The tale of Hazel Gloves and a fungus which grows on a fungus

There’s an unusual fungus on a thin tree branch in the woods surrounding Orley Common. I know that I’ve never seen it before so I decide to stand by it and wait for the leader of our fungus group (yes, there really is such a thing) to catch us up. It’s a marvel that we’ve got so far today. We usually park in an amazing place and then spend at least an hour within five steps of whichever car park it is. Today it actually feels as if we’ve had a walk.

One of my fungus friends (yes, there really are such things) goes to pick it and take it to our leader but I say “I was going to leave it where it was.” She moves her hand away guiltily. I try to explain that it seems a shame to kill it. It’s not like just taking the fruiting body of a mushroom on the ground when the actual fungus is hidden, growing through the organic matter in the earth. If you take the branch you take the fungus as well. This might be its only chance to reproduce. As we’re talking, another one of our group walks up, snaps the branch off and walks away with it. We look at one another and at her back as she walks off, clutching it.

Hazel Gloves - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Our group leader says it’s called Hazel Gloves, Hypocreopsis rhododendri. It’s incredibly rare and he knows of only one other site in Devon at which it grows. He normally has to drive all the way to North Devon to find it growing on brambles. It’s a parasitic fungus which grows on another fungus, Glue Crust fungus Hymenochaete corrugata which grows on old hardwood trees like Hazel. We think this one is on a Spindle tree. It’s a fungus which grows on a fungus which grows on a tree. How cool is that?

Hazel Gloves - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

A quick Google search brings up the following: “It should not be collected as it is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species.” Next time I find something unusual I’m definitely going to guard it better.

The last I see of it is in my friend’s fungus basket (yes, there really is such a thing) and he’s heading home to Somerset with it.

Hazel Gloves - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Let’s hope this tree grows a new set of gloves.

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