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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

A community of fungi and bryophytes in a dead Beech tree, Stanmer Great Wood, 31.10.22

I found this dead Beech, Fagus sylvatica (?) yesterday in Stanmer Great Wood, Brighton; just south of the Upper Lodges car park (although I had walked from the entrance of Stanmer Park off Lewes Road, as I had come by bus)


This tree It was covered in Ganoderma applanatum (Artist's Bracket), which, I presume, may have caused the tree's death. At the top of the tree there were Flammulina velutipes (Velvet shank) growing in moss (a bryophyte); and at the base of the tree Apioperdon pyriforme (Pear-shaped puffball).



All sections of text in italics are quotations, sources cited at end of text.


Bracket fungi cause decay and rot in the heartwood of trees and produce bracket-shaped fruiting bodies on the trunk or main branches. These fungi usually lead to weakening and sometimes to the eventual breakage or fall of affected trees. ... There are many different types of bracket fungi ... Some are specific to a particular host and often of little importance in gardens. Important ones that may cause significant damage to garden trees include:

... Beech heart rots, caused by the bracket fungi Ganoderma applanatum and G. australe attack a wide range of broadleaved hosts, especially Fagus (beech) Bracket fungi / RHS Gardening


Heart rot and hollowing of tree trunks is an ecologically important phenomenon and is the result of fungal decay of wood. Despite the value of heart rot habitats to thousands of species, globally, little is known about the development of the fungal communities which give rise to them. Emma Gilmartin Thesis.pdf (cardiff.ac.uk)


Fungi are drivers of wood decay in forested ecosystem, while bryophytes [mosses and liverworts] use dead wood as a platform for their autotrophic [an organism that is able to form nutritional organic substances from simple inorganic substances such as carbon dioxide] lifestyle. Communities of wood‐inhabiting bryophytes and fungi on dead beech logs in Europe – reflecting substrate quality or shaped by climate and forest conditions? - Heilmann‐Clausen - 2014 - Journal of Biogeography - Wiley Online Library


I was fascinated by the opportunity this dead tree gave for this group of fungi; and the architectural forms which the Artist’s Brackets made.


I reached Stanmer Park, where the wood is situated, on the frequent 25 bus from the centre of Brighton; see: 25 - Universities-Old Steine | Brighton & Hove Buses


Velvet shank growing in/around moss, in the higher branches of the Beech.


The lovely orange-brown caps of Flammulina velutipes continue fruiting through the winter. Commonly known as Velvet Shank, this is a stump-rotting fungus; it also occurs on standing dead wood. The young fruit bodies ... have pale upper stems, while the darker velvety sections are partly buried in the rotten wood on which the fugi are growing. This is often the case when Velvet Shank grows on fallen timber. On standing dead trees the clusters are usually tiered and, as a result, the caps are fairly regular, but on fallen wood sometimes tufts of Velvet Shank are so dense that the caps push against one another and become distorted and occasionally almost square. Flammulina velutipes is particularly common on dead elm trees (of which there was no shortage during the 1970s and 1980s as Dutch Elm Disease ravaged the elm woods of Britain and Europe), but currently it is more often seen on Ash, Beech and oaks as well as occasionally on wood from other kinds of broadleaf trees. Flammulina velutipes, Velvet Shank mushroom (first-nature.com)


Artists Bracket Fungus, covered the Beech, and probably caused the rot in the heartwood of this tree.


Artist's Fungus - Ganoderma applanatum. A large brown perennial bracket fungus 15 to 50 cm across and 5 to 10 cm thick, the fruiting body has an off-white margin and a brown top with little or no stem, and brownish coloured spores. White underside leaves brown marks when scratched. Spores ellipsoidal to ovoid, truncate at one end, smooth, 6.5-8.5 x 4.5-6μm. Artist's Fungus | NatureSpot



This species or its relatives also occur on just about every continent (except Antarctica, of course). It can be found all the time because it has a perennial, very hard fruiting body, one that adds new layers of pores every year.


Ganoderma applanatum is classified as a polypore, which literally means "many pores." The white pores are on the under-surface of the fruiting body. It is also known as a "shelf fungus" because the fruiting body forms a stalkless shelf on the sides of trees and logs. There are many, many species of shelf fungi, probably more than 500 species, so don't assume any shelf fungus can be classified here.


The Polypores are a fascinating group of fungi, .. commonly small size, unfamiliar habitat and general obscurity. However, these fungi are very interesting from an ecological, microscopic, and biotechnological standpoint, and are well worth observing and learning to identify. An added bonus from a collecting standpoint is that, unlike fleshy mushrooms, most of these fungi can be found even during dry weather or in the winter, since many are perennial and many others produce basidiocarps only beneath the surface of logs lying on the forest floor, where it remains wet most of the year. ...


Polypores can be easily distinguished from the other common poroid fungi, the boletes, by their typically hard exterior, their usual "non-mushroom" shape, and growth on wood as wood decomposers. Ganoderma applanatum, the artist's conk, Tom Volk's Fungus of the Month for March 1999 (wisc.edu)



At the base of the beech were a group of Pear-Shaped Puffballs


Scientific name: Apioperdon pyriforme

Derivation of name: Pyri- means "pear" and form- means "shape" or "appearance." Pyriforme refers to the pear shape of this puffball.

Common name(s): Pear-shaped puffball.

Phylum: Basidiomycota

Order: Agaricales

Family: Agaricaceae

Occurrence on wood substrate: Saprobic; scattered or in dense clusters on decaying wood; July through November.

Dimensions: Fruit bodies are 1.5-4.5 cm wide and 2-5 cm tall.

Description: This puffball species is pear-shaped to nearly globose and supported by a small sterile base attached to the substrate by white mycelial strands (rhizomorphs). When young this puffball is whitish and covered with tiny warts and granules. With maturity the spore case (peridium) is yellow- brown to reddish-brown and develops a pore-like mouth (theostiole) at the apex allowing spores to be "puffed out" when the outer case is disturbed by raindrops or twigs striking it. The spore producing internal tissue (gleba) is moist and white at first, turning olive-brown and powdery when mature. Apioperdon pyriforme (messiah.edu)


with Artist's Bracket


This one provided food for a slug.


The shape of the tree


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