Field of Science

Mystery Fungus

For this week's semi-random taxon, I drew the fungal genus Trichangium. Unfortunately, there's not much I can say about this one. The single species of this genus, Trichangium vinosum was described by German mycologist Wilhelm Kirchstein in 1935 in a volume of the journal Annales Mycologici to which I don't have access (there are other volumes of this journal available at archive.org but seemingly not this one). The original collection was found growing on bark of a pear tree. Since then, Kirchstein's species seems to have gone largely unrecognised. I could find no further records under this name and recent synopses of ascomycete genera (e.g. Lumbsch & Huhndorf 2010) list it incertae sedis in the order Helotiales. Helotiales are mostly minute fungi with cup-shaped fruiting bodies that most commonly grow as saprobes on organic substrates such as fallen logs or humus.

Fruiting body of Unguiculella robergei, copyright Abel Flahaut.


However, in 1962 the British mycologist Richard Dennis noted that Kirchstein's description of Trichangium vinosum bore a close resemblance to another bark-living fungus, Unguiculella robergei, and suggested that the two might be the same species. Unguiculella robergei is itself a very rare fungus, otherwise only known from a handful of records in France and Scotland, seemingly all in the month of April (see MycoDB). It has been recorded from bark and dead twigs of mistletoe and roses, producing dark red, disk- or cup-shaped fruiting bodies less than a millimetre in diameter. These fruiting bodies are covered with small glassy hairs; the hooked shape of these hairs was presumably the inspiration for the genus name meaning a small claw or nail. It is possible, of course, that this fungus is more common than realised: with something this small, you need to be looking for it.

REFERENCE

Dennis, R. W. G. 1962. New or interesting British Helotiales. Kew Bulletin 16 (2): 317–327.

Lumbsch, H. T., & S. M. Huhndorf. 2010. Myconet volume 14. Part One. Outline of Ascomycota—2009. Part Two. Notes on ascomycete systematics. Nos 4751–5113. Fieldiana: Life and Earth Sciences, N.S. 1: 1–64.

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