Saturday, 17 November 2012

Blue mood Mushrooms

On the Fungal Foray in the Forest of Loches, we found these small blue fungi.

On the forest floor...
On the table at the end....
From a slightly different angle.

They are Green Wood Cups [Chlorosplenium aeruginascens (Syn.Chlorociboria aeruginascens)], which grow on dead hardwood and the fruiting bodies are rarely seen. Although inedible they do have value... they point to wood that will have a secondary use....
They stain the wood that the mycelium* are growing in a distinct greeny-blue which has been used in woodwork as a naturally dyed material.

A small chunk of the main piece, sawn in half to show the colour all through the wood.

It is not as uncommon as the fruiting bodies... apart from the wood shown here, we've found it on some of the old willow that we've cut and stacked in the meadow.
Here the edge of the advancing mycelium can be seen... almost fluorescent!
Here the mycelium are attacking another wood decaying fungi, as well as the wood!

Perhaps one of the most famous uses of the stained wood was in Tunbridge Ware...
Originally 19th Century Tunbridge Ware consisted of transfer printed pictures on treen# [small wooden objects such as the matchbox holder and the measuring tape below] but developed into the art of wood mosaics.
These are a couple of examples gleaned from an auction site on the internet.....

This is a Tunbridgeware matchbox holder... the 'blue' can clearly be seen.
This example is much more complex, but again the blue/green wood has been used.

The mosaic was built up from square rods of coloured wood, glued into a block and then cut into thin veneers.... hence the fact that the mosaics on the tape measure match so well. Mosaic Tunbridgeware or Tunbridge Ware is very sought after... the matchbox holder alone is worth around £400!

The dark wood in the mosaic could be dark oak... another fungal colouration in the timber... this time caused by Poor-man's Beefsteak, Oak Liver Fungus or Beefsteak Fungus [Fistulina hepatica] Langue de Boeuf.

This is not the normal appearance... it was growing upwards from a stump apparently....
This 'slab of meat' appearance is more common... appetising, non? [from the Preuilly foray.]

You will have noticed that it has many English common names... England used to have great Oak woods. The mycelium darken the heartwood of living oaks... but in this case the fungus doesn't destroy the tree like Honey Fungus does.

Beefsteak Fungus is edible... when raw... it has nice texture.. but little flavour... in fact, to my palate, it just tasted woody and I haven't eaten it since!
The first one I found I had cooked... NOT A GOOD IDEA... I threw it in the bin... school meal liver didn't have a patch on the rubber sole that cooked Beefsteak Fungus becomes. I think it would make very good, long lasting hinges...

On the first Fungal Foray at Preuilly, one of the people, around the table at the end,was going on at some length of how good it was in what we would call a winter salad... with chopped beans, rocket, Chinese cabbage and carrot... I haven't tried this, but I can see that a strongly flavoured dressing on the salad would be carried by the raw mushroom... which would most likely be chewable raw. It is known, after all, as Poor-man's beefsteak.

Other livingwood fungi like Honey Fungus [Armillaria mellea] Armillaire couleur de miel, give rise to patterning in the wood... much liked by turners of treen as there are dark lines in a pale wood object like this piece of chestnut that reminds me of a little 'oddities' box that I bought Pauline... and which is in a box somewhere... possibly in the bedroom.

Speltered wood... There are two fungi at work here... one leaving a pinky-brown colour...  the other a grey-brown.
Such work is known as "Speltered" in the UK [or in the US "Spalted"] and is usually made from timber of a hardwood tree where the wood is normally light in colour... beech and birch are perhaps the most common... and exhibits dark stained lines and splotches caused by the fungal attack. . We are coming up to the Christmas Fayre season... keep an eye out for speltered-ware bowls, cups and plates.

There is a very interesting article on how to create your own speltered [spalted] wood for turning here... written for the US Forestry department. And there I was thinking that it was just a good spot on the part of the wood turners... originally, it probably was... but when something becomes popular... then someone does some research & development... there was even an article on how to promote and sell your decorative wood products...

*mycelium = the mass of thread-like material that you find if you turn over leaves where Fungi are growing. Put very simply, what we call fungi are only the fruiting bodies of a vast network of threads, feeding on and breaking down dead material.

#Treen = small wooden objects, often turned, always artisanally made... found in antique shops or on bric-a-brac stalls.


Colin and Elizabeth said...

What a fascinating post, Tim. We've seen many a honey fungus but we were not aware that it caused patterning within the wood.

The Green Wood Cups are incredible; or should that be in(cr)edible??

We have made plans for this afternoon otherwise a foray around the Etangs de Narbonne would have been a most attractive proposition.

Tim said...

We are off to Le Louroux to have a walk round the étang... the LPO have a walk arranged but we didn't book!!
We'll go and do our "own thang"!

Susan said...

Most informative as usual, and your pics are better than mine taking in the dim light of the forest. I didn't know that about using the stained wood for inlay -- I have often seen coloured woods used, but assumed it was some sort of vegetable dye.

Have you conclusively ID'd this one to species level? Jean-Pierre said there are 2 species, which are indistinguishable in the field and require expert microscopic examination to know which species you are looking at.

Tim said...

No Susan... I just don't have that knowledge... but Jean-Pierre said, I think, that the one I found was the most common... they may well be one of each!
With the one found and photographed here, it was inside a split log that was stacked "re-assembled" so to speak... these pictures were taken about 15 minutes after discovery... and I'd closed the two chunks back together in the interim... so they are about as fresh as you can get... They are also flash pictures, so the lighting will be somewhat artificial, as well... and that will cause a colour difference between this one and the one out in the open on the forest floor.
That forest floor specimen, when I sawed it open, had been here for over two weeks... and was well dried out! That also will cause a colour difference... the sawn specimen is much closer to the Tunbridge Ware colour.
Also, the forest specimen was at the end of its food supply.... hence the mushrooms.
Also, my microscopes are still in their boxes in a box in the longére... which, coincedentally I happened to have to move the other day.

Jean said...

What a fascinating post.
The green coloured wood is amazing and must have seemed even more so in days gone by when colours were tricky to produce in anything. We take coloured objects so for granted nowadays.

Tim said...

Yes... it must have been. I wonder if it was used in anything else... Tunbridge Ware is the only documented use that I am aware of...