3. SUBKINGDOM Phylum Entomophthoromycota

FUNGI ON GEOGRAPH and some notes about fungi

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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright February 2020, M J Richardson; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.
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SUBKINGDOM Zoopagomyceta Phylum Entomophthoromycota

NT2470 : Dead fly on the laundry by M J Richardson
Not quite as simple as it sounds. The fly is dead because it is infected with a fungus. It contacted a fungus spore; the spore stuck, germinated, entered the body and grew, feeding on the body contents of the fly. Just before the fly died its behaviour was changed by the infection, it sought a high place, and became stuck. The fungus then breaks out and produces spores at the weak points between the individual abdominal segments [which are much further apart than normal] - that's what the white bits are in the image; the spores are discharged explosively - hence the need for a high place - better for dispersal into the airstream - the life cycle continues. These fungi [Entomophthoraceae] are being actively investigated and used for pest control in agriculture and horticulture. I noticed this when getting the washing in.
by M J Richardson


NN5760 : Cladonia lichens (crotal) by Dr Richard Murray
All of the common soil-dwelling lichens of the Scottish uplands belong to the genus Cladonia: In the centre of the image are the delicate branches of Cladonia portentosa. The small stalked cup-like structures with red fruiting bodies belong to a different species of Cladonia.
by Dr Richard Murray

NS3678 : A lichen - Parmelia saxatilis by Lairich Rig
This is an extremely common lichen in Britain. It can be found on moderately acidic bark as well as on rocks and walls.

(Compare a similar species: NS3678 : A lichen - Parmelia sulcata. Another species, P. ernstiae ( Link ), is very similar to P. saxatilis, but is less common, and often has little lobules on its lobes.)

The example shown here was growing on one of the stones of a dry-stone wall.

On the upper surface, the outer layer (cortex) of the lobes is covered with a network of white lines; this network consists of pseudocyphellae (places where the cortex is thinner). Little stubby projections called isidia form on these lines; they are clearly visible through a lens, and, in this photograph, they give the centre of the lichen (which is densely covered with isidia) a rough appearance.

Isidia contain both fungal and algal cells (the two components of a lichen); they are designed to break off and propagate the lichen without the need for sexual reproduction. In some lichens, isidia are narrowed near the base so that they can break off more easily.

Parmelia saxatilis and P. sulcata are both assigned to zone 4 of the Hawksworth and Rose scale (see NS3778 : A lichen - Ramalina fastigiata), which means that they are fairly tolerant of sulphur dioxide pollution. However, they are much more vulnerable to other forms of air pollution: both of these species (as well as Hypogymnia physodes – NS3976 : A lichen - Hypogymnia physodes), "contain salazinic acid and seem to be especially sensitive to fluoride exposure" [Chapter 5 ("Fluorides") in "Pollution monitoring with lichens" by D.H.S.Richardson, 1992].

Historically, this species was used to produce a purple-brown dye. The lichen is sometimes said to have the common name Crottle, a name that is derived from the Gaelic "crotal"; however, both the Gaelic word and its English derivative can be broader in meaning. Under the headword "crotal", Dwelly's "Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary" gives the meaning: "general name for the varieties of lichen used for producing dyes of various shades of red and brown"; it also gives the more restricted meaning: "the lichen, stone- or heath-parmelia – Parmelia saxatilis and Parmelia omphalodes".
by Lairich Rig

NS3678 : A lichen - Cladonia diversa by Lairich Rig
The lichen shown here was growing on top of a dry-stone wall. Like other Cladonia species, it has a two-fold structure, consisting of (1) leafy scale-like structures at the base, and (2) erect structures called "podetia".

In this species, the podetia have cups on top, bearing red fruits (these are not just masses of spores, but they do produce spores; some species produce red fruits, some brown fruits, while others rarely produce fruit at all). In C. diversa, the fruits sometimes merge to form a mass that completely fills the cup, as shown in this photo.

This species (listed under "C. coccifera" in older books) is very common in a variety of habitats, including "acid soil, rotting trees, heathland, sand dunes and soil pockets on walls in upland regions" ["Lichens – An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species", Frank S. Dobson, 2005]. It appears yellow-green because of the presence of usnic acid (a substance which has occasionally been employed for its antiseptic properties).

At 6 on the Hawksworth and Rose scale (NS3778 : A lichen - Ramalina fastigiata), this species is moderately tolerant of atmospheric sulphur dioxide pollution.
by Lairich Rig

NS3678 : Lichens on a boulder in a disused quarry by Lairich Rig
Several species of lichen can be seen here growing upon the top of a large upright boulder in a disused sandstone quarry (the quarry is shown here: NS3678 : Carman Quarry).

