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Neolentinus lepideus (Fr.) Redhead & Ginns - Train Wrecker

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Polyporales - Family: Polyporaceae

Neolentinus lepideus, Train Wrecker

Neolentinus lepideus, a gilled member of the family Polyporaceae, is one of the few fungi species that can cope with creosote and other preserving impregnations that are used in an attempt to prevent structural timbers from rotting. Its common name Train Wrecker reflects the fact that this wood-rotting fungus can attack and consume railway sleepers.

Neolentinus lepideus, southern England

Distribution

Neolentinus lepideus is an occasional find in Britain and Ireland. Thie range of this species extends across much of mainland Europe and Africa, and it is also recorded in many parts of Asia and North America.

Taxonomic history

The Train Wrecker was described scientifically in 1815 by Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries, who created its basionym when he gave it the scientific binomial name Agaricus lepideus. Thirteen years later, in 1828, Christiaan Hendrik Persoon described the same species under the scientific name Agaricus polymorphus. The currently-accepted scientific name dates from a 1985 publication by Canadian mycologists Scott Alan Redhead and Jim Ginns.

Working out which family and genus this gilled mushroom belongs in has foxed mycologists down the centuries - hence its many and very varied synonyms, which include include Agaricus lepideus Fr., Lentinus lepideus (Fr.) Fr., Clitocybe lepidea (Fr.) P. Kumm., Pocillaria lepidea (Fr.) Kuntze, Panus lepideus (Fr.) Corner, Agaricus tubaeformis Schaeff., Agaricus cyprinus Batsch, Agaricus serpentiformis Batsch, Ramaria ceratoides Holmsk., and Agaricus polymorphus Pers.

Etymology

The generic name Neolentinus comes from Neo- meaning 'a modern or recent version of' and Lentinus, a gilled mushroom genus within the family Polyporaceae, via the Latin lent- meaning pliable and -inus meaning resembling.

The specific epithet lepideus is a Latin adjective meaning scaly - a reference to the structure of the cap surface.

Identification guide

Cap surface of Neolentinus lepideus, Train Wrecker

Cap

The upper surface of the cap of this gilled polypore is white with coarse brown scales, larger towards the centre. Ranging from 3 to 12cm across when fully developed, but sometimes split and lobed, the caps are initially convex with an inrolled margin, expanding to become flat with age.

stem of Neolentinus lepideus, Train Wrecker

Stem

2.5-15cm long and 1-2cm in diameter; dry; whitish, developing brown scales. A fleeting ring looks very similar to the stem scales.

Underside (gills) of Neolentinus lepideus

Gills

Adnate, white to yellowish; edges raggedly serrate; bruising brownish.

 

Spores

Cylindrical, smooth, 8-14 x 3.5-5µm; inamyloid.

Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

Odour sometimes faintly of aniseed; taste mild but not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

Saprobic, causing brown rot in trunks, stumps and fallen large branches of conifers, particularly pines (Pinus spp) and larches (Larix spp) very occasionally also on hardwoods; also on railway sleepers and telegraph poles.

Season

Early summer to late autumn

Similar species

There are other similar members of the genus Neolentinus; however, Neolentinus lepideus is the only member of its genus that has a stem ring.

Culinary Notes

The this white flesh of this polypore fungus is much too tough to be of any culinary interest.

Reference Sources

Mattheck, C., and Weber, K. (2003). Manual of Wood Decays in Trees. Arboricultural Association

Pat O'Reilly (2016). Fascinated by Fungi, First Nature Publishing

BMS List of English Names for Fungi

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

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.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Simon Harding.

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