Counting the white-stalked puffball

October 28th 2018

The annual count of the white-stalked puffball Tulostoma niveum took place at Stronchrubie on 22nd August 2018. This fungus was discovered new to the British Isles in 1989, on scree below the Stronechrubie crags (NC2520), by the late Colin Scouller of Rhue.  It is described by Bruce Ing, Colin’s son-in-law, as ‘one of the world’s rarest fungi’. It is known elsewhere only from near Braemar and a few places in Scandinavia.  Its white fruiting bodies are up to 9mm in diameter, with short stalks and a terminal ostiole, through which the spores are discharged.  They occur in mosses covering limestone boulders, outcrops and stone walls, and appear in the autumn, though they may last through to the following year.

Since 1996, members of the Assynt and Lochbroom Field Clubs have met annually to count Tulostoma niveum in its known sites and look for new ones.  It has now been recorded north of the Assynt Field Centre, east of Glenbain and south to the Allt nan Uamh valley.

On 18th October 2017 Gordon Rothero found it at a new site at the southern end of the Stronchrubie crags (NC250193) when we were out recording with him.  We didn’t then have time to map its extent, so we returned on 22nd August to explore that area.  It was a good year for the species and we found 11 fruiting bodies spread over some 200m out of the 330m searched, mainly as singletons.  All were amongst mosses on outcrops of a band of dark limestone.

We also noted a number of characteristic limestone plants, such as brittle bladder-fern Cystopteris fragilis, upland enchanter’s-nightshade Circaea x intermediaalpine bistort Polygonum viviparum (with sprouting purple bulbils) and autumn gentian Gentianella amarella.  Other fungi included a black fruiting body of the very poisonous ergot Calviceps purpurea on perennial rye-grass, and some clumps of the mousepee pinkgill Entoloma incanum, whose stems bruise blue-green.  Lunch was taken at the southern end of the crags, with stunning views across the valley of the River Loanan.

Ian Evans and Gwen Richards

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