The colourful orange-yellow lichen is the very common species Xanthoria parietina, which is a familiar sight on rocks and trees. Though brightly coloured here in its well-exposed location, it can be almost green when growing in more shaded locations, or when wet. It is common "on nutrient-rich trees, rocks, and walls, especially bird-perching sites" [F.S.Dobson, "Lichens - An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species"]. A close inspection shows the lobe margins to be free of the rock, a feature that distinguishes this lichen from some otherwise similar Caloplaca species, in which the lobe margins are firmly bonded to the rock.

Left of centre is a pale lichen with small red-brown discs. This is Lecanora campestris. Like the previous species, it is common in nutrient-enriched sites. Since the boulder on which it is growing is tall and post-like, with a clear view, and with open space all around it, it is quite likely that it is indeed used as a bird-perching site; this would make the top of the boulder rich in nitrogenous nutrients.

Appearing in the centre of photo, to the upper left, and to the lower right (where it is encircled by the yellow lichen), are some small patches of another species, Physcia adscendens. As can be seen through a hand-lens, the ends of its lobes are hood-shaped and are fringed with dark-tipped hair-like structures called cilia. For a closer look at a more extensive patch of this species growing on the same rock, see: NS3678 : A lichen - Physcia adscendens. This species is common on tree bark and on rock. (There is a very similar species called Physcia tenella, which has the same dark-tipped cilia, but whose lobe ends are curled back - NS4274 : A lichen - Physcia tenella; oddly, where fragments of the two species occur together, they can merge to form a vegetative or "mechanical" hybrid combining the characteristics of both species [George Baron, "Understanding Lichens"], and some even consider the two to be a single species.)

For other lichen species found in the same disused quarry, see: NS3679 : A lichen - Ochrolechia parella and NS3679 : A lichen - Rhizocarpon petraeum.
by Lairich Rig

NS3779 : The "Map Lichen" - Rhizocarpon geographicum by Lairich Rig
This lichen, a few centimetres across, was growing on the boulders of an ancient hill-fort. Like crazy paving, thin black lines divide its surface into smaller areas that are called 'areoles'; these black lines are part of the 'prothallus' (areas without algal cells). The larger black patches are the 'apothecia' (structures which produce spores).

This very distinctive patterning gives the lichen its common name: "because of the strong pattern of lines formed by the black prothallus running between the areoles and the black apothecia it is often known as the Map Lichen" [Frank S. Dobson, "Lichens - An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species"]

Rocks will often be found covered in "mosaics" made up of this species and others, with boundaries clearly visible between them. This specimen has a yellowish surface because it is growing on a site fully exposed to sunlight (see NS3779 : A lichen - Xanthoparmelia conspersa, growing at the same site). However, its colour varies according to the amount of exposure to light, another instance where the characteristics of a lichen can reveal details about its environment. This species is "yellowish green when exposed to strong mountain sunlight, but greenish where the light is weaker" [George Baron, "Understanding Lichens"]
by Lairich Rig

NS4276 : A lichen - Evernia prunastri by Lairich Rig
A common name for this species is "Oak Moss", although it is not a moss, nor is it confined to Oak trees. The specimen in this photograph was growing on the bark of a tree that stands beside a footpath leading to Overtoun House.

This is a fairly common species on trees, and it is quite tolerant of air pollution. Although it looks rather similar to Ramalina farinacea, the branches of Evernia prunastri have a paler underside, a feature that is visible in this photograph (see also NS3778 : A lichen - Ramalina farinacea). Another similar species is Pseudevernia furfuracea: NS3985 : A lichen - Pseudevernia furfuracea.

In some countries, E. prunastri and P. furfuracea are economically important species: "The perfume industry uses lichens in large quantities, chiefly oak moss Evernia prunastri (L.) Ach. and tree moss Pseudevernia furfuracea (L.) Zopf, thousands of tons of which are collected from trees in the forests of France, Yugoslavia, and Morocco" [Jack R. Laundon, in "Lichens" (Shire Natural History)].

Other diverse uses for this species, as listed by Frank S. Dobson in "Lichens - An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species", include: a flavouring for bread in the Middle East; wadding in shotguns; and a nest-building material that is favoured by long-tailed tits. The same work notes that "the usnic acid it contains can be used to produce an antibiotic but it has also been known to produce an allergy in woodcutters".
by Lairich Rig

NS3679 : A lichen - Rhizocarpon petraeum by Lairich Rig
In older books, this may be listed under the synonym Rhizocarpon concentricum, a name that well describes its appearance. The concentric pattern is formed by many black dots arranged in rings; these individual dots are the spore-producing discs (apothecia).

