Species of the Month - January 2014

Velvet Shank

Flammulina velutipes

Flammulina velutipes

This is one of the very few mushroom-shaped fungi that can tolerate frost, and it appears in the middle of winter when there are few other mushrooms about.  The 23 records in our LNHG dataset comprise 1 found in October, 2 in November, 1 in December, 16 in January and 3 in February.

Flammulina velutipes on Ulex europaeus

Velvet Shank grows on living or, more usually, dead wood of trees and shrubs.  18 of our records were found on Gorse, 2 on Broom and 3 on Willow (but see below for identity issues with ones on Willow).  If you have a large patch of Gorse near you and search it in January, paying particular attention to dead stems and branches, you are likely to find this bright orange mushroom.  (You may also find the equally bright Yellow Brain Fungus, but that does not have a stem and a cap)

Flammulina velutipes

The mushroom grows in small tufts; the ones above are on a dead gorse stump on the shore.  The cap is slimy.  The gills are a paler orange than the cap, and the stem is pale creamy yellow at the top, becoming more orange as you go down and finally black or very dark brown at the foot.  This dark part of the stem is covered with soft hairs, hence the name Velvet Shank.

Flammulina velutipes

In 2010 a very similar species called Flammulina elastica, which grows on willow and poplar, was found in Britain.  This species had only recently been split from F velutipes by European DNA researchers, and it is likely that some of the past British records of F velutipes were in fact F elastica.  The only difference between the two species is the dimensions of their spores.  When I found a Flammulina on willow at Tralee in Feb 2013, I was aware of this split so I checked its spores, and they perfectly matched those of F elastica.  This may be the first Scottish record if accepted.

So if anyone finds Velvet Shank on willow or poplar and fancies a bit of citizen science, please collect a fresh cap from it and take a spore print or get it to someone who can.  Meanwhile any found on gorse or broom can be confidently recorded as F velutipes, on the current state of knowledge.  Ones on any host other than those mentioned will be of great interest.

Flammulina velutipes

Here's another clump on gorse.  Though they thrive in the cold they can look battered in the mild, wet and windy weather that is more common in our part of the world, but are usually easy to recognise even when past their best.

Please send in yo
ur Velvet Shank sightings using the form below, or email sightings@lnhg.org.uk with the details if you prefer.  If you are not sure of the identity of your fungus, please send a photo to sightings@lnhg.org.uk, or put one on the LORN forum and let me know it is there.

Date of sighting 
Grid reference 
Host tree/bush 
Name of finder 
Your name (if different) 
Email (not needed if I already know it!) 
Any other details   


By filling in this form you agree that the information contained in this form may be collated and disseminated manually or electronically for environmental decision-making, education, research and other public benefit uses in accordance with the LNHG data access policy.  Your email address will not form part of the record and will not be passed on to anyone.

Carl Farmer
G Biological Records Manager

Sightings so far

12 Jan: F velutipes found near Oban on fallen branch, apparently from either Oak or Horse Chestnut.

13 Jan: F elastica found on Willow at Ganavan

13 Jan: F velutipes found on Gorse at Ganavan

28 Jan: F velutipes found on Gorse during LNHG field trip at North Shian

Note you can still send in records for past species of the month.  Here is the list of species we've had so far:

Dec 2013 - Frilly-fruited Jelly Lichen
Nov 2013 - Whooper Swan
Oct 2013 - Ballerina Waxcap
Sep 2013 - Parrot Waxcap
Aug 2013 - Vapourer Moth

Jul 2013 - Emerald Damselfly
Jun 2013 - Globe Flower
May 2013 - Early Purple Orchid
Apr 2013 - Peacock Butterfly
Mar 2013 - Oak Beauty
Feb 2013 - Coral Lungwort

Jan 2013 - Willow Jelly Button & Birch Jelly Button
Dec 2012 - Dice Lichen
Nov 2012 - Feathered Thorn
Oct 2012 - Dryad's Saddle
Sep 2012 - Tawny Grisette
Aug 2012 - Forest Bug
Jul 2012 - Grayling
Jun 2012 - Greater and Lesser Butterfly Orchids
May 2012 - Small Copper
Apr 2012 - Green Tiger Beetle
Mar 2012 - March Moth
Feb 2012 - Barren Strawberry
Jan 2012 - Brambling
Dec 2011 - Red Squirrel
Nov 2011 - Hazel Gloves
Oct 2011 - Small Tortoiseshell
Sep 2011 - Fly Agaric
Aug 2011 - Grass of Parnassus
Jul 2011 - Golden-ringed Dragonfly
Jun 2011 - 7-spot Ladybird
May 2011 - Green Hairstreak
Apr 2011 - Townhall Clock

Mar 2011 - Frogspawn

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All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer except where stated