Magpie Inkcap – Coprinopsis picacea

Thanks to Dave Butlin I can add another toadstool to our campus list – the black with white spots is a distinctive feature of Coprinopsis picacea, the aptly called Magpie Inkcap.  These toadstools were seen today in wood chips and leaf litter under the Catalpa next to the library.

The magpie inkcap, Coprinus picaceus, found on wood chips under the Catalpa speciosa growing byt the Library.

The magpie inkcap, Coprinuopsis picacea, found on wood chips under the Catalpa speciosa tree growing by the Library.

Posted in Fungi | Tagged , | 1 Comment

A Walk through the Wilderness 15th October 2014

As part of my time volunteering at the University Herbarium, I will be attempting to document some of the species on campus, in order to update the WB blog species list. To start me off, as I am as yet just a tenderfoot, I will be working through some of the more simple species before I set off into the great unknown. Continue reading

Posted in Flowering Plants, Plants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lichen exploration on campus

Whiteknights is an amazing teaching resource. Recently I led a lichen ‘walk’ for the Reading District Natural History Society from the car-park in front of the Harborne Building. I’ve put ‘walk’ in inverted commas because we really didn’t walk very far.

Lichen observation in action.

Lichen observation in action.

Starting with a red-leaved Acer in one corner of the car-park we explored crustose and foliose lichens and examined the curb-stones at the edge of the tarmac. Then we looked at the roadside trees behind the Engineering Building, seeing how the availability of rain water affects lichen distribution. Large foliose lichens were common in branch axils where water accumulates before draining down the trunk, while only leprose lichens survived in the rain-shadows below large branches.

A near-by wall gave us the chance to see how different lichen species prefer either the acidic surface of the bricks or the basic, and more porous, mortar.

We examined nitrogen-enriched lichen communities on painted window sills and looked at the orange smudges of Trentepohlia, a free-living green alga, that we found on bark. We even spotted a coral pink licheniclous fungus, Marcandiomyces corallinus.

Admiring Collema tenax growing on soil.

Admiring Collema tenax growing on soil.

Going in the opposite direction we looked on soil behind the greenhouses and admired the tiny colonies of the gelatinous lichen Collema tenax. Unfortunately I forgot to show everyone the free-living cyanobacteria Nostoc that occurs in the next bed. But we did stop to admire some thalli of a Peltigera species and also the similarly shaped thalli of Marchantia polymorpha, a thalloid liverwort.

All this diversity lies within 200 metres of car-park 13!

Posted in Bacteria, Bryophytes, Fungi, Green Algae, Lichen, Liverworts, Plants | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Whiteknights Flower Rich Campus

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Victoria Wickens from the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research (CAER) has kindly provided a series of photos taken on campus over the summer.

More Galleries | Leave a comment

Ideal home or revolting distortion?

Galls caused by Dasineura sisymbrii.

Galls caused by Dasineura sisymbrii.

If you need a safe place to live, why not get a home built to your own specifications?

That’s what the larvae of Dasineura sisymbrii, a kind of gall midge do. The presence of the larvae amongst the developing flower buds of species of Rocket (Sisymbrium) or Yellow-cresses (Rorippa) cause the host plant to develop a mass of pale yellow growth in which the larvae can develop and feed. The mass of plant tissue also keeps the larvae safe from predators. I don’t think it helps the plant to set seed though!

Dasineura sisymbrii galls in situ.

Dasineura sisymbrii galls in situ.

These galls were found in a damp piece of grassland near Stenton Hall.

Posted in Brassicaceae, Flowering Plants, Galls, Insects, Plant Pathology Research Group, Plants | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cyperus re-found and lost again

Galingale seen on 22/9/2014.

Galingale seen on 22/9/2014.

Galingale, Cyperus longus, was recorded as ‘status uncertain’ in The Flora of Whiteknights Park in 2011. It had been seen in the past by the lake and in the Harris Gardens – both places where it had been planted – but was not seen during David Le Grice’s 2009-2010 survey.

Galingale likes wet sites where it can keep it’s roots wet. It is known to self-seed in Britain. Recently it turned up in a very unexpected location at the base of a wall by the Harborne Building. Maybe it grew from seeds dropped there when old indoor plants were disposed of. It certainly didn’t stand much chance of surviving since the roots probably went into reasonably dry soil.

Continue reading

Posted in Cyperaceae, Flowering Plants, Plants | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Harris garden honey

A beautful sunny September morning set the scene for the culmination of the first season of honey production in the School of Biological Sciences Walled garden at the west end of the Harris Garden.

The honey harvest, September 2014

Visitors sample the honey harvest and admire the walled garden, September 2014

Continue reading

Posted in Animals, Bees, Insects, Meetings/Events | Tagged , , | Leave a comment