This lichen was growing on rocks in the northern half of a disused quarry: NS3678 : Carman Quarry. Compare another member of this genus which presents a very different appearance: NS3779 : The "Map Lichen" - Rhizocarpon geographicum.
by Lairich Rig

NH2550 : Blood-spot (Haematomma ventosum) by Greg Fitchett
This lichen has blood-red apothecia and takes its name from the Greek word 'haema' for blood. It is described as a common species in British mountains and was found on a small boulder near the roadside.
by Greg Fitchett

NN5801 : Lichens on a  gravestone by Greg Fitchett
The lichens adorned a 1915 gravestone in the churchyard of the Port of Menteith Parish Church.
by Greg Fitchett

NH7544 : Lichen on a Clava Cairn by Julian Paren
One small rock that makes up the most western Clava Cairn. And one small part of it to illustrate the growth of lichens on a structure 4000 years old.
by Julian Paren

NL9841 : Lichens on a gravestone by M J Richardson
A heavy growth in the moist and windy atmosphere of Soroby burial ground.
by M J Richardson
Shared Description

NM9640 : Tree Lungwort in Barcaldine Forest by M J Richardson
Growing on ash, this epiphytic lichen [Lobaria pulmonaria] is an indicator of ancient woodland. It is a symbiosis of three kingdoms - an ascomycete fungus, a green alga and cyanobacteria.
by M J Richardson

NS3681 : A lichen - Peltigera membranacea by Lairich Rig
The orange-brown discs are the spore-producing structures (apothecia). The pale underside of the lichen was covered in a prominent pattern of raised white veins. Pale rhizines (root-like structures) can also be seen projecting from the underside.

This lichen was growing on the moss-covered base of a tree, just inside the woods. Its upper surface is "bullate" (i.e. covered in blister-like bumps that correspond to the pattern of veins underneath); contrast the smooth upper surface of another very common lichen of this genus: NS3985 : A lichen - Peltigera hymenina.

Another species, P. canina, is similar, but is "much rarer than P. membranacea and found mainly on rather basic impoverished dunes and sandy soils" [F.S.Dobson, "Lichens An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species"].

P. membranacea and P. hymenina are among the fewer than 10% of lichens that contain cyanobacteria rather than algae; they both contain Nostoc, the most common cyanobacterial genus occurring in lichens.

Nostoc is also found as a free-living organism, occurring as gelatinous sheets, or in other forms; see NS3977 : Cyanobacteria - Nostoc pruniforme.
by Lairich Rig

MYXOMYCETES - slime moulds

NS3977 : A slime mould - Arcyria denudata by Lairich Rig
In the vicinity of a large man-made mound (NS3977 : Mound beside the River Leven), a damp log was host to five different species of slime mould (see Link for the others).

Arcyria denudata is the vivid reddish species shown at the centre and in the right-hand side of the photo. The spore-producing structures (sporangia) form the fluffy-looking structures shown in this photo; microscopically, they can be seen to consist of threads called "elaters" (elaters also occur in liverworts: NS3878 : A liverwort - Pellia epiphylla); these threads change their shape in response to changing humidity, and so serve to push out spores when conditions are suitable.

The small shiny black spheres in the left-hand side of the photo also belong to a slime mould, but to a quite different species: NS3977 : A slime mould - Metatrichia floriformis. Slime moulds cannot, in general, be identified by their naked-eye appearance alone, or (even worse) from photos alone; in many cases, microscopic examination is required (specimens of the two species shown here were examined at home).

[The photo was taken during the season when a large number of slime moulds can generally be found, but the weather of the preceding few months probably accounted for their particular abundance when this photo was taken. According to the textbooks, a good time to search for slime moulds is after a few dry days following a prolonged period of rain. The photo was taken after a few dry days following one of the wettest summers ever recorded for this area (on that topic, compare NS3977 : Cyanobacteria - Nostoc commune).]

For another Arcyria species, which forms considerably larger structures, see: NS3878 : A slime mould - Arcyria nutans.
by Lairich Rig

NS3977 : A slime mould - Tubifera ferruginosa by Lairich Rig
(Syn. Tubulifera arachnoidea)

This specimen was on a log beside a NS3977 : Path through the woods, and was over 5cm across. For more information, see NS3977 : A slime mould - Tubifera ferruginosa.

