Little Assynt Wildlife Project (4) – Loop Path Fungus Foray 16 September 2018

October 3rd 2018

Production of fungal fruiting bodies seems to have benefitted from the ‘long hot summer’ of June-July 2018 followed by the September rains. This was certainly our impression on the foray led by Bruce Ing on 16thSeptember along the Loop Path at Little Assynt (NC1525).  The weather forecast was not optimistic, but four members of the Field Club and two pairs of visitors (from Berkshire and Clachtoll) joined Bruce and wife Ellie at the Little Assynt Tree Nursery Carpark (153251) at 11a.m. After a damp and breezy start, the weather steadily improved; we had lunch on boulders in the sun off the path and turned back at 3p.m. just beyond a small pine plantation (158259).

Bruce took a selection of specimens home for examination under the microscope and his eventual tally for the day was 60 species.  This is a good haul for a Little Assynt walk of some 800m through heathland, native woodland of downy birch, rowan, eared and grey willow, and a small stand of Scots pine.  A list of those he identified is appended and a summary follows.

Mushrooms and their relatives (Agaricales) included the archetypical toadstool fly agaric Amanita muscaria, seven members of the difficult genus of webcaps Cortinarius spp., the very toxic livid pinkgill Entoloma sinuatum, four species of poisonpies Hebeloma spp., the colourful if common blackening waxcap Hygrocybe conica, the rare red-capped weeping widow Lachrymaria pyrotricha and the stump puffball Lycoperdon pyriforme.  There were also assorted conecapsmoss bells, fibrecapscavaliersbonnets and knights.  Nearly all of these are mycorrhizal associates of downy birch, with a few from grass and leaf litter.  The only member of this group associated with pine was a stinking puffball Lycoperdon nigrescens.

Jelly fungi (Auriculariales) were represented by just the pine jelly Exidia saccharina, in black patches on branches.  Boletes and their relatives (Boletales) included three species of Leccinumassociated with downy birch, L. cyanobasileucum, L. melaenum and three huge examples of the common brown birch bolete L. scabrum.  The three other species from this group are all associated with either birch (which Bruce described as an ‘honorary conifer’) or pine, the brown rollrim Paxillus involutus, cow bolete Suillus bovinusand slippery jack S. luteus.

An elegant group of grey chanterelles Craterellus cinereus represented their group (Cantharellales), and the ubiquitous birch bracket or razor strop fungus Fomitopsis betulinawas the only example found of the bracket fungi (Polyporales).

The very colourful milkcaps, brittlegills and their relatives (Russulales) were represented by eight species of milkcap Lactariusspp., mostly associated with birch, but two with pine, saffron milkcap L. deliciosus and rufous milkcap L. rufus.  There were, perhaps unusually, only two brittlegills, the birch brittlegill Russula betularum and bloody brittlegill R. sanguinaria, the latter associated with pine.

Rusts and smuts, one of Bruce’s special interests, were represented by three rusts, on willow, downy birch and common dog-violet, and a smut Urocystis ranunculi on creeping buttercup.

All of the above-mentioned fungi are from the major subdivision of the fungal kingdom known as the Basidiomycota (with some 32,000+ described species).  Members of the other major subdivision, the Ascomycota (with some 65,000+ described species), are sometimes referred to as cup and flask fungi.  They are another of Bruce’s special interests, often tiny, and much less well known in Highland Scotland.  They were represented by a total of eleven species of stem and leaf blotches, leaf spots, a powdery mildew Erysiphe spp., a pine needle parasite Lophodermium seditiosum, the bracken map Rhopographus filicinus and, largest by far, one specimen of the elastic saddle Helvella elastica .

A few other observations were made during our Little Assynt foray. The furry caterpillars of fox and ruby tiger moths were spotted in low-growing vegetation and a distinctively-marked green caterpillar of the iron prominent moth was found on a willow.  Common hawker dragonflies were flying in the sunshine and common darters were basking on the path beyond the pine plantation.

Bruce enlivened his narrative about the fungi found with a series of anecdotes, relating amongst other things to the hallucinogenic properties of some species and their relevance to the content of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The foray was very informative, both for beginners and those with some prior knowledge of fungi, and at times highly entertaining.  Thanks are due to David Haines for his splendid set of photographs. These and the list provided by Bruce will be a useful contribution to the Field Club’s Little Assynt Wildlife Project.

