Strobilurus tenacellus --- Pine Conecap can be found in Pembrey (and elsewhere under pines) in Feb -March. There are three species which all look similar, the other two -- S.stephanocystis and S. esculentus, so which do we have. Emily and Tony put on the Blog (10/4/2015) pictures of ones they found in their wood. The taste of the cap is said to be bitter for S.tenacellus but Tony did not find any trace of bitterness so wondered if it could be one of the others. This year I tasted several fb's and none were bitter. This feature seems to be important as the Key in 'Funga Nordica' divides 'bitter' from the mild-taste ones which are the other two! Time of year for 'fruiting' is said to help --- S.tenacellus = early spring to summer, S.esculentus = early spring to autumn and S.stephanocystis = early spring to autumn but 'peaks' said to be differnt. Not much help! S.tenacellus found on burried cones of Pine but also Picea (Spruce), S. stephanocystis on Pine cones and S. esculentus on cones of Picea.
The most reliable way to tell which species is to do microscopy --- the cystidia are quite distinctive. These are cells on the edge or sides of the gills. Microscpy shows those of S.tenacellus ---- at last!
The fungus grows from a buried cone ---- either near the surface or deeply buried so can have a very long rhizomorph (don't know if that is the name!) joining the cone to base of stipe. How does the cone get the spores to start 'infection' when the cone can be 5cm or more beneath the soil surface? I presume the spores --- released in springtime float up to the tree canopy to start life by attaching onto a female flower which would be open at the same time of year. Cunning! Any ideas?