Elf Cups

Elf Cup
Elf Cup

The beautiful Scarlet Elf Cups can be seen on old mossy broadleaf logs at this time of year, but trying to work out which species they are can be quite difficult. There are two species Sarcoscypha austriaca and Sarcoscypha coccinea. The two species reveal themselves with the use of a microscope. Each species has a mixture of spores with both round and blunt ends, but the former has more blunt ones and the latter more round ones. S. austriaca also tends to have a few spores that appear to be germinating with appendages growing from the blunt ends. Both species also have fine hairs on the outside of the cups but S. austriaca hairs are curly whereas S. coccinea hairs are almost straight. Here we can see that this species is S. austriaca.

Entoloma bloxamii

The Gene Jockey’s are at it again!

I was very excited to find Entoloma bloxamii this autumn, down at Whitmuir Farm near Selkirk. This is a beautiful steel and blue toadstool which occurs in unimproved grassland and is really rather rare.

Kew are currently engaging with mycologists all over Britain with their The Lost and Found Project, hoping to collect new records of rarely recorded fungi across the UK with the aim to demonstrate which are genuinely rare and which are just under recorded. E. bloxamii is one of the species they are targeting. They are lucky enough to have funding that allows molecular analysis of specimens that are sent in.

I have now been informed by Kew that  recent phylogenetic analysis of the group of species close to and including E. bloxamii suggests that the collections recorded under that name, which they hold in the Fungarium at Kew represent not one but at least three different species, if not more!

Entoloma bloxamii
Entoloma bloxamii

My collection apparently matches the sequence of a species called Entoloma madidum, considered to be an invalid name, previously thought to be conspecific with E. bloxamii, but which Fries’s description suggests has a foetid smell (mine had a mealy, farinaceous smell). However by navigating a nomenclatural tightrope walk involving obstacles such as homonyms of earlier species and later combinations with this epiphet into the genus Entloma, it becomes legitimate and available for a new taxon with slightly smaller spore range than, but overlapping with E. bloxamii and with a farinaceous smell… …you following me?

Trouble is, they all look the bloomin’ same!

Big Boy’s Toys!

It’s been nice to enjoy a bit of quiet time this week after the hectic take down of Edinburgh’s Christmas – the usual race against the transport schedule and keeping ahead of the other contractors.

It’s a  luxury to finally get the time to look properly at some fungi specimens from the Isle of Man, under the microscope, which have been nagging on my conscience for a couple of months.

The ‘take down’ in Princes Street Gardens and our other sites around Edinburgh is always a shock to the system after the Christmas break. This year the weather was kind to us though and we managed to keep well on top of it.

A highlight for me was when a passing young family stopped to watch the operations. One of my colleagues got on the radio and got the telehandler drivers to toot their horns for them as they buzzed around. The children’s eyes nearly popped out as we lifted the ‘Bothy Bar’ containers out of the Mound with a crane onto waiting lorries.

Bothy Bar
Bothy Bar

I was rewarded with a huge grin from their Dad as I took a moment, after I had finished directing the crane, to crouch down and tell them that you don’t grow up as you get older… …the toys just get bigger!