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Archive for the ‘Fungi’ Category

We burn a lot of wood here in New Hampshire because with 4.8 million acres of forest it is plentiful and usually costs less than oil heat. One of the things I like about burning wood is the handling of it. Cutting, splitting and stacking means you have to handle each piece a few times, and when you do you notice things that you might have never seen while the tree was standing. The following photos are of the various things I found in this woodpile.

Black jelly drop fungi (Bulgaria inquinans) grew on an oak log. They are also called poor man’s licorice but they aren’t edible. They look and feel like black gumdrops, and for some unknown reason are almost always found on oak trees that have been felled and cut up for firewood.

Though they look like jelly fungi black jelly drops are sac fungi. Their fertile, spore bearing surface is shiny and the outside of the cups look like brown velvet. They are sometimes used for dying fabric in blacks, browns, purples and grays.

This is an example of a true jelly fungus, which is little more than a bag of water that inflates to about 60 times its dry size when it rains. If it was dry this amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa) would be just a dark flake on the tree’s bark.  After absorbing plenty of rainwater this example was about as big as an average adult fingernail. Jelly fungi feel cool to the touch and kind of rubbery, like your ear lobe. Their spores are produced on their shiny surfaces. If you look closely at them you can see that one side is shiny and the other has more of a matte finish. I find these on oak more than other species, but sometimes on poplar and alder as well.

This brown jelly cup fungus (Peziza repanda) looked a little tattered and dirty but it’s a good example of the variety of fungi you can find on cut logs. Though it is called a jelly cup it is a sac fungus and different Peziza species can grow on wood, soil, or dung. This example is a cool weather mushroom that grows on hardwood logs or wood chips, and it is usually seen in spring and fall.  Mushroom expert Michael Kuo says brown cup fungi can be very difficult to identify.

Hairy Stereum (Stereum hirsutsm) is also called the hairy curtain crust fungus. The common name comes from the way these fungi are covered with fine velvety hairs on their upper surface when they’re young. They like to grow on fallen hardwoods and can be found just about any time of year. The color can vary but the wavy edge helps identify them. These examples were very young.

Witch’s butter on a log in a woodpile might alert you to the fact that you’ve got some soft wood mixed in with your hardwood, because this fungus usually grows on hemlock logs. You can burn soft woods like hemlock but they burn faster and don’t heat quite like hardwoods. They can also cause a lot of creosote buildup in a chimney.

Many of the logs shown in the first shot in this post were dragged. It’s a common practice to have to drag cut trees out of a forest to a landing so they can be cut into manageable pieces and loaded onto logging trucks, and when this one was dragged a woodpecker hole became filled with soil. This is a good time to mention that nearly every log shown in this post came from a tree that had something wrong with it. Woodpeckers dig holes in tree trunks to get at insects living in the tree; often carpenter ants. The ants eat the cellulose and weaken the tree, and it isn’t that unusual to find that the tree you’ve cut is completely hollow.

This example was hollowed out either by insects or heart rot cause by a fungus. Mushrooms and other fungi growing on trees is never a good sign. All of this weakens the tree and when a good wind comes along, down they go. Friends of mine just lost their barn to a hundred + year old pine tree that fell and cut the barn right in half. The tree people estimated its weight at 20 tons. That’s 40,000 pounds of wood, and we’re all very thankful that we weren’t anywhere near it when it fell. It was hollow, just like the one in the photo. It was also full of big, black carpenter ants.

This tree had a double whammy. The channels were caused by insects, probably carpenter ants, and then fungal spores got in and revealed themselves when they fruited into these little white mushrooms. It’s possible that the insects in the tree were farming this mushroom and brought parts of it into their channels to feed on. In any event this tree’s life was shortened by quite a few years. It could have stood hollow and lived on for a long time but heaven help anyone who was near it when it finally came down.

A woodpecker made two holes in this oak tree, one above the other, and as the tree tried to heal itself the holes became spoon shaped. It’s another example of what was a standing hollow tree.

