What you see is what you get: hazel gloves research news

posted 15 Jul 2011, 01:36 by Katie Grundy   [ updated 13 Apr 2013, 14:38 by Scottish Fungi ]
Hazel gloves (Hypocreopsis rhododendri) is an ascomycete which produces distinctive fingered fruits on the stems of trees and shrubs. Its fruit bodies have only been found at a scattering of sites down the west coasts of Britain, Ireland and France, and in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern USA. The fungus is therefore considered globally rare.

Fungi can however be more widely distributed than their fruit bodies’ distribution suggests. This is because most fungi have extensive networks of hyphae in the substrate underneath their fruiting bodies. These hyphae may be parasitizing live plant or animal tissues, decomposing dead organic matter, or working in symbiosis with plant roots.

We developed a molecular probe (species-specific PCR primers) to detect hazel gloves’ hyphae within wood, and therefore enable us to determine the true distribution of the fungus. We used the probe to look in the wood underneath 11 hazel gloves fruit bodies, and much to our surprise we did not detect the fungus. It is unlikely that this was due to a limitation of the probe, as it was demonstrated to be highly sensitive in testing. Instead, we must assume that hazel gloves does not develop hyphae within wood.

This has several interesting implications:

·         Feeding strategy: Hazel gloves cannot be a wood decay fungus if it lacks tissues in wood. Instead it is thought to parasitise the wood decay fungus Hymenochaete corrugata (glue fungus) when this fungus extends hyphae through the surface of the bark.

·         Dispersal: Hazel gloves cannot spread from stem to stem by growing through its substrate. Instead it is probably highly dependent on spore dispersal.

·         Longevity: Given its association with the wood decaying glue fungus, stems supporting hazel gloves fruit bodies will only last for a few years before rotting away.

·         Distribution: Hazel gloves is not widespread as hyphae within wood; the full distribution of the species may be captured by recording fruit bodies.

Katie Grundy.