It’s somewhat overcast at the moment and it’s rather cold outside, though that doesn’t mean the world grinds to a halt. Indeed, fingers might move a little more slowly and words might be slurred as the wind howls and the frost lingers, but one can retain enough sensibility to grab a camera and get out to look at trees and fungi. Perhaps this is when the urban heat island effect is appreciated a little, in fact – urban parks aren’t as cold as the open countryside! There’s probably a joke in there somewhere…
Poor jokes aside, my morning sojourn around an urban park and the adjacent streets was rather fruitful, in terms of fungi that could be found. Admittedly, as winter builds its temporary bulwark everything runs for shelter – fungi are often no different in this regard, with mycelium remaining cosily within its sheltered substrate. Sometimes, and notably for polypores, the weathered remains of old fruiting bodies signals the presence of colonisation, and thus many of the below finds detail this. Of course, one must still be able to identify the remains of fruiting bodies where they exist with some dignity, and therefore a mid-winter exploration can in fact yield very constructive results. For me, the diversity of finds in this state was quite pleasing, considering I spent perhaps two and a half hours essentially walking in circles. Granted, some fungi are true hivernophiles, so look out for fresh fruiting bodies, too!
My morning walk first took me to an oak I actually drove past two days prior, though unfortunately at the time I couldn’t stop. Thus, I detoured via this park first of all, and snapped a few (heh, a dozen…or two) photos of a senescent Laetiporus sulphureus with a great view of passing traffic.
Detour over, I made my way to the main site for my morning’s walk. The first tree (or monolith) I came across, which was a horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), shown earlier in the year in this blog post, I inspected once again. With much of the dryad saddle (Cerioporus squamosus syn. Polyporus squamosus – it had its name changed recently) now senescent and dressing the floor beneath, my focus was turned to the now much larger southern brackets (Ganoderma australe) and the myriad of silverleaf (Chondrostereum purpureum) sporophores that adorned the trunk. The latter were of interest to other park users, who were taken aback by the wonderful colourations of this species. In one of the below images, you’ll even be able to see its cerebral-like morphology.
From here, I turned my attention to a few nearby trees. One hacked-at purple plum (Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardii’) was littered with Ganoderma australe and cushion bracket (Phellinus pomaceus) sporophores, though I admit I was more interested in the high-up Laetiporus sulphureus on a lofty black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). This is an association that is rather frequent, and given the higher parenchyma cell content of black locust, is perhaps less immediately serious when compared to the fungus’ colonisation of willow (Salix alba, notably).
Not too distant from this false acacia stood this ash monolith (this park is full of them, which is great), complete with four sporophores of Perenniporia fraxinea at and slightly distant from the butt. As you’ll recall from my recent post on the hosts of Perenniporia fraxinea, it actually has quite a broad host range (add hornbeam to this mix, too), though ash is arguably its most frequent host. The examples here aren’t too brilliant, though the one on a main anchorage root provides us with a curious example of why we should not just look at the stem base of the tree for this species.
Not wanting to now litter this blog post with countless examples of Inonotus hispidus on ash, I’ll instead take you to a close relative of this species: Inonotus cuticularis. Most often found on beech (Fagus sylvatica), though sometimes also oak, it operates in a similar fashion to its relative on ash and is therefore found most routinely on or around branch and stem wounds. Here the beech was directly roadside (and just outside the park), and the wound the sporophores were seen on probably arose from a branch removed during road construction / management.
Funnily enough, this beech stood almost opposite a silver maple (Acer saccharinum) – again roadside – that sported a few sporophores of Ganoderma australe. The future of this silver maple is potentially questionable, at least in its current un-pruned state, given the aggressive pathogenicity of this fungus.
Getting back into the park, there are a few fingal finds that are interesting enough to be shared. The first we have already seen on this virtual fungal tour, though this time it was colonising a poplar (Populus sp.) and was still attached to the tree. Yes, I’m harping on about Cerioporus squamosus! Up high on an old pruning wound sat a small duo of sporophores, senescent and probably sun-, frost- and wind-scorched!
To round off, there was also another monolith (!!), and once more provided courtesy of a horse chestnut, acting as a host to two species of fungus: Ganoderma australe and the giant polypore (Meripilus giganteus). The southern brackets, by virtue of their perennial nature, endure winter quite effectively. The giant polypore, on the other hand, does not. Nor, probably, does it appreciate dogs tearing it apart and urinating upon it! Regardless, the sight of a wrangled and devastated Meripilus giganteus is a rather common one at this time of year, and for all you fungal sadists out there this is for you!