Urban Fungal Adventures

I usually carry around various wildlife identification guides pretty much every where with me (as well as my binoculars!) as I’ve found that even in the most urban environment, you never know what you may come across! At the moment the two books that I don’t go anywhere without are my micro moth field guide (this is the perfect time of year for looking for leaf mines!) and a little collins mushroom guide I was gifted years ago. This year is the the first autumn I’ve actually got around to using the latter and finally delved in to the amazing world of fungi. I would just like to share a few recent  discoveries….

Originally I thought this to be the Purple Jelly Fungus, but on second examination I’m going with Jew’s Ear or Jelly Ear as some people know it, Auricularia auricula-judaeIt’s typically found on Elder – this was discovered (thanks to Maaike from Camley Street!) on a log, part of a habitat pile at Camley Street Natural Park. Honestly I’m not sure on the tree ID but I will take a closer look when I am there this week.


Jew’s ear, Auricularia auricula-judae

IMG_3376 IMG_3379

This next specimen was found in Epping Forest, Glistening Inkcap Coprinellus micaceusIt really does glisten!

Glistening Inkcap, Coprinellus micaceus

Glistening Inkcap, Coprinellus micaceus

This next one was also found it Epping Forest, Hump-backed Polypore Pseudotrametes gibbosaThis is one of the many bracket fungi, the brackets on this species are humped at the point of attachment (hence the common name!) and the upperside has an interesting velvety lumpy surface.

Hump-backed Polypore, Pseudotrametes gibbosa

Hump-backed Polypore, Pseudotrametes gibbosa

The next few specimens were found on Wanstead Flats – a new urban discovery for me, really looking forward to exploring this area further!

This Fly Agaric Amanita muscari  is the typical ‘toadstool’ depicted in fairytales. The white spots are actually remnants of the white veil enclosing the young fruitbody. No problem identifying this one!


Fly Agaric, Amanita muscari

IMG_3394This is probably my favourite so far, Parasol mushroom Macrolepiota procera. I love the markings on the stem and cap, really nice! It’s the ‘snake-like’ pattern on the stem that pointed away from the similar Shaggy Parasol which has a white stem that bruises red-brown.


Parasol mushroom Macrolepiota procera

IMG_3400 IMG_3404And last but not least, also found on Wanstead Flats, is this impressively large puffball – I think the Membranous Puffball Vascellum pratense.


Membranous puffball, Vascellum pratense

Complete with one hungry slug 😉 IMG_3413


Gypsy Moth – Friend or Foe? Moths of Kings Cross

After being frustrated by dead end internet searches looking for descriptions or photos that might-just-a-little-bit look like the tiny mostly brown moth I had in the pot in front of me, I finally decided it was time to properly delve in to the world of micro moths and went ahead and purchased this book. Btu3FEhCEAICuWrIt was definitely worth it. The introduction in itself is a great read and that’s before you get in to the delightfully extensive descriptions of flight periods, larval food plants, conservation status, similar species etc. I also really like the ‘at a glance’ guide to the different families of micro moths, very useful for a novice like me. A bargain at £21!

I’ve only had it a few days but it came in handy last night when I set up a moth trap demonstration at the London Wildlife Trusts Camley Street Natural Park, a small nature reserve in the heart of King Cross (I’m currently in the second month of an internship here). Admittedly a few ‘small brown jobs’ did evade me, mostly due to lack of time as we had to pack up in time for the last tube home. But at this point each successful micro moth ID is a triumph for me 😉

The biggest challenge was a Cydia splendanasimilar to a couple of other Cydia species but distinguishable with the help of a borrowed hand lens (I really must carry mine around more often!). This lovely Epiblema foenella and Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla were more discernible (apologises for badly lit photos).

Epiblema foenella

Epiblema foenella

Beautiful Plume

Beautiful Plume

In the two hours the trap was out we also saw an abundance of Light Brown Apple moths and a few Crambid moths that looked good for Crambus perlella but I didn’t get a chance to examine them more closely. Macro moths included a Brimstone

Brimstone Moth

Brimstone Moth

a Setaceous Hebrew Character

Setaceous Hebrew Character

a couple of Tree-lichen Beauties

tree-lichen beauty 3

Tree-lichen Beauty

and this controversial Gyspsy Moth that took a liking to Marco, another LWT intern.


Gypsy Moth

Cute right? (the moth 😉 ). Well, although the English form that became extinct in the early 1900’s was fairly inoffensive feeding mainly on bog-myrtle and creeping willow, the populations that have established in a few locations in Southern England are thought to have been accidentally introduced from mainland Europe where the caterpillar has a ferocious appetite and is a major defoliant of a wide range of deciduous trees and shrubs. Although it is suggested that these populations are unlikely to cause serve defoliation in the UK considering our climate, because of it’s potential pest status it was subjected to an eradication campaign led by Defra after it was first discovered in Northeast London 1995 and any sightings should be reported to them.

It’s difficult to look at this large attractive moth and think of it as a menace or even a small threat -to me it is just another species adding to the biodiversity of Camley Street. But of course there is a bigger picture to think of and I will report this sighting – not sure if anything will come of it but if strange men turn up dressed head to toe in fumigation gear in the next few days I will be in trouble 😉