Heyderia abietis (Fr.) Link   

Kingdom: Fungi
Phylum: Ascomycota
Class: Leotiomycetes
Order: Helotiales

British distribution: Widespread but rare.
World distribution: Europe, North America.

Heyderia abietis on spruce (Picea) needles

Imagine a cup fungus, in which the stalk has elongated upwards to push the cup inside out. This is what has happened here. The fruitbody is an apothecium, but what would have been the inner surface of the cup is now the exterior of the upper part of the fruitbody. The yellow portion, therefore, is the hymenium.

The margins of the cup are not completely fused with the stem, but are still separated from it by a distinct groove. This is one feature by which Heyderia differs from Mitrula, a genus that used to be considered as including Heyderia species.

H. abietis is a decomposer of dead spruce (Picea) needles, its occurrence on needles of other conifers being much less certain. It is, then, a fungus of spruce plantations, in which it can occur in extraordinary quantity, its mycelium binding the surface layers of the litter. It is not at all common in Britain, but may be overlooked due to its apparent preference for younger plantations that can be difficult to explore.

Heyderia abietis, studio close-up

Photographed material: Aigas Forest, Inverness, 1985.

Two other Heyderia species occur in Britain:
•   H. pusilla is a similar but more minute species on dead needles of pine (Pinus);
•   H. sclerotipus is a rare species of wet woodland, where it parasitises sclerotia of the fungus Typhula phacorrhiza.

© A.J. Silverside
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