The bright colour does not last; after only a few days, the slime mould would be considerably darker: see NS3977 : A slime mould - Tubifera ferruginosa (a different and older specimen, photographed on the same occasion; note also a few small examples of older specimens at the bottom of the present photograph).
by Lairich Rig

NS3977 : A slime mould - Tubifera ferruginosa by Lairich Rig
(Syn. Tubulifera arachnoidea)

Beside a NS3977 : Path through the woods, these sporocarps (bodies consisting of the spore-producing stage of a slime mould) of the species Tubifera ferruginosa were on some well-mashed-up wood. The largest of them shown here is about 5cm across.

When newly-formed, the sporocarps are attractive and eye-catching in colour: NS3977 : A slime mould - Tubifera ferruginosa. However, the vivid orange colour is ephemeral; the ones in my photograph are, in terms of development, only a day or two older. Later, they are less dark, becoming a dull brown.
by Lairich Rig

NS3778 : A slime mould plasmodium by Lairich Rig
Shown here is an early stage, the so-called plasmodium (see Link for an explanation) of a slime mould; this later develops into a fruiting body, which is less slimy in appearance, and which produces spores.

(I had, for a long time, captioned this image Mucilago crustacea, but I now doubt that original ID; for what it is worth, the species Fuligo muscorum is a far better visual match. Learning more about a subject often leads to being less sure, and that is no bad thing. I therefore leave the slime mould in this photograph unidentified.)
by Lairich Rig

NS3878 : A slime mould - Mucilago crustacea by Lairich Rig
This specimen was about 4cm wide, and encrusted onto blades of grass; it was found beside the footpath that is shown on the map, and can be seen to be a convoluted mass of tubules (as is also well exemplified in TM0634 : Autumn slime mould species in grassland (2), another contributor's photograph of a specimen at a similar stage of development).

In the literature, this stage is sometimes described as consisting of "anastomosing tubules" (where "anastomosing" means that many new mouth-like cross-connections have formed between adjacent tubules); the picture shows the complex structure that results from this process.

The present photograph is the second of a series of three images showing different stages of the slime mould's development. See the other stages for more information.

Previous stage: Link
Next stage: Link
by Lairich Rig

NS3977 : A slime mould - Lycogala epidendrum (undeveloped) by Lairich Rig
The irregular patches with pale edges would originally have been plasmodia, the mobile feeding stage of the slime mould. Plasmodia often develop into rounded spore-producing bodies (aethalia); these ones did not (perhaps conditions were not favourable just then), but they have retained the vivid colour of the plasmodium. Slime moulds can also form sclerotia, entering a dormant state in which they wait out unfavourable conditions. It is not clear precisely what state the remains shown here represent; however, they did not develop further, and they will simply fade away over time.

However, the picture also shows that some of the plasmodia that were on this piece of wood did successfully develop into spore-bearing structures: a few young examples of these Lycogala aethalia can be seen near the top of the image, right of centre. Compare NS3977 : A slime mould - Lycogala epidendrum; in particular, note the colour of the droplet in that picture; it is the same as the remains in the present picture.

These remnants were found beside a NS3977 : Path through the woods. See NS3977 : A slime mould - Stemonitis species, taken on the same day, for an explanation of why slime moulds were abundant on this occasion.
by Lairich Rig

NS9746 : Leocarpus fragilis - a slime mould by M J Richardson
This small but spectacular slime mould is reportedly common throughout Britain, but in 50+ years of collecting I have never seen it before. Its habitat is leaf litter, especially amongst conifers, gorse and birch, and when ready to produce spores the yellow plasmodia ascend and cluster on trees and vegetation up to a metre above ground and produce spprangia. These were on bark of a pine, and each sporangium was about 3mm long hanging from a 2mm stalk. Slime moulds are not true fungi, and more closely related to animals, with the spores germinating to form amoebae.
by M J Richardson

NS3878 : A slime mould - a Stemonitis species by Lairich Rig
These examples were in Renton Wood, beside a NS3878 : Path through the woods.

The brightly-coloured parts on top of the thin black stalks are the sporangia (spore capsules). Because they are not yet mature, they are still partially transparent, and a dark continuation of the stalk can be seen within them; this is called the columella, and, when the sporangia are mature, it will be the central axis of a branching structure called the capillitium, on which the spores are supported.

The structures shown here developed from a plasmodium, a mass of protoplasm within a cell membrane, but not all of the mass of the plasmodium went into forming them: in each group, some membranous pinkish material can be seen at the base of the stalks; this is the hypothallus, consisting of leftover material from the plasmodium.

