Ramaria formosa (Pers.) Quél.

Ramaria formosa, Portugal

Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Gomphales - Family: Gomphaceae

A rare coral fungus of broadleaf woodland, Ramaria formosa is very variable in colour. Some specimens have more of an orange tinge, but perhaps the most attractive is the pink form pictured here. Unfortunately the delicate colouring of young fruitbodies soon fades.

This coral fungus is relatively common in some southern-European oak woodlands, but occasionally it has been reported to form mycorrhizae also with conifers. (The specimen shown here was growing close to an oak tree.)

Ramaria formosa, Algarve region of Portugal

Distribution

Seen only rarely in Britain and Ireland, and most often in southern England, Ramaria formosa occurs also throughout most of mainland Europe, where it is increasingly common towards the Mediterranean and the Iberian Peninsula.

This coral fungus occurs also in woodlands in many parts of North America.

Taxonomic history

This coral fungus was described in 1797 by Christiaan Hendrik Persoon, who gave it the scientific name Clavaria formosa. It was French mycologist Lucien Quélet who, in 1888, redescribed this species under its currently-accepted scientific name Ramaria formosa.

Synonyms of Ramaria formosa include Clavaria formosa Pers.

Etymology

Ramaria, the generic name, comes from Ram- meaning branch, with the suffix -aria meaning posessing or furnished with. Ramaria coral species are indeed furnished with numerous branches.

The specific epithet formosa means shapely (beautifully formed) - quite appropriate for this lovely coral fungus, which if seen early in its development when the colour has not faded is surely one of the most beautiful of all woodland fungi.

Identification guide

Ramaria formosa - closeup of coral tips

Fruitbody

When fully developed the whole fruitbody is usually 7 to 20cm tall, and up to 15cm across.

Pinkish-ochre to orange-pink, paler at the tips of branches, turning ochraceous with age; tough and rubbery coral-like structure with a pale stout base, repeatedly forking; surface smooth, often flattened. Spores are produced on the coral-like surface, which turns dark wine-red or black when bruised.

Spores of Ramaria formosa

Spores

Oblong-ellipsoidal to subfusiform, 8-15 x 4-6µm, with a rough surface; inamyloid.

Spore print

Orange-yellow (ochraceous).

Odour/taste

Odour not distinctive; taste bitter.

Habitat & Ecological role

Mycorrhizal with hardwoods such as oaks; occasionally associated with conifers.

Season

July to November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Ramaria stricta is white or cream and its branches are more upright.

Culinary Notes

Ramaria formosa is poisonous; it causes stomach pains and diarrhoea. There is another reasion why this coral fungus should not be collected in Britain: it is very rare. In the Red Data List produced by Shelly Evans et al. in 2006 the Conservation Status of Ramaria formosa is categorised as Vulnerable.

Reference Sources

Pat O'Reilly, Fascinated by Fungi, 2011.

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 on this species

Roger Phillips (UK)

Michael Kuo (USA)

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