13 December 2014

North Creagan field trip

A chilly winter's day, but dry with fleeting glimpses of sun.  Our attention turns to lichens at this time of year though we keep an eye out for birds, winter fungi, and anything else of note.

In April I visited St Cyril's Well in the North Creagan woods with the Appin Historical Society, and noticed that while the woods were botanically poor they were rich in lichens, so it would be a good place for a winter walk.

The woods have fine old trees of oak, hazel, ash, birch and alder, and the area around the well is very humid and mossy, ideal for the Oceanic lichen communities for which our part of the world is renowned.

Scleroderma citrinum, decayed remains   Scleroderma citrinum

The item on the left looked potentially exciting as it reminded us all of star-shaped fungi we'd seen in the books but never encountered in reality.  It turned out to be more mundane, the remains of a Common Earthball.  The one on the right, found later by Cynthia, shows how the skin splits and peels back to release the spores.

Tremella lobariacearum   Lobaria scrobiculata

Lobaria pulmonaria or Tree Lungwort was frequent on the hazels, but the one on the left had the added interest of hosting the pinkish-brown blobs of Tremella lobariacearum.  This is a fungus of the same genus as the well-known Yellow Brain Fungus (T mesenterica) and Leafy Brain Fungus (T foliacea) but, like many obscure members of the genus, it is restricted to a particular kind of lichen, in this case Lobaria.  We should look out for other Tremella species on other lichens.

On the right is Lobaria scrobiculata.  Lobaria virens was also present on the hazels, but we did not find the fourth member of the Lobaria quartet, L amplissima, which tends to prefer a less shady situation.

Fuscopannaria sampaiana   Pseudocyphellaria norvegica

Other lichens associated with ancient humid woods included Fuscopannaria sampaiana, on the left, surrounded by Degelia cyanoloma which covered most of the Ash trunk, and a few patches of Pseudocyphellaria norvegica, right, on one of the Hazel bushes.

Graphis elegans

Letters from several different languages can be seen in this fine example of script lichen; there is even a bit of Chinese, I think, on the left just below the middle.  This is Graphis elegans, the Birch equivalent of the famiilar Graphis scripta on Hazel.

  Menegazzia terebrata

Another one to look for on old birches is the Flute Lichen, Menegazzia terebrata.  Its lobes are hollow like those of the common Hypogymnia species, but with holes in the surface to enable the fairies to use them as flutes.

Macrotyphula fistulosa var contorta   Macrotyphula fistulosa var contorta

This was a major puzzle, a dead branch on a live Alder had these strange growths all along its length, and another branch found on the ground had the same.  They turned out to be Macrotyphula fistulosa var contorta, a short and squat variety of the Pipe Club fungus which is normally long and thin and grows on the ground.  I had never seen this fungus before in any of its guises, so definitely the find of the day as far as I was concerned.

Plicatura crispa   Plicatura crispa

It's always a pleasure to find Plicatura crispa, surely the most elegant of the bracket fungi.  Rob found these on a fallen hazel branch but I've rotated Jan's photo to show them as they would have been when growing.  The right-hand photo shows the underside.

Phlebia tremellosa   Fomes fomentarius

This one's gills are even more contorted.  Phlebia tremellosa, found by Rob on a fallen birch branch.  Most of it was spread over rotting Birch Polypores that were on the branch, though it was directly on the bark in places too.  On the right is a magnificent old Hoof Fungus, a common denizen of birchwoods.

Stereocaulon vesuvianum   Unknown green alga

Apologies for this very poor photo of the common rock lichen Stereocaulon vesuvianum, but it's of interest because of the jelly that surrounds all the stems.  I'd never seen anything like this before and brought home a piece of the jelly to look at under the microscope, where it turned out to contain algal cells.  I would welcome any ideas as to what is going on here.

  • Is the jelly part of the lichen, or parasitic on the lichen, or just using it as physical support?
  • Is the jelly an organism containing algal cells in the same way that a lichen does, or is each algal cell an individual organism, and if so what organism produced the jelly?
  • Was the jelly populated by algal cells from the lichen, or are the jelly alga and the lichen alga unrelated?

Hopefully one of our knowledgeable members, or someone else who reads this, can enlighten me.

St Cyril\'s Well

The sight of St Cyril's well brought great relief to all, as I'd promised we'd have our lunch there.  The saint must have been a lichenologist as his well is situated at the best place in the wood for lichens.

Nephroma parile

Nephroma parile on a frosty rock among lichen-rich hazels near the well.  This species is normally on wood, but like all foliose woodland lichens it can sometimes be found on damp mossy rocks beneath the trees.

Geranium robertianum

Finally Jan's shot of a brave Herb Robert flowering in the December cold.

Birds seen on the walk included Jay, Woodcock, Long-tailed Tit, Redwing, Goldcrest and Treecreeper.

Notable lichens other than those mentioned included Usnea rubicunda, Peltigera collina and Leptogium lichenoides.

Fungi included Leafy Brain, Willow and Birch Jelly Buttons, Oyster Mushroom and a couple of Chanterelles.

Next walk Tue 30 Dec.  Venue to be announced.


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All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer except where stated.  Some photos on this page are Cynthia Grindley and Jan Hamilton.  Mouse over photos to see credits.