The gentle rains of spring
It has been a bit of a wet spring so far this year in Wellington. Yesterday I took advantage of a break in the weather to get the rank grass mowed and a bit of tidying in the garden. This included pulling weeds out of the cracks in the concrete paths and steps.What’s that …
As a pulled on the leaves of a young dandelion they broke away from the roots. Turning one of the leaves over in my hand I saw a circular black patch. My immediate thought it was a clutch of insect eggs. But looking closer I could see that it radial makings and of course that sparked my interest and I took it inside to have a closer look.Looking at it with a hand lens I recognised it straight away as the remains of the cap of a coprinoid mushroom. I have blogged about the larger coprinoid mushroom s before, e.g. see Coprinopsis atramentaria – The powerlifters of the fungal world, Coprinus microcephalus – Coprinus and the compost bin, and Parasola plicata – The drought has broken. Also check the Index of species for blogs on Coprinellus disseminates, Coprinellus micaceus, Coprinopsis lagopus, and Parasola leiocephala.
A bowl of dung
However, there are many small species of coprinoid mushrooms that are less than 10 mm in diameter and may only be 10-20 mm tall. I saw these little coprinoids for the first time when studying dung fungi (coprhilous fungi) with Anne Bell. Ann is an expert in this ecological group and has published a beautiful book on New Zealand dung fungi.At that time I was incubating lumps of horse and sheep dung in glass bowls with a flat sheet of glass over the top to help maintain humidity. These little coprinoids would grow up from the dung surface and if they reached the glass cover the cap would adhere to the moisture on the glass. The mushroom would then collapse away leaving the cap to break down and only an image, consisting of black spores would remain on the glass.
The afterimageLooking at my leaf with a hand lens I could clearly see the image of a mushroom cap (about 5 mm diameter) with its radial gills marked by a greater concentration of spores. The small mushroom must have touched the surface of the damp leaf, stuck to it then died away leaving only the fungal spores. What species it might be I don’t know.