Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Tangled Web of Black Threads

Every now and again one stumbles across something baffling that defies an easy explanation. To be sure, this might not be as exciting as sighting a Sasquatch, photographing the Loch Ness Monster or being kidnapped by extraterrestrial aliens, but it's certainly a mystery what these black thread-like growths entangled in the pine needles littering the woodland floor might be. Whatever they are they do seem to use the pine needles and twigs as a substrate.

Could they be the stems of Horsehair Mushrooms, various tiny Marasmius spp? If so, where are the remnants of the caps? Also, the threads are between 75 mm to 100 mm long – too long to be the stems of the tiny 'shrooms in question. Another possibility is that we're looking at last year's dessicated remnants of Fairy Threads (Macrotyphula spp.). And a local naturalist suggested the darkened remains of Dwarf Scouring Rush (Equisetum scirpoides). A good idea, but why isn't there so much as a single living specimen to be found in the area?

Until some specimens both dead and alive are encountered the black threads will remain an enigma ...