Everyone knows that moss grows on trees but what everyone might not know is that many trees like this oak have channels in their bark which direct rainwater down to the tree’s roots. They can be clearly seen in this example, and so can the moss growing right beside and between them. Mosses like a lot of water and when they grow on a tree trunk they get it by growing next to these vertical streams. Do they grow on the north side of trees? Yes, and on the east, west, and south sides too; whichever is more moist.

Lichens are a common sight in woodpiles and beard lichens are very common. Often you can see them growing all up and down the trunks of trees and much like mosses, lichens grow near the channels in the bark so they can get ample moisture. I think this example is a fishbone beard lichen (Usnea filipendula,) so called because of its resemblance to the backbone of a fish. Many people seem to think that lichens will kill a tree but they are simply opportunists looking for all the rain and sunlight they can get and they just perch on trees like birds do. They take nothing from the tree, so if I pulled this one off this log and put it on a living tree it would just grow on as if nothing ever happened as long as it received the right amount of moisture and light. Lichens are virtually indestructible and that’s why some scientists say they are immortal, or as close to immortal as any living thing can be.

I think this is the start of a beautiful crust fungus called the wrinkled crust (Phlebia radiata.) These mushrooms lie flat on the wood they grow on and have no stem, gills or pores. They radiate out from a central point and can be very beautiful. The darker area on this example is where it was wet and the lighter ones where it was dry. They don’t mind cool weather; I usually find them at this time of year and I’m hoping I’ll find a few more.

I’m not a logger or an arborist so I don’t know why this log has such a dark ring just under its bark. I zoomed in on the photo and counted the rings and found that the dark ring started about 12-14 years ago. Something must have happened back then to cause the change, but I can’t guess what it was.

I do know what caused the purple staining in this log; iron, meaning it has foreign objects like screws or nails in it. Sawmills look for this kind of thing when logging trucks bring in a load of logs and they’ll reject the whole load if they see it.

Here’s an example of a foreign object embedded in a tree. In a few more years the tree would have grown over it and it never would have been seen. The only thing that would have given it away was the purple staining when the tree was cat. Nothing will destroy a saw blade or chain quicker than something like this.

If all the stars and planets are aligned perfectly and you pay close attention to your wood pile you could find something as rare and beautiful as this cobalt crust fungus (Terana caerulea) in it. This photo was taken about three years ago and I’ve been looking for this beautiful fungus ever since, but have never seen another one. This is just the time of year for it to appear, so I’ll be watching for it.

The old saying, as I’ve always heard it, says that firewood warms you three times; once when you cut it, once when you stack it, and once when you burn it, and I’d have to say that was just about right. If you dress in layers against the cold you’ll find yourself peeling them off in a hurry once you get to the wood pile. I’ve always looked at cutting and splitting wood as an enjoyable job though, and I hope this post might make the job of getting your woodshed filled just a little more enjoyable too.

The knots in the wood can’t be untied. ~Marty Rubin

Thanks for coming by.

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With all the rain we’ve had mushrooms are sprouting up everywhere now and, though we usually have an orange  / yellow phase followed by a purple phase, this year they all seem to be coming at the same time. I’m not sure if the orange / yellows are late or if the purples are early. Anyhow, butter wax caps (Hygrocybe ceracea) are one of the most photogenic of all mushrooms, in my opinion. They are a pretty, yellow, medium sized mushroom that almost always grows in groups.

In time the cap on butter wax cap mushrooms loses its conical shape and flattens out as if to show off its pretty yellow gills.

Hemlock varnish shelf mushrooms (Ganoderma tsugae) not surprisingly, grow on hemlock trees. This mushroom’s common name comes from its shiny red cap, which looks like it has been varnished. It is considered the most important of all the herbs and substances used in Chinese Herbal Medicine, including ginseng. In China it is called the Reishi mushroom and scientists around the world are researching its anti-cancer potential.

