02 November 2015

Autumn Knights

A number of attractive Knights (the name given to fungi in the genus Tricholoma) can be found in the conifer plantations in the Neath and Afan valleys. Some like the Birch Knight (Tricholoma fulvum) are associated with Sitka Spruce (as well as Birch) and often grow in large groups. The cap is dark brown and often quite slimy. The creamy coloured gills develop rusty blotches, which is a good identification feature.

Tricholoma fulvum

The Ashen Knight (Tricholoma virgatum) is an attractive species with a shiny, grey, fibrous cap. Although it is often described as a species of deciduous woodland, it often grows with Spruces and Pines in our plantations.

Tricholoma virgatum

There is a large area of pine plantation on Foel Fynyddau (the hill above Pontrhydyfen and Cwmafan), where you can find Macedonian Pine (Pinus peuce), Scots Pine (Pinus sylverstris subsp. sylvestris) and Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta). With such a large area of pine forest you might expect to find some nice pinewood species. The best is undoubtedly Yellow Knight (Tricholoma equestre) which is also called Man-on-horseback (for reasons unknown to me!).

 Tricholoma equestre

Yellow Knight is a really interesting species. In Britain it is mostly known as a species of Scottish pinewoods and it appears to be very rare in southern Britain, so its occurrence in the pine plantation on Foel Fynyddau is notable. It is sometimes recommended as an edible species, but recently there have been a number of serious poisoning incidents associated with it and it also seems to accumulate mercury under certain conditions. Perhaps these two things are related.

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