Fungus discovery becomes 2,500th species found around Heathrow
The number of flora and fauna species around Heathrow has hit the 2,500 mark after Biodiversity Manager Adam Cheeseman discovered an uncommon fungus – Dead Moll’s Fingers – last week. In the second blog in our biodiversity series, Adam gives us an insight into the new discovery and other fungi around the airport.
In my role as Biodiversity Manager at Heathrow I’ve discovered countless new species within the 170 hectares and whenever another is found it’s always exciting for me. Last week, I was lucky enough to come across our 2,500th (known) specie while working in woodland at the Causeway Nature Reserve last week.
Known as Dead Moll’s Fingers (Xylaria longipes), this species of club fungus grows singly or in groups on rotting wood, usually tree stumps. It gets its name due to its appearance, looking like spindly, blackened fingers that when snapped in half are pure white on the inside.
This fungus is saprophytic, which means it obtains the nutrients it needs from dead things, wood in this case. Deadwood is a highly important habitat for many species of fungi and invertebrates which rely upon it for food for part, or all, of their life cycle.
The particular site where Dead Moll’s Fingers was discovered is one of my favourites due to the large variety of species that thrive in the area.
223 species of fungi and lichen at Heathrow!
This site hosts many of the 223 species of fungi and lichens that have so far been identified at Heathrow.
There are undoubtedly many more to discover. The national list of fungi stands at over 17,000 species.
What many people might not know is that fungi are in their own Kingdom of living things – as they are neither plant nor animal.
What are Lichens then? Well, Lichens are organisms made up of a symbiotic partnership between a fungus and another “partner”, often algae.
Fungi are unable to produce their own food so instead take advantage of the ability of the algae to produce nutrients via photosynthesis (the use of the sunlight to produce nutrients).
A glow in the dark fungus…
There are a number of other unique fungi types in the decaying wood in that area including one that glows in the dark – Candesnuff Fungus! Other types in the area include Hazel Woodwart, Spring Polypore and Yellowing Curtain Crust Fungus, as well as other bracket and crust fungi.
I’ve provided images of some of these but there are many more available on the Heathrow Biodiversity Flickr page.
Two new species of moss and a slug were also found on the same day: Common Feather-moss, Redshank Moss, and Tree Slug.
More about Causeway Nature Reserve…
Causeway Nature Reserve, also known as the Lower Balancing Pond, is a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation at a Metropolitan level. This is primarily due to the fact that it forms part of the River Crane corridor and its historical landscape, much of which has changed little for hundreds of years.
We’re working hard to ensure this continues by monitoring the site closely and helping to plant more native flora. Last October, for example, I spent the day with a group of Heathrow Airport volunteers planting hundreds of native daffodil and bluebell bulbs.
It was clear to see last week that many of these were beginning to emerge and should flower in the next month, helping maintain what is a beautiful natural area.
Read the Adam’s first biodiversity blog here, and follow @yourHeathrow for the next #LHRBiodiversity installment!