Brown Mottlegill

Drawing of the fungiSummer warmth and a few heavy showers have triggered the growth of some small fungi on our dewy back lawn this morning. They’re going to get trimmed off when I get around to cutting the lawn so I pick them to draw and to take some close-ups using my USB microscope.

The cap which is about a centimetre across is smooth with no trace of ridges. It has dark brown gills, which I’d describe as distant as opposed to close or crowded.


In this photograph the gills are emarginate, meaning that there is a notch where they attach to the stem. But the notch isn’t as clear in this cross section of the cap;cap in cross-section

The circular stem is hollow and there’s no swelling at its base.

Spore Prints

Brown Mottlegill spore printThe pattern of growth, as far as I can judge by this little group, is trooping. I couldn’t see any trace of a fairy ring starting to form.

I’m taking spore prints which might help narrow down what kind of fungus it is.

spores of brown mottlegill

My thanks to Steve Clements for this suggestion;

Most likely a Mottlegill (Panaeolus or Panaeolina) – the commonest one on mown grass round my part of Sheffield is Brown Hay Cap – Panaeolina foenesecii – which is supposed to be slightly hallucinogenic. The spores are blackish, and warted (under the microscope). The gills look mottled under a hand lens.

The Collins Guide calls this species Brown Mottlegill and adds that the ‘dark brown-black’ spores are ‘ellip to lemon-shaped’ which is how they look in 200x photograph that I took with my microscope.

Garden Snail

garden snail, Helix aspersaThe Garden Snail, Helix aspersa, has a thin, lightweight shell but that still looks cumbersome as it explores a fern-filled crevice in an old wall (see previous posts). As I drew it from a photograph that I’d taken this morning I noticed traces of damage to the shell with what appears to be a healed break in the rim and hairline fracture on the ‘back’ of its shell.

I imagine it being surprised, perhaps by a bird, retracting into its shell then falling from the wall onto the pavement below.

garden snail, Helix aspersa

A second snail clung precariously to the base of the stems of Common Ragwort, growing from a crevice near the top of the six foot high wall amongst the fronds of Rusty-back Fern and Wall Rue.

Wall Rue

wall rue, Asplenium ruta-muraria

Wall Rue, British Ferns, 1861
Wall Rue, British Ferns, 1861

Wall Rue, Asplenium ruta-muraria grows alongside the Rusty-back Fern in the crevices of an old wall in Ossett. It is a common fern of walls and limestone crevices.

Leathery leaves and long wiry roots are useful adaptations for conserving water.

Like the Rusty-back it is a member of the Spleenwort family, used as a herbal remedy for diseases of the spleen and also in the treatment of rickets.

Rusty-back Fern

rusty-back fern, Ceterach officinarumrusty-back fern fronds, Ceterach officinarumThe Rusty-back fern, Ceterach officinarum, has rusty scales on the backs of its leaves. These cover the spore-producing sori and probably help prevent the fern from drying out. During dry spells the fronds roll in at the edges.

Growing to just few inches, this fern is found in dry crevices in limestone and in old mortared walls. A small colony grows on a north-east facing sandstone wall on Station Road, Ossett.

It is best grown in a cold frame, potted rather high, among loam mixed with a large proportion of brick-rubbish, and not over-watered.

Thomas More, British Ferns, 1861

Rusty-back or Scale fern, drawn by W.W. Coleman, British Ferns, 1861.
Rusty-back or Scale fern, drawn by W.W. Coleman, British Ferns, 1861.

Rusty-back fern is a member of the spleenwort family and was used to treat diseases of the spleen. Legend has it that Cretan sheep with spleen disorders would greedily devour its rootstock.

It’s scientific name Ceterach is said to derive from the Arabic  ‘Cheterak’ the name that Eastern physicians used for this plant.

Yellow-tail Moth

yellow-tail moth, Euproctis similis
Featherlike antennae help the male track down the larger female.

When disturbed the Yellow-tail Moth, Euproctis similis sticks the end of its abdomen up between its wings. Both male and female have the yellow tip although it is larger in the female.

yellow-tail sketches

Some female moths spread pheromones by raising their tails and the males use their feathery antennae to home in on them.

So why does this male raise his ‘tail’ when disturbed? Is it a way to surprise a predator?

Male yellow-tail moth, Euproctis similis
The male has dark spots on his wings.

It’s the first time that this species has turned up in the moth trap.

The male seen from below.
The male seen from below.

Yellow-tail moth caterpillars have been found on Japanese Knotweed, an invasive garden escape which very few native insects feed on, but they’re more likely to feed on sallow, blackthorn and hawthorn.

Broad-Bordered Underwing

broad-bordered yellow underwingTHERE WERE at least half a dozen Large Yellow Underwings in the moth trap this morning plus some of their smaller relatives but this is the first time that I’ve seen the Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Notcua  fimbriata. This is a male; the female is paler.

broad-bordered yellow underwingIt’s more typical of wooded areas than gardens but as the foodplants of its larvae include docks, nettles, brambles, sallows and willows it’s not surprising that it has turned up here.