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Wonderful Woodland Walk

Almost perfect conditions for a fungi foray in the woods this morning

Shame I didn't spot this one a day or 2 sooner - Laetiporus sulphureus, Chicken of the woods. Amazing bright colour when immature, easy to identify and with a pleasant flavour which can readily substitute for chicken in many dishes.

As a decay fungi, it is an annual fruiting body causing brown cubical rot. When a large proportion of the wood is degraded the tree may become prone to limb or stem failure although, as a main 'hollowing agent' of ancient Oak, Yew and Sweet chestnut, the tree and fungus can survive together for centuries.

Another 'edible' - Oudemansiella mucida, Porcelain fungus. As is often the case, there is a clue in the name which acts to dissuade all but the most dedicated fungi enthusiast from putting this one in the basket. The specific epithet 'mucida' refers to the layer of transparent mucus that covers the caps of these mushrooms. Apparently, if the slime is washed off and the stems removed, they sauté well and deliver a rich flavour. Think I'll pass on that one!

Predominantly found on Beech, an 'annual', short lived fruiting body which appears at any time of the year, the fungus is slow acting and generally confined to wood which has been previously damaged.

Bonus album - no fungal fruiting body or obvious sign of current colonisation but this Beech has defied the t/R ratio theory for the 10 years I've been aware of it and it lends itself much more towards the "safety factor v strength-loss" theory of the VALID tree risk approach.

Another Beech with a 'before' and 'after' picture around 8 years apart. If you look closely, in the first pic you can see the branch union (upper left) which is the only remaining column of vitality in the tree in the second pic. This column has now fully compartmentalised as a separate functioning 'tree' (albeit likely drawing from the original root system) despite the main stem showing highly advanced structural decay. And so the cycle of life for this tree will continue with nutrients provided from the breakdown of the main stem nourishing the new growth.

Another Beech and another long term subject of observation - how long this one will remain upright will very much depend upon the innocuous looking little beastie tucked away in the buttress. In this example it is not the big bold perennial fungal bodies of the Ganoderma (most likely Ganoderma australe) which present the greatest threat, but rather the little, almost indiscernible, white patch which indicates early colonisation of Kretzschmaria deusta - a particularly destructive little beastie!

Over a period of years this tree has hosted a series of fungal colonisations and we now see the resultant chemical reactions (bacterial slime flux) and secondary colonisations by more 'aggressive' species which are taking advantage of the depleted health and vitality (ability to present barriers to fungal colonisation) of this tree.

Ganoderma can (and frequently does) have a long term relationship with a mature Beech tree and they are not (necessarily) an immediate cause for concern.

In the first picture we see desiccated (old) Ganoderma brackets mid way up the stem with fairly extensive slime flux exuding from the site of the wound.

Slime flux is caused by a condition inside the tree called wetwood, which is caused when bacteria invade a wound or injury. The bacteria cause fermentation and produce methane gas. The methane gas creates pressure and pushes the bacteria-laden liquid out of the old wound. The liquid is odorless inside the tree but takes on a foul smell when it reaches the air outside and is colonized by yeast-like fungi and other organisms.

Slime flux will not kill a tree but is merely a sign that there has been an earlier injury. Curiously, wetwood and the associated slime flux help protect the infected tree since the bacterial growth creates conditions in the wood and slime that inhibit wood decay organisms.

Slightly further up the stem we see a large Ganoderma bracket to the left of a wound site and there are smaller fruiting bodies tucked away within the wound.

The next one 'we' think most likely to be Grifola frondosa, Hen of the woods.

And finally, no good for eating and not of any great concern for living trees - since they most commonly colonise deadwood - Hypholoma fasciculare, Sulphur tuft. Nice picture though!