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Archive for October, 2013

Walking round this morning there are some patches of damage but most is unchanged. Lots of leaves knocked off the trees and plenty of twigs on the ground, but a limited number of places where large branches have come down or small trees been flattened. Phew! And lots of the fallen twigs and branches have lichen over them. I’m unable to identify most of them so I have simply added the photos to my collection. The normal feel for me was emphasised by a group of squirrels playing in a rose-bush before settling down to a snack.

Squirrel eating rose hips, 30.10.2013

A fallen section of ash tree – which fell without damaging graves.

Lichen covered branches on fallen wood 30.10.2013

Lichen species 30.10.2013

Link to photos of Abney Park Cemetery October 2013.

Link to lichen photos from Abney Park Cemetery.

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Last Sunday, around lunch time, was the most scared I have ever been while in Abney Park. I was concentrating on the log remains of an ash tree when a massive crash and a thud happened to the north of me; then after a couple of minutes another smaller similar noise. It wasn’t enough to have been a tree, I think it wasn’t enough to have been a tree, but a branch easily could sound like that. As the second crash hit I was on my way to the side gate.

I spoke to a couple of groups of people on my way out and advised them that branches had begun falling….. and they were unconcerned. They said they would be gone soon, or wouldn’t stay long, just a short walk round. Quite honestly – I don’t think they believed me – or they didn’t understand how heavy a branch is or how unpredictable this tree falling process is.

Abney was closed soon after this.

Abney is still closed as I write. The health and safety guys know Abney can be locked and therefore it is a problem that can be set aside so the fallen trees that can’t be locked away or are obstructing the highway etc can be dealt with first. Quite right too! The office manager, John, thinks about 15 to 20 trees are down, some across paths, and a couple of the beloved and valuable veteran trees are among them. I don’t know which ones.

This is where the health and safety rules come into their own. A fallen tree on the ground is not really dangerous. The tree it damaged on its way down could be. The tree that falls onto another tree and rests there until a slight shift in the conditions cause it to finish its downwards progress is also dangerous. They need checking.

Sycamore damage a couple of minutes walk from Abney Park

Just up the road a sycamore has come down. It was a healthy tree, recently checked, and it came down overnight as the winds were at their worst. This is not ever really foreseeable.

It makes it all the more ridiculous that the Wilmer Place building adjacent to Abney is going to be built within falling distance of the line of trees inside the Abney boundary. These trees will die, if from the disturbance of the build or from old age and weather. If they fall before or after they die they could fall on the new building, which will start a couple of meters from the present fence, around where the grass stops. It is daft to even think of building this close to the trees.

Wilmer place, south end of the boundary.

Wilmer Place, north end of the boundary

 

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Fungus on Ash log.

The storm that went through last night and this morning may well have brought down some trees in Abney Park. The resultant wood is ripe for fungus recycling. I asked Russell Miller about the wood should the ash disease (Chalara dieback of ash – Chalara fraxinea) hit Abney, and the wood will stay in Abney and wood piles be created. Bad news for ash trees but an intesting change for fungi.

There is an ash tree sectioned into logs at the moment producing a range of fungi. The photos are all in the flickr set of Fungi and Slimemolds 2013, with more information in my notes (accessed via the pages where fungus is listed alphabetically). The arrival of new wood piles is not always such a bad thing.

Bisporella citrina, Lemon Disco

Coprinellus micaceus, Glistening Ink Cap

Crepidotus mollis, Daldinia concentrica (King Alfred’s Cakes) and Coprinellus disseminatus (Glistening Ink Cap) 27.10.2013

Mycena speira, Bark Bommet Mycena

Scutellinia scutellata, Eyelash Fungus

Trametes versicolor, Turkeytail

Mycena olida 27.10.2013

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There have been a lot of articles written about fungus foraging, what damage it does etc. I am going to add my ideas with regard to the situation in Abney Park.

Fungal fruiting bodies (FBD) are the equivalent to a flower, and they sit on and are produced by hyphae. The hyphae are the main body of the fungus. Have you ever kicked over damp leaves and seen a white fibrous matter linking the lower leaves? That is hyphae. Occasionally it is thick enough to be visible as in the ‘bootlaces’ of honey fungus, renowned for the black mesh that is seen under the bark when a tree has died. Removing the flower from a plant can stimulate more flower production without really damaging the plant. Removing the FBDs from the hyphae might also stimulate the production of more FBD, it might exhaust the whole fungus but it is probably going to be less damaging than the compression of the soil around the FBDs which can damage the fine threads of the hyphae.

Bootlaces of Armillaria, 1.2.2013

The impact on the soil in Abney is minimal as most walking is directed along paths and the off path traffic is limited by the graves.