I love the colors in this bolete mushroom, which I think is the two colored bolete (Boletus bicolor.) As you can see by the photo, slugs (and maybe a squirrel or two) like it too. From what I’ve read there are several reddish colored boletes but most are small with flesh that stains blue after it has been cut or damaged. There is only one with flesh that stays yellow when damaged and that is the two colored bolete. This example was large, with the diameter of a cantaloupe.

Another pretty mushroom is the purple cort (Cortinarius iodeoides.) The caps always look wet but they aren’t-they are slimy, and that’s why they often have leaves, pine needles, and other forest debris stuck to them. This one was surprisingly clean.

Purple corts often lose their sliminess and develop white or yellow streaks as they age and this is a good way to identify them. They always look psychedelic to me at this stage and remind me of the 60s, but I’d never eat one. The taste is said to be very bitter.

Common earth ball (Scleroderma citrinum) is a type of puffball that I can’t say is real common here. I see maybe one or two each year. Another name for it is the pigskin poison puffball because it is toxic. It likes to grow on compacted soil like that found on forest trails. They often have a yellow color on their surface and are also called citrine earth balls because of it. I found one last year that was a beautiful lemon yellow.

Black jelly drops (Bulgaria inquinans) grew on an oak log. Though these fungi are also called poor man’s licorice they aren’t edible and depending on what you read, might be poisonous. I’ve read that in parts of China they are considered a delicacy but it sounds to me like they’re best left alone.

Though they look and feel like gumdrops in a velvet cup black jelly drops are not jelly fungi; they are sac fungi. Their fertile surface is shiny, and the dark brown outsides of the cup look like felt. This mushroom is sometimes used for dying fabric in mostly blacks and browns, purples and grays. It is thought that the Bulgaria part of the scientific name might refer to a leathery skin, like a wine skin.

This is what black jelly fungi look like when they’re young. They’re very small and hard to see because they blend into the color of the surrounding bark so well. They are usually found on oak trees that have been felled and cut up for firewood, and that is exactly where I found these examples. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this fungus.

Dead man’s fingers (Xylaria polymorphaare) are a type of fungi that often look like a human finger. As they age dead man’s finger fungi begin to darken. The lighter areas on them are covered with spores that are produced in early stages of their development. These fungi cause soft rot in the wood they grow on. In the final stages of their life dead man’s finger fungi darken until they turn black, and then they simply fall over and decompose. These examples grew out of the soil but there was probably an unseen log or tree roots that they were actually growing on.

I’m not positive but I think this crust fungus is a young example of the netted crust fungus. Netted crust fungi (Byssomerulius corium) are common and grow on the undersides of branches. The corium part of the scientific name means skin or hide, and refers to the skin-like growth of this fungus. Quite often bracket or shelf like growths will form along its edges. This fungus has tiny net-like ridges in its surface, and that’s how the netted crust comes by its common name.

It’s hard to do a post on fungi without including mycelium. Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. When mushroom spores grow they produce mycelium, which eventually produces fruit, which is the above ground part that we see. The mycelium in the above photo grew just under last year’s leaves. Mycelium growths can be among the largest living things on earth. A huge honey mushroom (Armillarea ostoyae) mycelium in Oregon’s Blue Mountains covers 2,384 acres and holds the record as the world’s largest known organism. It is thought to be between 2,400 and 8,650 years old.

Berkeley’s polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi) grew at the base of a tree. These are some of the biggest mushrooms that I’ve seen and I put a quarter on this one so you could see just how big it was. A quarter is about an inch across.  This large bracket fungus often reaches two feet across. It grows on the roots of hardwood trees and causes butt rot in the tree’s heartwood. The wood turns white before rotting away and leaving a standing hollow tree.