These immature sporangia developed quickly: only 90 minutes later, their colour had deepened from yellow to orange-red. Other groups at different stages of development were on the same piece of wood.

The time of year was right, and the recent weather had been favourable, for the development of some other common slime moulds: Fuligo septica and some Lycogala species could be seen in these woods at the same time.
by Lairich Rig

NS3983 : A slime mould - Badhamia utricularis by Lairich Rig
In passing, I noticed these structures on a branch about six feet from the ground, beside a NS3983 : Path to Whinny Hill Wood.

The spore capsules (sporangia) are grouped in clusters that hang from a common stalk, like bunches of grapes. This habit suggested the species Badhamia utricularis, and a closer look at the habitat confirmed that identification.

Badhamia utricularis is "common throughout the British Isles, especially in winter" [Bruce Ing's identification handbook]. It does not develop directly on wood, but rather on bracket fungi or resupinate fungi (fungi that grow as a flat crust); in this case, there was an inconspicuous toothed resupinate fungus encrusting the branch, and these slime mould clusters were hanging from its surface.

The fungus itself is not well seen in this image, but it is more clearly apparent in a photograph of the plasmodial stage of the same slime mould species: NS3983 : A slime mould - Badhamia utricularis (plasmodium). That plasmodium was located nearby, on the underside of the same branch; it is an earlier stage of the slime mould's life-cycle.

In the present photograph, the peridium (outer layer) of most of the mature spore capsules had dehisced (split open), but a few intact clusters can still be seen (for example, at the lower right).
by Lairich Rig

NS3983 : A slime mould - Badhamia utricularis (plasmodium) by Lairich Rig
The glutinous bright yellow patch is a couple of centimetres across, and it is located on the underside of a branch of a tree alongside a NS3983 : Path to Whinny Hill Wood.

This is the plasmodium (the slowly mobile feeding stage) of the slime mould species Badhamia utricularis. The slime mould has developed on a toothed resupinate (flat) fungus, which is most apparent at the upper left corner of the image. Some mature specimens of an earlier fruiting of the same slime mould species could be seen nearby: NS3983 : A slime mould - Badhamia utricularis.
by Lairich Rig

NS3977 : A slime mould - Trichia species by Lairich Rig
This was just one of at least five different slime mould species (see Link for the others) that were present, all at the same time, on a particularly productive log, not far from a large artificial mound (NS3977 : Mound beside the River Leven). For scale, the orange patch on the left is about 2cm across, from left to right.

These colonies developed from an earlier plasmodial phase; at that stage, the slime mould really is slime (it looked like wallpaper paste). The plasmodium moves over the wood rather like a giant amoeba, ingesting bacteria. It later "fruits", forming the spore-producing structures (sporocarps) shown here; the sporocarps are the individual small rounded structures visible in the photo. What is left over is the so-called hypothallus, visible here as a translucent substance.

[Such densely-packed colonies are quite characteristic of T. persimilis and the similar T. scabra. In any case, two separate fruitings are shown in this image. Both are of the same species, but the one on the right came from a different plasmodium, and is two or three days less developed than the colony on the left; this is what accounts for the difference in colour.]

The sporocarps mature from white, through yellow, to the orange colour shown here, darkening further to a brownish colour. Their outer layer (peridium) then disintegrates, exposing a fluffy mass of spirally-bound threads called elaters, which bear the spores: NS3681 : A slime mould - Trichia species. On the function of elaters, compare NS3977 : A slime mould - Arcyria denudata.

The species Trichia persimilis and the closely-related T. affinis are frequently attacked by a parasitic fungus called Polycephalomyces tomentosus [see "The Myxomycetes of Britain and Ireland" by Bruce Ing], causing spiky outgrowths.
by Lairich Rig

NS3976 : A slime mould - Enteridium lycoperdon by Lairich Rig
This fruiting body was growing on a standing dead tree, close to the cycle route.

This slime mould was about 7cm high, and was as glutinous as it looks; this is an early stage of the fruiting body. It later develops a smooth silvery surface, which then splits to expose a brown spore mass beneath. When the spores have been dispersed by wind and rain (around two weeks after the stage shown here), there is little left to see but inconspicuous delicate wisps, resembling soft foam padding. (Although they are not shown here, I was able to record all of these stages photographically.)

See also SX8088 : A slime mould - Enteridium lycoperdon, which shows a slightly later stage of the same species.

Enteridium lycoperdon is a fairly common species of slime mould, and is typically seen on standing dead trees in the spring, or on large pieces of fallen wood. Native alder is a common host; the slime mould emerges from beetle holes in the bark.
by Lairich Rig


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