What could be more annoying is the effect on the nature reserve of removing or prematurely knocking over clusters of caps. Agaricus and Chlorophyllum are the prime species involved here. Each year I find clusters of caps picked and discarded. They have not been kicked over but are free of the ground and on their sides around where they have been picked. Agaricus is a group of species that includes edible types, but in Abney they are probably not. They conform to the “if I can peel it and it has a white cap it is safe to eat” that has been quoted at me occasionally, but it doesn’t work. Most Agaricus caps in Abney are yellow stainers which the books will tell you cause projectile vomiting etc. The best way to tell is by picking a fresh cap and bruising the base… and watching it go bright yellow. If a cap from one cluster goes yellow the chances are that all the caps in the immediate area will do the same. So why pick a whole group? If you see anyone doing this would you ask them for me? At least they still produced spores when they are maturing in the place where they grew.

What is more interesting to me is the invertebrates that are associated with the caps. I have spent a lot of time recently looking at the little creatures associated with them. Yesterday I looked at an exuberant flowering of Glistening Ink Cap, one of the more common ink caps in Abney. There were 2 flying insects living around the caps. There was a Fungus Gnat, and I am going to quote Wickipedia here….

Fungus gnats are small, dark, short-lived flies, of the families Sciaridae, Diadocidiidae, Ditomyiidae, Keroplatidae, Bolitophilidae, and Mycetophilidae (order Diptera); they are sometimes placed in the superfamily Mycetophiloidea. The larvae of fungus gnats feed on plant roots and fungi, which aids in the decomposition of organic matter. The adults are 2–5 mm long and are important pollinators that can help spread mushroom spores as well as plant pollen.

Coprinellus micaceus, Glistening Ink Cap 27.10.2013 with fungus gnat

And then there was a more substantial fly that I have yet to get even close to identifying.

Coprinellus micaceus, Glistening Ink Cap 27.10.2013 with fly

A small spider was living under the rim of one of the caps and making a very fine living from darting out and grabbing the odd gnat. I’ve seen a robin and a wren feeding on these flies.

When I look at slides taken from FBD to try to identify them I continually coma across microscopic animals. Apart from the maggots there are even smaller foraging creatures I have no idea about. There are a couple of examples here but they are the tip of the iceberg…

Invertebrates feeding in cap 20.10.2013 (1)

Invertebrate feeding in cap (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the fungus caps are removed or prematurely shattered (stamping) or dried (picking and leaving on the ground) it is taking out a section of the network of interrelations that are important in a nature reserve.

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Exidia thuretiana

Exidia thuretiana is a common species in Abney, and I think common elsewhere, but it doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention. When I have been on fungal walks

Clear / white growth of Exidia thuretiana

Pink / brown growth of Exidia thuretiana

and it has turned up – a lot of people pick up the wood it grows on and inspect the fruiting bodies, but rarely is it touched. It looks like it should be wet or slimy, but it isn’t. It is cold and flexible, but leaves no residue on fingers that touch it. It is tough. It doesn’t squash easily onto a slide to get the thinness. It is translucent with a smooth surface texture that is shiny. It grows in rounded shapes that expand and merge along the wood surface, while the initial growth is discernible in the surface shape. Microscopically it is a tangle of clear hyphae which branch more finely at the surface. The spores develop on hypobasidium which grow as subglobular or clavulate and mature to have finger like projection, epibasidia, (2 or 4 per hypobasidia), which in turn grow the spores. Photos and sketches are in my notes.

There is another species, Exidia nucleatum,  that has a white central core of calcium oxalate but in all other respects is the same. Possibly it is less low growing on the wood, but both can be low growing.

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There are only 45 records of Coprinopsis erythrocephala in the British Fungi Checklist, so it doesn’t grow very commonly. It is growing happily in Abney at the moment, on soil just in a vulnerable place where it can be trodden on so easily along the north boundary path, so I’ve got in quick with collecting and making notes.

Caps when first seen, 8.10.2013

Caps 10.10.2013

It is not a mature growth that I’ve described, but it does have all the right features already in place. The most distinctive feature is the colour of the young caps, they are orange/red. This fades as they mature to become blackish. Once that orange shows up there is little else that it can be. I’ve put my notes here.

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If you get the chance, and have the time, I can recommend watching the delicate and skillful process of web creation.

The strand of silk are secreted from the spinneret glands at the tip of their abdomen. There are several glands which produce different types of silk, either the strong supporting threads that form the initial ‘ropes’ between trees etc, the finer sticky thread to catch the prey or the fine thread for wrapping the prey. The lady I watched this morning (she was quite large and probably therefore female) was onto the sticky threads and handled them with care and attention while moving with a practised confidence.

There are a few more photos in the flickr file for September 2013.

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