Friday, November 23, 2012

Dead Assets

With all the doom and gloom about dying ash trees in the news, maybe it's as well to bear in mind the wise words of Oliver Rackham - probably Britain's foremost authority on trees and woodlands - who observed that "a huge dead tree is still beautiful, and as good a habitat as a living tree". When a tree dies a whole host of organisms colonise and feed on it throughout its afterlife, which can last for decades. The National Trust owns two woodlands on the south bank of the River Swale at Richmond in North Yorkshire - Billy Bank wood and Hudswell wood - and has taken great care to ensure that there's a plentiful supply of dead wood lying around to act as a habitat for organisms that depend on this habitat.

This massive fallen beech is covered by a carpet of moss on its upper surface while ...

.. the underside hosts numerous fine young examples of Ganoderma fungus. This bracket fungus can live on the dead wood for a decade or more, producing a new layer of white sporing tissue on its underside every year.

I think this is probably a sycamore stump, hosting one of the densest populations of candlesnuff fungus Xylaria hypoxylon that I've ever seen.

There are also some decaying hazels that must once have been coppiced. Their decaying poles are the favourite substrate for hairy curtain crust fungus Stereum hirsutum. This is a young specimen ....

.... and here's a more mature example.


  1. So many different varieties of fungus and I knew the names of none of them.
    We have lots of Ash near me, so much that the gardener calls them weeds. I wonder whey we had to import in the first place.

  2. Hi Keith, I've got piles of old logs in the garden that are a great wildlife resource too - full of small animals that birds look for...

  3. I have the same problem with ash seedlings toffeeapple - our garden is downwind of an ash tree that's a very prolific seed producer...

  4. Wonderful post. It helped me ID a photo it took of what I called 'Cappuchino fungus', beautiful colours. I also enjoyed your 'virgin births' article for Wildlife Magazine.


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