Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rotten Antiques























I guess most of us would shy away from buying antiques infested with a wood-destroying fungus - unless  the agent of decay is this one. The green staining in this dead branch is caused by the green elf-cup fungus Chlorociboria aeruginascens (which used to be called Chlorosplenium aeruginascens) and the tinted wood was once used to make Tunbridge Ware - furniture inlaid with a  patterned veneer of different coloured woods. According to John Ramsbottom in his Mushrooms and Toadstools (New Naturalist, 1953) the green pigmentation is produced by a fungal compound called xylindeine and Ramsbottom mentions that patents had been taken out on a process to produce attractive green wood by artificially inoculating it with the fungus, so that cabinet makers wouldn't need to forage for it in the woods. I wonder if the process was ever developed and commercialised? The fungus is very common and widespread on a variety of different trees, including oak, ash, beech, hazel and birch and the tinted wood is commonly known as 'green oak'. The fruiting bodies look like small, cup-shaped green scales on the surface of the rotting wood, but they aren't produced very often so are not easy o find.

13 comments:

  1. Is it really common and widespread? Not only have I never seen the fruiting cups (which are obviously rarely produced) but I can't recall ever consciously seeing the green-stained wood even though I've always known about it.

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  2. Hi Scriptor, I quite often find it in these parts - mostly in oak woods. It's most conspicuous in wet weather, when the green colouration is much stronger - so maybe the best way to find it is to walk in the rain! I've only found the fruiting bodies two or three times (and I can't find my photos of them!)

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  3. I'd like to find that one. Found Scarlet Elf Cup before, but that's a different kettle of fish isn't it?

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  4. Thanks once again Phil..a wonderful fungus. I'll keep a sharp eye out.

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  5. Fascinating Phil.
    Never heard of this one before.

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  6. I shall look out for that when next in the local woods, might have to wait until spring. Thanks for this post, you have increased my knowledge yet again!

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  7. Hi Rob., I remember finding it on Bug Club outings with Bogue, maybe in Slindon Woods? I wonder how difficult it is to work with...?

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  8. Hi Ellen, my sentiments exactly....

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  9. Very unusual colour isn't it Adrian - a bit like verdigris...

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  10. Hi Keith, it's easy to overlook because it's only really visible when infected branches are broken...

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  11. Hi Toffeeapple, Ramsbottom's book is full of interesting insights into the fungal kingdom...

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  12. Thanks Phil. Unfortunately if one wants to walk nowadays it all too often seems to be in the rain!

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