Previously unseen, this article continues our series on our fungal friends by Mark Pike, of The Dorset Fungus Group – the mighty DFG! Here, he describes some of the group’s interesting forays during 2015.

Words and images by Mark Pike.

Some of these species are particularly rare; they only have a Latin name.

Bonnet Mushroom Mycena seynii

This super find was on our fourth foray of the season at St Catherine’s Hill, Christchurch, 20th September. There was much excitement over the discovery of this lovely little pink tinged mushroom, but bizarrely it turned out not to be so rare in the end. After never having found this species until this foray, incredibly, it turned up again later in the season on two other forays; at Sherford Bridge in Wareham Forest, and in Ringwood Forest towards the end of the season. Despite these finds it is still very rare; only 18 records UK wide, and only 4 of those from Dorset. As a general rule, the whole family Mycena are a nightmare to identify with confidence; they all look frustratingly similar. This one, though, is quite easy to identify as it will always be found growing on pine cones, sometimes, even cones still attached to the tree.

Blackening Chanterelle Cantharellus melanoxeros

Every year, since our inception in 1995, we have forayed in the New Forest in neighbouring county Hampshire. In 2015, we did two on the same day, 4th October, in separate areas, producing an impressive count of species. Amongst them was another exceptionally rare find.

Some readers may be familiar with the much commoner, lovely yellow/orange-coloured Girolle, or Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius), as it is much sought after for various culinary uses. You may also recall another rare species of Chanterelle (Cantharellus feruginascens) detailed in an earlier issue of PURBECK! Journal which we found in Dorset. The similarly coloured but much smaller and less robust Blackening Chanterelle (Cantharellus melanoxeros), is even rarer and only recorded 20 times in the UK – not in Dorset as yet. It grows in very similar circumstances (sometimes alongside) as its common relative but it is much more difficult to spot, being a light cream/brownish colour that blends-in well with the forest floor. Although it is edible that is irrelevant – it is such a rare species that it should never be picked.

Pluteus aurantiorugosus

Another brightly coloured specimen. This excellent find was made by one of our eagle-eyed younger members at Duncliffe Wood in North Dorset on the 1st November. This specimen was rather old and starting to decay; it was found attached to a very rotting tree stump and fell off when touched! There are a few species of Pluteus in the UK and all grow on wood/logs etc.. Some are very common, and in fact can be found all year round. This little beauty is again rather rare with only 157 records UK wide with only two or three from Dorset, funnily enough, also from the north of the county.

Tremella encephala

I know it doesn’t look much, a bit of a blob really, but this is a pretty rare blob with a mere 86 records for the UK. Looking somewhat similar in appearance to a brain (encephala means brain), this particular species parasites a common bracket fungus of the family Stereum. This may not be immediately obvious because it only lives off the actual mycelium of this species, which is usually hidden behind the tree bark or within the wood itself. This specimen was found in Ringwood Forest growing on a fallen branch of pine, right at the end of the season on 29th November. Again, there is a much more common member of this species called the Yellow Brain Fungus (Tremella mesentrica) which is regularly found growing on gorse bushes and other deciduous trees throughout the UK, and, due to its colouration, can sometimes been seen from quite a distance.

Postia fragilis

This was found on the same foray in almost the same spot as the Tremella and was also growing on pine, a small stump on this occasion. This is a small, tough white bracket fungus that has a couple of close relatives, notably the Bitter Bracket (Postia stiptica), which is very common. Crucially though, for this particular species, it is distinguishable from others as it stains an orange/red when damaged. This unassuming little bracket is nonetheless very rare with only 61 records for the UK. Because of this, the finder was awarded the DFG’s Ken Roberts Plaque for the best find of 2015.

Violet Webcap Cortinarius violaceus

If there were ever an award for the most strikingly coloured mushroom, this species would surely be near the top of the list. It can grow to an impressive size which makes it even more striking, just a shame it is so rare! Having said that, the area we often foray in the New Forest regularly turns up this species and it can appear quite common. In 2015, we also found it in Dorset at Culpeppers Dish, near Briantspuddle. It almost comes as a shock to novice foragers who do not, perhaps, expect to encounter such a brightly coloured mushroom. Having bigged-up all these attributes, it can often be surprisingly difficult to spot from above as the cap can sometimes appear almost black; not good when in a dark forest! The colours are best seen at ground level, as with this image.