three are mainly woodland species, the first two mainly in acid woodland, while M. filopes seems to prefer slightly more nutrient rich conditions. Their occurrence and distributions at in the grassland at Muirshiel appear to reflect these nutrient preferences.

Squamanita paradoxa

Squamanita paradoxa, studio shot
Squamanita paradoxa parasitic on Cystoderma amianthinum.
Photographed material from Muirshiel, Renfrewshire, 1996.

Squamanita species are rare and remarkable fungi. They are toadstools, but they take over the fruiting bodies of other fungi, the effect being as if the parasitic fungus is grafted onto its host. They are seldom seen and S. paradoxa has only been collected anywhere (Britain or continental Europe) on a handful of occasions. The single discovery at Muirshiel was after a period of prolongued heavy rain. Its required host, C. amianthinum, was abundant at the time. It was also found in Wales at about the same time (S.Evans, pers. comm.) and there was another record in England also the same week; apparently it only fruits when climatic conditions are exactly right. As is usually the case with the larger fungi, our concepts of rarity are based on occurrence of fruitbodies, which may tell us little about the distribution of the fungus itself.

Cystoderma amianthinum
This is a common species of damp, upland turf. The photographed specimen above is rather worn and rain-washed (the stem was probably also handled during collection). When young and fresh (as illustrated below), the stem and cap margin are clothed in numerous white flakes and granules, and the cap surface is covered with more minute granules that readily rub away. C. jasonis is a very similar but somewhat neater and darker species, differing slightly in spore-size; it also appears occasionally, never in the same quantity, and may prefer more heathy conditions.

Cystoderma aminathinum in turf
Cystoderma amianthinum, in upland turf with the moss Rhytidiadelphus sqarrosus, Muirshiel, 2003.


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Page author: Dr. Alan J. Silverside, October 1998 & October 2004, revised and transferred to, October 2009.
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