Note to those new to this blog: Quite often I have photos of a lot of different things which for whatever reason didn’t make it into other blog posts. I save them all up and when I have enough I use them in a “things I’ve seen” post. They are by far the toughest posts of all because of the research involved but they seem to be popular, so I keep putting them together when I have the time. I hope you’ll enjoy this one.
I liked the color of this leaf but didn’t pay much attention to what it was attached to until I looked at the photo, which shows vertical lenticels (pores) on the branch it was on. I couldn’t think of any tree or shrub that had vertical lenticels; cherry, birch, alder and other common trees and shrubs that grow in this area have horizontal lenticels. A little Googling told me that it must be glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus,) a very invasive shrub that I’ve never noticed in this spot. If you’ve seen anything similar I’d like to hear about it.
I’m always finding feathers blowing around out there and this one was blowing even as I snapped the shutter. It has a dreamy kind of look. Or maybe it’s just out of focus.
It looks like someone must have smeared black paint or tar on this limb but I’ve been fooled by this before. It is really a black jelly fungus (Exidia glandulosa,) which shrivels down to a flake when it dries out. As you look at the following photo try to remember how flat it is here.
This is the same black jelly fungus in the previous photo after some rain fell. It swelled up to 10 times the size and became clusters of shiny black, pillow shaped fruit bodies. They aren’t shiny everywhere though; if you take a close look at most jelly fungi you’ll find areas that are shiny and areas that have a matte like finish. Most jelly fungi have these two different surfaces and some, like amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa,) produce their spores on the shiny areas. Why they wait until winter to produce them is a mystery to me. Black jellies are quite large and can be seen from a distance, and I almost always find them on alder branches.
The moles are telling me that the soil hasn’t frozen yet. People seem to get very upset when they see evidence of moles in their gardens but though their tunnels might be unsightly they really don’t do any damage to plants. Contrary to popular belief, moles do not eat more than an occasional bite or two of vegetation. They don’t eat grass or tree roots, bulbs, tree bark or the roots of annuals, perennials or vegetables. They aren’t rodents but are members of the order Insectivora and are primarily carnivores with a diet of beetle grubs, earthworms, beetles, and insect larvae. Among the small amount of plant material they do eat are fungi, and this can help clean up infected tree roots. One study of the stomach contents of 100 moles showed that only one had eaten vegetation, so if trails and burrows along with plant damage are seen then it is most likely caused by voles. Unlike moles, they can do a lot of damage to both trees and garden plants.
Though November was cold here December was mild. Mild enough apparently to fool this black raspberry into thinking it was spring. How do I know it’s a black raspberry? Because of the blue “bloom” on the stem. First year canes of black raspberry (and many other plants, fruits, and even lichens) use this waxy coating as a form of protection against harsh sunlight among other things, but raspberries and blackberries do not. There are several other ways to identify a black raspberry but this is the easiest way for those too lazy to use them.
The chubby buds of red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) might have been fooled by the warmth too. They don’t usually show their beautiful purple color until they begin to swell in spring. The streaks of green down the middle show that the bud scales have started separating, and that isn’t good at this time of year because the bud scales protect the tiny new leaves and flowers within. Spring might reveal some deformed and / or burned leaves and flowers this year and that would be too bad, because red elderberry is one of the most beautiful plants in the forest in spring when its buds break to reveal its deep purple leaves. Once the leaves begin to green up and photosynthesize the plant will produce white flowers that will be followed by bright red berries. The berries are a favorite of many birds and animals but they, along with all other parts of this plant, can make us quite sick.
Before I started nature blogging I sometimes said “Gee that’s interesting” and never went much further in trying to identify what I had seen, but when you start trying to explain to others what you have seen and what makes it so interesting you find that you have to be part scientist and part detective. A good example of the detective work involved is the 3 years it has taken to identify these tiny fungi which I’m now fairly certain are called Annulohypoxylon cohaerens. Sorry but they have no common name, apparently. Every other time I’ve seen them they have been growing on American Beech logs (Fagus grandifolia,) but this time grew on a standing tree. They are hard, blackish lumps which are described as “perithecia with ostiole papillate stroma.” Come to think of it you also have to be a translator, which I’ll try to be after the next photo.
“Perithecia with ostiole papillate stroma” means (I think) that the fruiting bodies of the fungus are round or flask-shaped (Perithecia). Ostiole means the fruiting body has small pores which the spores are discharged through and papillate means that they are nipple or pustule shaped. A stroma is a cushion like mass of fungal tissue. So all of that means that we have a round, cushion like mass of fungal tissue with tiny, nipple shaped pores, and if you look closely at the above photo you’ll see that they are exactly that. They are also often very small –less than half the diameter of an average pea. I’m very glad that I don’t have to wonder what they are anymore.
But I’m not entirely through wondering, because no one who studies nature ever is. I saw a flash of yellow in the crack in a log as I walked by and, though it was too small to see very well the camera revealed something that looks like a bunch of lemon drop fungi (Bisporella citrina) all squashed together. They usually grow as tiny yellow disks on the surfaces of logs, so I’m not real sure what is going on here. I’ve never seen anything else like it.
We have many cornfields here in Keene and recently I’ve been watching what I’m fairly certain is a red tailed hawk hunting them. I haven’t been able to get a decent phot of this bird but several times I’ve watched him fly from the tallest tree in one area to the tallest tree in another, always in sight of the corn stubbled, open fields. For this shot I had my lens maxed out as far as its zoom capabilities, which would be the equivalent of about 8oo mm on a DSLR, but he still saw me and flew even further away.
When I hear the word “boreal” I think of tundra and the cold north woods of Canada, but it turns out that we have at least a bit of boreal right here in New Hampshire in the form of boreal oakmoss lichen. If that is, I have identified it correctly. With the help of my new lichen book Lichens of North America, I think I have. I find this lichen on both hardwoods and softwoods, usually on the branches of birch or white pine and it’s very easy to spot at this time of year.
This lichen has had me confused for a few years now and still does, even with the new lichen book. I’m fairly certain it is one of the beard or horse hair lichens (Bryoria,) but I can’t figure out which species. Every time I’ve seen it, it has been growing on the branches or trunks of white pines (Pinus strobus), often very near the boreal oakmoss lichens in the previous photo. If you know what it might be I’d love to hear from you.
White pines seem to bleed their resin all summer long, especially where they have been damaged. The resin is amber colored and very sticky but in the winter it hardens and turns a whitish color. Usually, that is-in this instance it turned blue. I’m not sure what caused the damage on this tree but I’m guessing that parts of it might have been caused by a porcupine. They will eat the inner bark of white pines and can kill a tree if they girdle it.
Here’s a closer look at the bluest part of the frozen pine resin. In the past I’ve been fooled by pine sap that has dripped on stones and turned blue. They looked just like some kind of blue crustose lichen, so if you find “blue lichens” on a horizontal face of a stone that is near a white pine I’d be wary of them. If it is on a vertical face of the stone where pine resin couldn’t possibly have dripped then it could really be a blue lichen. They’re rare, but I have seen them.
All is mystery; but he is a slave who will not struggle to penetrate the dark veil. ~Benjamin Disraeli
Thanks for stopping in.