Fungus – Paxillus obscurisporus

20140907 - Fungus1 These fungi are growing in grassland (both mown and un-mown) near the Meteorology Department. Most of them are under lime trees but there are also some under an oak tree about 10 metres away.

In size they varied from 8 to 20 centimetres across.

Thanks to Geoffrey Kibby of the British Mycological Society we have the following identification notes: This is most likely Paxillus obscurisporus, fairly common under trees in open situations, much larger than P. involutus which is a woodland species and P. obscurisporus also has a darker, vinaceous-brown spore deposit. The other possibility is P. ammoniavirescens which also likes open areas but that species turns bright green on the cap when a drop of ammonia is applied

20140907 - Fungus2

Brown spores cover the clover leaves beneath the fruiting body.

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Shaggy Ink Caps

Spotted by the Foxhill House entrance by Dave Butlin, the edible but rapidly liquefying Shaggy Ink Cap – Coprinus comatus. There is a nice blog about the species on ‘The mushroom diary‘.

Shaggy ink cap near Whiteknights Foxhill entrance.

Shaggy ink cap near Whiteknights Foxhill entrance.

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Are there any good photographers out there?

The campus species lists are steadily growing but we don’t have campus images to go with them. Some images are now coming in via the KiteSite app but we still have a very long vay to go.  If you have been photographing campus nature and are willing to share some of your photos on the blog do please contact me by email or blog comment. a.culham(at)reading.ac.uk

The aptly named 'small flowered buttercup' Ranunculus parviflorus growing in a temporary car park near Agriculture

The aptly named ‘small flowered buttercup’ Ranunculus parviflorus growing in a temporary car park near Agriculture

Some species are found in habitats made by human action while others survive in undisturbed areas.  Vigilant photographers can capture records of species that may come and go in a season. At this time of year there are many fungi in fruit on campus and this is a species list we have hardly started building.

 

 

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Things are abuzz on campus

Some of you may have noticed changes taking place this year in the Walled Garden, which have been undertaken to house some special new residents! The campus is now home to three honeybee colonies, with around 50,000 bees per hive, housed within a special apiary (or bee yard) at the back of the Harris Garden.

Doing a hive check in our apiary

Doing a hive check in our apiary.

The Harris Bee Garden Project began last year through a generous donation from the Annual Fund allowing us to create our apiary with the addition of a new bee shed. The beekeeping team, consisting of Helen Dominick, Julia Janes, Mark Fellowes and Becky Thomas, took part in beekeeper training over winter with the Reading and District Beekeepers Association getting us ready for our new arrivals.

Becky and Julia feeding the bees

Becky and Julia feeding the bees

The aims of the project were to develop a new teaching and outreach resource for the School of Biological Sciences. Honey bees are a fascinating educational resource, existing in huge colonies containing thousands of female workers, contributing a vital service to the UK economy by pollinating many of our crops. They’re the only insect which produces food eaten by people, up to 27kg per hive in a good year and they fly 1½ times round the world to make just 1lb of honey! They have also suffered in recent years, from wide usage of insecticides like neonicotinoids in our countryside, to the deadly Deformed Wing Virus transmitted by the varroa mite and general loss of foraging habitat; bees are having a hard time.

Inside the hive – can you spot the Queen bee (hint – she is marked with a red dot)?

Inside the hive – can you spot the Queen bee (hint – she is marked with a red dot)?

Our new bees are settling into their homes nicely, and although it hasn’t all gone smoothly, we have started the process of extracting honey from our hives and we were so excited to taste our first honey crop. If we are able to get our colonies through the winter, then we’ll start using the bees for teaching and outreach activities in the spring and we are also planning an Open Day event so people can come and see what we have been up to.

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I missed it!

Grass vetchling with pods.

Grass vetchling with pods.

I’ve just found one of my favourite plants on campus – and I missed it in flower! I’ve seen it on campus before during the Bioblitz in 2013. It was flowering amongst what appeared to be a planted wild flower mix behind Mackinder Hall. Now it’s turned up, self-seeded, in wasteground near the Agriculture Building on the other side of campus.

Grass vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia) is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae) but, until it flowers, the plant looks just like a grass. It has long, linear ‘leaves’ and tall stems, but it’s flowers are bright pink, miniature pea flowers. These are borne singly or in pairs. Later long, fine, typically pea-like pods develop.

 

Base of plant. How grass-like is that?

Base of plant. How grass-like is that?

There are five well-developed plants on the patch of wasteground. How did they get there? Did the seeds arrive in bird droppings? The seeds seem rather large to travel that way. They’re 3 mm long even in unripe pods. Did someone throw compost away here? Or could they have arrived on mowing equipment that had previously been used behind Mackinder Hall?

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Whiteknights Moths

Lime Hawkmoth

Lime Hawkmoth

Continuing the overhaul of our campus species lists, moths are the next group to have received a thorough treatment. More than 2400 species of moth have been recorded in the UK, so the current total of 113 for Whiteknights campus represents only 5% of the national fauna. However, the bulk of these records date back no further than last year’s Bioblitz, and the majority are from a single light-trapping location. It’s therefore fair to say that our list represents a decent start and covers a spectacular diversity of species. A quick flick through the image gallery should certainly be enough to dispel any notion that moths are all small, brown and boring.

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Ophrys apifera – the Bee orchid – in flower now

Close up of two bee orchid flowers

Close up of two bee orchid flowers

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Posted in Flowering Plants, Orchidaceae, Phenology, Plants | 3 Comments