A rare and unusual fungus 

November 17th 2020

Acanthomyces aculeatus; a rare and unusual fungus  

A variety of animals consume fungi; sometimes the tables are turned.  South of Lochinver Harbour in Assynt lies Culag Woods, a community woodland with a network of paths.  One of these runs over mossy channels under tall conifers and is rather dark.  It is called, for the benefit of children, Are You Brave Enough?  I was walking along it on 7th October 2020 when I found, on a mossy stump (NC089215), the remains of an adult  moth, probably a noctuid, parasitized by the fungus Acanthomyces aculeatus (confirmed by Bruce Ing).

This is the asexual form of an ascomycete fungus belonging to the order Clavicipitales, of which the sexual form is still unknown.  It appears to be rare, since I have been only able to locate three previous British records, all from Scotland.  It was found on Arran (NS03) in 1998, at Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire (NS3739) in 2009, and locally by Ian Evans, near Cnoc Daimh in Assynt  (NC0928) in 1996 (identified by Roy Watling, who had ‘never seen it before’).

Gwen Richards and Ian Evans

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