Gordon Moss has rare British fungi

Willow Glove Fungus in Gordon Moss.
Willow Glove Fungus in Gordon Moss.

As the year draws to an end we often look back and think of the wildlife highlights of the past year.

One which stands out for me in 2015 was the discovery of a little fungus growing on a willow bush in Gordon Moss. This turned out to be the Willow Glove fungus (Hypocreopsis lichenoides).

This fungus gets its common name Willow Glove as it resembles a tiny hand with gloved fingers clasping a stem.

In April, when walking through Gordon Moss with some friends, we spotted on a small willow branch three little specimens of a lichen like fungus growing close together. This was something we did not recognise but thought that it resembled the rare Hazel Glove fungus that we had only ever read about and had never seen, it is only found on Hazel trees in wet woods on the west coast of Britain.

As the Hazel Glove is not in any of my ‘popular’ fungus books I looked it up on the internet to find out a little more about it, and, much to my surprise found that there is also a Willow Glove fungus, a critically endangered species listed in the Red Data Book of Threatened British Fungi.

The specimen we had collected was quickly packed up and sent to an expert in Edinburgh where it was eagerly awaited and quickly confirmed as the legendary Willow Glove fungus.

The Willow Glove fungus was first found near Halifax and described as a new species by James Bolton away back in 1789, it has never been refound near Halifax.

In Scotland it was found in the late 19th centaury in Galloway by the naturalist McAndrew and there is also an old record of a specimen from Forfar, but it has never been refound at either site.

In England there has been a few records since 1789 but it is now thought extinct.

In Wales there was just one specimen on one willow tree until quite recently but changing circumstances in the forest where it grew has resulted in its loss - and just at the time when it was being declared extinct in Britain, it was found here in Berwickshire which is now its only known site in Britain.

The specimen sent to Edinburgh for confirmation was returned to Gordon Moss, the twig which had been removed was tied back onto the same branch from where it had been removed.

Subsequent searching in Gordon Moss has turned up about 15 other specimens, some are small young ones, others larger, old specimens, the photo is of the largest specimen and is about an inch and half across.

It is thought to be very slow growing and is reputed only to grow in association with another rare fungus Hymenochaete tabacina, which turns out to be common in Gordon Moss.

I must admit that finding a fungus which I did not know existed, and, which would have been so easy to have overlooked, was a very lucky break indeed. What will 2016 turn up?