Ian M. Evans


Agaricales – mushrooms and their relatives
Amanita muscaria Fly Agaric with birch    
Conocybe juniana a conecap in grass    
Cortinarius alboviolaceus a webcap with birch   Photo 3.
Cortinarius anomalus a webcap with birch    
Cortinarius caninus Dog Webcap with birch    
Cortinarius cumatilis a webcap with birch rare  
Cortinarius decipiens Sepia Webcap with birch    
Cortinarius hemitrichus Frosted Webcap with birch   Photo 4.
Cortinarius pholideus a webcap with birch Uncommon Photo 5.
Entoloma sinuatum Livid Pinkgill under birch very toxic  
Galerina mniophila a moss bell in moss    
Hebeloma birrus a poisonpie with birch    
Hebeloma leucosarx Long-stemmed Poisonpie with birch    
Hebeloma mesophaeum Veiled Poisionpie with birch    
Hebeloma pseudofragilipes a poisonpie with birch uncommon  
Hygrocybe conica Blackening Waxcap in grass   Photo 6.
Inocybe nitidiuscula a fibrecap with birch    
Laccaria laccata Deceiver with trees    
Lacrymaria pyrotricha Redcapped Weeping Widow under birch rare  
Lycoperdon nigrescens Stinking Puffball under pine   Photos 7. 8.
Lycoperdon pyriforme Stump Puffball on buried roots   Photo 9.
Melaleuca polioleuca Common Cavalier under trees    
Mycena sanguinolenta Bleeding Bonnet in leaf litter    
Mycena vitilis Snapping Bonnet in leaf litter    
Tricholoma fulvum Birch Knight with birch   Photo 10.
Tricholoma stiparophyllum a white knight with birch    
Auriculariales – jelly fungi        
Exidia saccharina Pine jelly on pine branches uncommon  
Boletales – boletes and their relatives
Leccinum cyanobasileucum a birch bolete with birch    
Leccinum melaenum Dark Birch Bolete with birch    
Leccinum scabrum Brown Birch Bolete with birch   Photo 11.
Paxillus involutus Brown Rollrim with birch and pine    
Suillus bovinus Cow Bolete with pine   Photos 12. 13.
Suillus luteus Slippery Jack with pine    
Cantharellales – chanterelles and their relatives
Craterellus cinereus Grey Chanterelle with birch Uncommon Photo 14.
Polyporales – brackets and their relatives
Fomitopsis betulina Birch Bracket parasitic on birch was Piptoporus  
Russulales – milkcaps, brittlegills and their relatives
Lactarius aurantiacus Orange Milkcap with birch    
Lactarius deliciosus Saffron Milkcap with pine    
Lactarius pubescens Hairy Milkcap with birch    
Lactarius rufus Rufous Milkcap with pine    
Lactarius subdulcis Mild Milkcap with birch    
Lactarius tabidus Birch Milkcap with birch    
Lactarius turpis Ugly Milkcap with birch    
Lactarius vietus Grey Milkcap with birch    
Russula betularum Birch Brittlegill with birch    
Russula sanguinaria Bloody Brittlegill with pine   Photo 15.
Note: in the above list ‘with’ indicates a mycorrhizal relationship
Rusts and smuts        
Melampsora capraearum Sallow Rust on grey sallow    
Melampsoridium betulinum Birch Rust on birch    
Puccinia violae Violet Rust on wood violet    
Urocystis ranunculi Buttercup Smut on creeping buttercup    
Ascomycetes – cup and flask fungi
Diaporthopsis pantherina stem blotch on bracken    
Erysiphe aquilegiae var. ranunculi powdery mildew on creeping buttercup    
Erysiphe knautiae powdery mildew on devil’sbit scabious    
Fusidium griseum leaf blotch on birch    
Helvella elastica a helvel under birch   Photo 16.
Lophodermium seditiosum needle parasite on pine    
Phacellium rufibasis leaf blotch on bog myrtle    
Ramularia pratensis leaf spot on sorrel    
Ramularia succisae leaf spot on devil’sbit scabious    
Rhopographus filicinus Bracken Map on bracken    
Septoria urticae leaf spot on nettle    
Bruce Ing        




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