Pine dye polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) is also called the velvet topped fungus because of its velvety feel. These large bracket fungi are parasitic on the roots and heartwood of living white pines in the eastern U.S. and cause root and heart rot. I usually find them on logs or roots but I found these examples on the trunk of a live tree, and that means its death sentence. This fungus changes color as it ages and can be any one of several different colors. A lot of those I see are a deep, beautiful red/ maroon color. If found when young they can be used to dye wool a soft yellow or orange color, and older examples will dye wool brown. This mushroom has the odd habit of sprouting “baby mushrooms” from its cap.

Shaggy parasol mushroom (Chlorophyllum rhacodes) has shaggy brown scales on a white background on its cap, but this example is shaggier than any photo I’ve seen of one so this identification has to be taken with a grain of salt. I found this example growing in deep shade by an old stump.

And that reminds me of something that I should say in every mushroom post: It is never a good idea to eat any mushroom you aren’t 100 percent sure of because there are mushrooms that can kill, and people still do die and / or get very sick from eating them each year despite all the warnings. In June of last year 14 people in San Francisco were poisoned by eating death cap mushrooms (amanita phalloides,) one of the deadliest mushrooms known. Three of them needed liver transplants, including an 18-month-old girl. It seems unbelievable to me that there are still people out there who don’t know the dangers of mushroom poisoning but every year I read stories just like this one.

Coral mushrooms come in many colors, sizes, and shapes. This one was as big as a baseball. I think it might be a golden coral (Ramaria aurea) but as my mushroom books say, there are so many similar coral mushrooms that it’s hard to tell them apart without a microscope. I just enjoy seeing them.

Since this coral fungus has sprouted on a stump and not from the ground I think it might be crown coral (Clavicorona pyxidata.) Crown coral branches end in a tiny little crown, just like what is seen here.

Yellow finger coral fungi (Clavulinopsis fusiformis) look like tiny yellow flames licking up out of the forest floor. Each finger might reach an inch high and grow in tight clusters, while look alikes do not. They are also called spindle corals and like to grow in the hard packed earth along forest trails. It is for that reason that I often find them stepped on and broken, but these examples were in good condition. They are said to have flesh that is very bitter.

Jelly babies (Leotia lubrica) look like a mushroom with a stem and a cap but if you look under the cap you won’t see any gills or pores. Despite their name jelly babies are sac fungi rather than jelly fungi and their spores are produced on the upper surface of the cap rather than on gill or pore surfaces. The caps might feel smooth, clammy or slimy and can be green, tan, orange or yellow. Stems also vary in color.

Jelly Babies grow on the soil or on well-rotted wood in both hardwood and conifer forests and are very small. This entire group would easily fit on a quarter, which is about an inch in diameter. On a good day a jelly baby might reach 2.5 inches tall, but they’re usually about an inch tall in my experience, with a cap that might grow as large as a pea. Jelly babies are both friend and teacher to me because they showed me an entire Lilliputian world that I never knew existed. One day I sat on a stone and looked down and there they were, the cutest little bunch of fungi I had ever seen, and they made me wonder what other tiny things I’d been missing. Since that day I’ve been paying attention and looking closer, and I’ve seen things that I couldn’t have ever imagined.

I usually come away from mushroom hunting with a few unknowns, and this one fits perfectly into that slot for this post. It’s a pretty little thing that must have won first prize; it looks like the forest elves have given it a blue ribbon.

The sudden appearance of mushrooms after a summer rain is one of the more impressive spectacles of the plant world. ~John Tyler Bonner

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1. Old Tree

I drive to work past this old tree every day but have never noticed it until recently, when a sunbeam decided that I should pay more attention to it. Now I see it every morning and probably will for a long time to come. I had to stop and take its photo so it would forgive me for ignoring it for so long. It was most likely mighty in its day but it’s very old now and its time as a tree might be just about over.

