Clavulina cinerea (Bull.) J. Schröt. - Grey Coral

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Cantharellales - Family: Clavulinaceae

Clavulina cinerea

This grey coral-like fungus is often found growing beside footpaths in woodland during summer and autumn. The flattened, antler-like branches can be up to 10cm tall.

Distribution

Common in woodlands in Britain and Ireland, as well as most other other parts of northern and central Europe, Clavulina cinerea is also recorded in North America and in many other temperate parts of the world.

Clavulina cinerea parasitised by Helminthosphaeria clavariorum

Look out also for a purple-tinged form of the same fungus (see above). The colour change is due to attack by Helminthosphaeria clavariorum, an ascomycete fungus which in some areas dominates to such an extent that the grey form is rarely if ever seen.

Taxonomic history

Grey Coral was described in 1788 by French mycologist Jean Baptiste Francois (Pierre) Bulliard, who named it Clavaria cinerea. In 1888, German mycologist Joseph Schrötter (1837 - 1894) transferred this species to the genus Clavulina, thereby establishing its currently-accepted scientific name Clavulina cinerea.

Synonyms of Clavulina cinerea include Clavaria cinerea Bull., Clavaria grisea Pers., Ramaria cinerea (Bull.) Gray, Clavaria fuliginea Pers., Clavulina cinerea f. cinerea (Bull.) J. Schröt., Clavulina cinerea var. cinerea (Bull.) J. Schröt., and Clavaria cinerea var. gracilis Rea.

Clavulina cinerea parasitised by Helminthosphaeria clavariorum, Wiltshire UK

Etymology

The specific epithet cinerea means smoky or ashen (as in cinders).

Identification guide

Closeup of Clavulina cinerea

Fruitbody

Ash grey or grey-brown, occasionally tinged with lilac, this very coral-like fungus has flattened branches with rounded ends rather than forked tips. The whole fruitbody is 3 to 10cm tall, and usually of similar or slightly smaller width, with individual stems typically 6 to 10mm across their major diameter.

Spores of Clavulina cinerea, Grey Coral

Spores

Broadly ellipsoidal to subglobose, smooth, 6.5-11 x 6-10µm; inamyloid.

Show larger image

Spore print

Whitish.

Basidia

2-spored.

Odour/taste

Not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

Considered to be mycorrhizal; on the ground beneath deciduous trees as well as conifers; usually where there is a build up of leaf litter.

Season

July to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Clavulina rugosa is smaller with one or just a few club-like branches nearly always with blunt tips.

Culinary Notes

Clavulina cinerea is reported to be edible, but this insubstantial woodland fungus is of no significant culinary value.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

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.

Other web pages about this species

Roger Phillips (UK)

Leif Goodwin (UK)

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Doug Holland.

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