Wonderful and strange fungi and lichens
Warm and moist October conditions tempts our fungi to reach upwards and produce their fruiting bodies for all to see. In contrast, lichens are present all year round.
Our garden has produced many fungi over the years and each year the selection we see changes. This year there seem to have been a smaller variety and I have selected these eight photographs to show a range at the moment.
Fungi are strange creatures with many animal and plant characteristics placing them in a group separate to animals and plants. Fungi exist as masses of fine white filaments (mycelium) that can spread underground for miles feeding in the soil and which, when conditions are right, combine and send up their cap-like fruiting bodies (mushrooms and toadstools) that produce and release spores from their gills into the environment. Many of these fungi link into the fine roots of trees (mycorrhiza) and enable trees to communicate with other trees and even pass nutrients between trees. Other fungi, (like most in our garden) are wood decomposers, their mycelium penetrating and extracting nutrients from decaying trees and fallen branches.
While fungal fruiting bodies come in many forms, many have a vertical stem with a terminal cap. Pluteus species fungi (image 1) are common on fallen mossy logs. Various Lacaria species are also common at the moment. A bright orange fungus on our lawn turned out to be Lacaria laccata the Deceiver (image 2), various other smaller Lacaria species are growing up through the soil (image 3) and this mauve cluster of fungi are probably Laccaria amethystinea the Amethyst Deceiver (image 4).
Coming up under piles of old cut branches and twigs are these bright white fungi (image 5) that I have no idea what they are. They are linked underground by almost solid masses of white fibrous mycelia. Out on the lawn has been a single red Russula atropurpurea the Blackish-purple Russula (image 6) which darkens towards the centre of the cap.
Growing sideways out of wood are bracket fungi (polypores) which shed their spores from pores below their caps. Larger more stocky brackets are probably Ganoderma species (image 7) while multicoloured tiers of small brackets growing out of cut logs are Coriolus versicolor, the Many-zoned or Turkey-tail polypore (image 8).
Finally, some lichens (lichenised fungi). Lichens are whole communities of fungi, algae, bacteria, yeasts and other micro-organisms. The fungus forms the structure that encloses algal and other micro-organisms that in combination support each other. The algae and bacteria photosynthesise producing carbohydrates used to allow the fungus to grow while the micro-organisms have a moist protective environment. As self-supporting mini-habitats. lichens can grow on rocks and on other bare surfaces such as bricks and roofing felt as well as on trees.
Image 9 is of our shed roof colonised by crustose bright orange Xanthoria parietina lichens and other types. Green leafy Parmelia lichens (image 10) are common higher up on oak trees and we see them when the wind has blown down bark to which they ae attached. Lichens occur on concrete posts, on trees, on the ground and occupying most habitats. Walk along the Winchester Road and examine the ash trees, the smooth stems are often occupied by more orange Xanthoria species coupled with grey-green Parmelia species (image 11).