An afterimage

The gentle rains of spring

It has been a bit of a wet spring so far this year in Wellington. Yesterday I took advantage in 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.

A wet grey spring day, Northland, Wellington [photo Geoff Ridley]

A wet grey spring day, Northland, Wellington [photo Geoff Ridley]

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.

The round dark marking on the underside of a dandelion leaf [photo Geoff Ridley]

The round dark marking on the underside of a dandelion leaf [photo Geoff Ridley]

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 atramentariaThe powerlifters of the fungal world, Coprinus microcephalus – Coprinus and the compost bin, and Parasola plicataThe 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 a 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.

Coprinoid dung fungi [Figure from Ann Bell, 1983]

Coprinoid dung fungi [Figure from Ann Bell, 1983]

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 breakdown and only an image, consisting of black spores would remain on the glass.

There is a cool little video of coprinoids growing from dung at Gettyimages.

The afterimage

The distinct afterimage of radiating gills [photo Geoff Ridley]

The distinct afterimage of radiating gills [photo Geoff Ridley]

Looking 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.

 

Reference

Bell A, 1983. Dung fungi: an illustrated guide to coprophilous fungi in New Zealand. Victoria University Press, Wellington [this book is still available from Victoria University Press]

 

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3 Comments on “An afterimage”

  1. I hope you guys are safe, after the quake. Take care

  2. Shona Grenfell Young says:

    Geoff,
    Please help. I am looking for a book on fugni for an eight year old city boy and an eight year old famer especially about NZ fungi. Have you any suggestions or should you write one with Helen illustrating it.
    Thanks
    Shona

    • Hi Shona
      There isn’t anything out there for kids. The only thing that comes close is an issue of Forest and Bird’s “Kiwi Conservation Club” magazine number 58 (April 2001). I have checked their website and it is not available however I can send you a PDF copy.
      Cheers
      Geoff


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