07 October 2013

The knights are drawing in

The knights (Tricholoma) are a group of chunky toadstools, many of which have specific, mycorrhizal associations with trees. Here are some that are in our forests at the moment (all photos taken in Neath Port Talbot).

Tricholoma ustaloides

 Tricholoma ustaloides is a species associated with Beech (Fagus sylvatica) - the specimens above were photographed in the beech wood in Pelenna Forest. The slimy cap and the clear white area at the top of the stipe are characteristic features

Girdled Knight

The Girdled Knight (Tricholoma cingulatum) has a specific association with willows and may be found in willow scrub or in dune slacks (in association with Creeping Willow). It also forms a mycorrhizal association with Round-leaved Wintergreen (Pyrola rotundifolia). When this happens, the wintergreen roots become connected with the willow roots by the underground fungal mycelium.  In Neath Port Talbot it frequently grows with willows at the edge of conifer forests, where Round-leaved Wintergreen is also found occasionally. The Girdled Knight is so called because of the woolly girdle or ring on its stem, a good identification feature that will separate it from all the other Knights you are likely to find.

Birch Knight

The Birch Knight (Tricholoma fulvum) is a brown coloured toadstool, usually with yellow flesh. It grows commonly with birch but also with spruce and pine. Specimens that grow with pine usually have a paler (less yellow) flesh and have been named Tricholoma pseudonictitans by some mycologists. All forms exhibit the brown discolouration of their gills.

Tricholoma pessundatum

These specimens of Tricholoma pessundatum were found in the Pelenna Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) forest. It often grows in quite large groups. It has a brownish cap, dark in the centre but paler towards the edge where it is conspicuously spotted with dark, droplet-like marks. It is regarded as an uncommon, northern (mostly Scottish) species in Britain, but it may be more common than people realise in our spruce forests.

Larch Knight

The Larch Knight (Tricholoma psammopus) is, as its name suggests, a species found in larch forests (RIP!). It has a pale yellow cap and a stipe which is speckled near the top. I guess we'll be seeing less of this in the future.

Grey Knight

 The Grey Knight (Tricholoma terreum) is one of a group of confusing grey-capped species. It grows with pines - these were photographed in the Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) plantation on Foel Fynyddau. The felt-like texture of the cap is a good identification feature.

Sulphur Knight

Lastly, the remarkable Sulphur Knight (Tricholoma sulphureum) which is usually found in deciduous forests - specimens here photographed in Briton Ferry woods. Sulphur Knight is more or less yellow throughout but its most characteristic feature is the peculiar and unpleasant smell. This is difficult to describe, but some people liken it to coal gas, although I can often detect a sickly sweet mothballs odour as well.  

1 comment:

Barry Stewart said...

Fabulous series Charles, clearly demonstrating there is lot more to our plantation woodlands than we're often led to believe. Some of your images look destined to be of historical significance too!