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Clavaria fumosa Pers. - Smoky Spindles

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Clavariales - Family: Clavariaceae

Clavaria fumosa - Smoky Spindles

Simple, unbranched clubs but often in bunches, like eels with their tails twisting upwards as they fight over a morsel buried in a riverbed, Smoky Spindles is one of the many fairy clubs and corals that pop up in unimproved grassland. These worm-like eruptions are very brittle and they usually snap into pieces if you try to bend them or even to remove blades of grass to improve the aesthetic appearance of a photograph.

This tufted fairy club fungus is fairly easy to spot… but only when it is growing in short grass.

Clavaria fumosa, Smoky Spindles, in mossy grassland, West Wales

Distribution

Common throughout Britain and Ireland, Clavaria fumosa was originally described from France and is also found in most parts of mainland Europe. This species is reported also from North America.

Taxonomic history

Some club-like and coral-like fungi are ascomycetous, but fairy clubs of Clavaria and related genera belong to the Basidiomycota.

Smoky Spindles was was originally described in 1795 by Christian Hendrik Persoon, who gave this species its currently accepted scientific name. The name Clavaria fumosa was later sanctioned by the the great Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries in his landmark publication Systema Mycologicum of 1821.

Synonyms of Clavaria fumosa include Clavaria striata Pers.

Etymology

The generic name Clavaria comes from the Latin clava, meaning a club. Not quite so obvious, but again from Latin, is the specific epithet fumosa, which means smoky.

Identification guide

Smoky Spindles, Clavaria fumosa

Description

Fusiform; fasciculate; brittle; often somewhat laterally flattened and sometimes longitudinally grooved; occasionally straight but more often wavy with either bluntly pointed or rounded tips; colour ranges from grey brown via pinkish brown to pale ochre brown.

The individual stems are typically 2 to 12cm tall and 3 to 10mm across.

Spores of Clavaria fumosa, Smoky Spindles

Spores

Ellipsoidal, smooth, 5.5-8 x 3.5-4µm; containing many small fine granules or oil drops.

Show larger image

Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

Not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

Saprobic, on the ground in unimproved grassland and in leaf litter on woodland edges and clearings; less commonly in dense woodland.

Season

June to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Clavaria fragilis is similar but has white spindly fruitbodies.

Clavulinopsis fusiformis has a similar form but is golden yellow.

Culinary Notes

Smoky Spindles fungi are reported to be edible, but their scarcity and diminutive stature makes the collection of these fungi for food not worthwhile.

Smoky Spindles on a roadside verge

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

Persoon CH. (1795). "Observationes mycologicae". Annalen der Botanik (Usteri). 15: 1–39.

Dictionary of the Fungi; Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers; CABI, 2008

Taxonomic history and synonym information on these pages is drawn from many sources but in particular from the British Mycological Society's GB Checklist of Fungi and (for basidiomycetes) on Kew's Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota.

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