Friday, June 25, 2010

Chicken-of-the-woods

This magnificent and still-expanding chicken-of-the-woods Laetiporus sulphureus is growing in a dead oak tree alongside Durham University Botanic Garden's woodland nature trail. So far it has only produced two tiers but there may well be more by the time it reaches maturity, with the largest up to 40cm. in diameter. The underside of each bracket is covered in countless tiny pores which will soon begin to shed spores. 
In this more conventional eye-level view you can see the yellow liquid that often exudes from this fungus. According to M.C. Cooke's British Fungi, published in 1884, and which I picked up in an antiquarian bookshop a while ago, 'as this fungus dries it becomes covered in beautiful crystals of oxalate of potash'. More interestingly, Cooke mentions that 'during decomposition this plant emits a bright phosphorescent light...' Now that is something I really must see: as darkness falls, spooky glowing lights in the woodland. The fungus will probably take two or three months to reach maturity and begin to decompose, just as autumn arrives.

10 comments:

  1. I'll be popping along one evening in August about 10.30p.m. with my copy of Cookes' British Fungi and try to read a few pages.
    John

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting post Phil. You have stolen a future post as I was photographing Chicken of the woods yesterday but the specimens were not as smart as yours.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It must be quite spooky when the fungus starts to emit light! I hope you'll be able to catch it in your camera and share.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What a magnificent fungi. Hope you manage some pictures of it glowing at night. That must be quite a sight to see.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi John, I read somewhere that troops used bioluminescent fungi in rotten wood in the trenches in WW1 to read..

    ReplyDelete
  6. I guess this must be the peak season for chicken-of-the-woods Nigel.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi lotusleaf - will give it a go, although I'm not sure my camera's low-light performance will be up to the job..

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Keith, I really stands out in the gloom of the woodland. The dead tree also has a g-s woodpecker nest near the top..

    ReplyDelete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Dougie, I think I must have removed your post my accident, so here it is retstored:
    Hi Phil, I'm wondering if your Chicken of the Woods, is actually, my Chicken of the Woods :-). Last Wednesday I was charging down through Great High Wood on the Durham Three Peaks when I broke my stride as some magnificent fungi caught my eye on an Oak. I returned, a little more sedately, for a closer look today.

    My wife and I found a terrific cluster near Stanhope Burn at the end of May that I'd convinced myself was Meripilus giganteus. I am now convinced it wasn't. I've uploaded both bunches of images to my gallery. If you have a moment, I'd be grateful for your opinion. Do you think I've id'd it correctly?

    I think your Durham chicken-of-the-woods is a different one from mine - yours is much bigger, with more lobes. Loks like it must be the season for this species - no shortage of dead trees in Great Hgh Wood for them, anyway. can't make up my mind about your other pictures but I thnk they are probably c-o-t-w too - my recollection of Meripilus is that it isn't so thick around the edges but it's hard to be certain at the early stages of development. Cheers, Phil

    ReplyDelete