Cheilymenia fimicola (De Not. & Bagl.) Dennis

Phylum: Ascomycota - Class: Pezizomycetes - Order: Pezizales - Family: Pyronemataceae

Cheilymenia fimicola on dung

Cow-pats and dung from other farm animals and wild herbivores are home to a host of macro and micro fungi, but one of the more spectacular colonisers of cow-pats, is Cheilymenia fimicola. This tiny disc-like ascomycete fungus belongs to the order Pezizales. (This fungus is inedible - but who in their right mind would be tempted to try it?) Although individually tiny, it is as if coprophilous disc fungi find safety in numbers - often these and related ascomycete species swarm over dung in their hundreds and sometimes in their thousands.

Cheilymenia fimicola - fine detail

Distribution

This colourful dung-loving ascomycete is a very common sight on all kinds of herbivorous animal dung (especially cow dung) throughout Britain and Ireland as well as in other European countries.

Taxonomic history

Originally described as Arrhenia granulata in 1866 by Italian mycologists Giuseppe De Notaris (1805 - 1877) and Francesco Baglietto (1826 – 1916), in 1978 this species was transferred to the genus Cheilymenia by British mycologist Richard William George Dennis (1910 - 2003).

Synonyms of Cheilymenia fimicola include Lachnea minima Grove, Arrhenia fimicola De Not. & Bagl., Peziza coprinaria Cooke, Lachnea coprinaria (Cooke) Sacc., Cheilymenia coprinaria (Cooke) Boud., and Cheilymenia coprinaria var. minima (Grove) Ramsb.

Closeup of fruitbodies, Chaelymenia fimicola

Etymology

The specific epithet fimicola means 'living on dung'.

The key to identifying to species level the various species of Cheilymenia and Scutellinia (the other main group of eyelash-fringed disc fungi) of which there are close on 50 known in Britain and Ireland, is by microscopic examination of asci, spores and any hairs or 'lashes' that cover the infertile surface.

Identification guide

Close-up of Cheilymenia fimicola

Fruitbody

Flat or shallowly concave discs, 2 to 4mm across and 0.5 to 1.5mm tall; orange; sessile; usually in groups and sometimes in swarms on dung. The fertile (upper) surface is bright orange and smooth; the lower (infertile) surface is slightly paler and covered in fine hairs, especially around the margin, where they stand more or less upright.

Hairs of Cheilymenia fimicola

Hairs

Up to 500µm (0.5mm) long and 25-30µm in diameter at the base tapering to a sharp point; variably septate; forked at the base.

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Paraphyses, asci and spores of Cheilymenia fimicola

Ascii

Eight spores per ascus. Asci tips inamyloid.

Paraphyses

Cylindrical with slightly swollen tips 7-8µm diameter; septate .

Spore of Cheilymenia fimicola

Spores

Ellipsoidal, smooth, thin-walled, 17-20 x 10-12µm; hyaline.

Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

Reportedly not distinctive - although given their particular habitats who would want to try sniffing and tasting such offerings?

Habitat & Ecological role

Saprobic, on all kinds of herbivore dung, but especially on cow-pats.

Season

May to early November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Scutellinia scutellata, Common Eyelash fungus, has blackish hairs around its rim and it grows on rotten timber.

Several other ascomycetous disc fungi also colonise animal dung. Few can be identified from macroscopic features alone, and so microscopic examination of asci, spores and other cell structures is usually necessary.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

Dennis, R.W.G. (1981). British Ascomycetes; Lubrecht & Cramer; ISBN: 3768205525.

Breitenbach, J. & Kränzlin, F. (1984). Fungi of Switzerland. Volume 1: Ascomycetes. Verlag Mykologia: Luzern, Switzerland.

Medardi, G. (2006). Ascomiceti d'Italia. Centro Studi Micologici: Trento.

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.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by David Kelly.

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