2. Mountain Ash Fruit

American mountain ash (Sorbus americana) is a relatively short lived tree when compared to the tree in the previous photo. They only live for 50-70 years in ideal conditions, but in the wild most die after 30-40 years. Though mountain ash is native here I’ve never seen one in a forest. They like a climate that is cool and humid and that’s why they’re seen more in the northern part of the state up in the White Mountains, often in the 2,300-3,300 foot elevation range. The orange red berries and large white flower heads have made it a favorite among gardeners and it was first cultivated in 1811. As this photo of the fruit shows, the trees are having a good year. I’ve read that the berries are low in fat and very acidic, so they’re one of the last foods that wildlife will choose. Ruffed grouse, robins, thrushes, cedar waxwings, blue jays, squirrels, chipmunks and mice eat them, and moose will eat the leaves, twigs, and bark. Mountain ash bark was once used in a medicine to combat malaria because it resembles the quinine tree. Whether or not it worked I don’t know.

3. Doll's Eyes

The berries of the white baneberry plant (Actaea pachypoda) are called doll’s eyes, for obvious reasons. The remains of the flower’s black stigma against the porcelain white fruit is striking, and so are the pink stalks (pedicels) that they’re on. White baneberry plants are extremely toxic and no part of them should be eaten.

4. Scaly pholiota Mushrooms in Button Stage

At first I thought these were spiny puffballs but after seeing them a week later I knew that I’d have to do some research. They turned out to be what I think are scaly pholiota (Pholiota squarrosa) mushrooms in the immature button stages of growth. It is also called shaggy scaly cap. It’s a parasitic mushroom that can infect and kill live trees but luckily I found them growing on an old beech blowdown.

5. Scaly pholiota Mushrooms

And here are the scaly pholiota mushrooms a week later looking like honey mushrooms, which are edible. But this one is not edible and is considered poisonous, so that’s why I don’t collect and eat wild mushrooms. I know that a lot of people do, but I don’t have a microscope and probably wouldn’t know what I was looking at if I did, so I don’t feel comfortable eating them. I didn’t notice an odor but it’s described as being like garlic, lemon, radish, onion, or skunk, depending on who is doing the sniffing I suppose. They are said to taste like radishes by those unfortunate enough to have tasted them.

6. Gilled Bolete

This is another mushroom I thought looked a bit like a honey mushroom from a distance but I think that it might be a gilled bolete (Phylloporus rhodoxanthus.) These grew in large clusters at the base of an oak and most likely signal its doom. I wish I had gotten a shot of its gills, which are golden yellow when young. The cap, as seen in the above photo, often cracks with age. This mushroom was big, with a cap about 8-9 inches across. It looked like a soufflé that had just come out of the oven.

7. Coral Fungus

Though I’ve been seeing more mushrooms I’m seeing very few coral fungi, and they should be everywhere right now. I found what I think is this clustered coral (Ramaria botrytis) growing under some pines recently.

8. Red and Yellow Bolete

Many mushrooms will stain a certain color when they’re bruised and red boletes with yellow stems stain blue, some almost instantly. You can see blue in the scratches on the cap in this example, but unfortunately that doesn’t help much with identification because there are at least 5 different boletes with red caps and yellow stems that stain blue. A bolete usually (but not always) has pores instead of gills on the underside of the cap. The gilled bolete we saw previously shows how confusing mushroom identification can be.

9. Red and Yellow Bolete

I’m not even going to guess which bolete this and the previous younger example were, but they grew to a large size. That’s a nickel in the center of this one. A nickel is 3/4 (.75) inches in diameter, so I’m guessing that this bolete was about 6-7 inches across. It’s a pretty mushroom, I thought. It reminded me of a freshly baked pie.

10. Shelving Tooth Fungus aka Climacodon septentrionale

Here’s a mushroom that has never appeared on this blog. It’s called the shelving tooth fungus (Climacodon septentrionale.) Though the shelving part of the name is obvious the tooth part wasn’t, so I had to go back and have another look when I was trying to identify it. It’s quite big but from a distance as in this shot the teeth are hardly visible.

11. Shelving Tooth Fungus aka Climacodon septentrionale Close

But up close it’s apparent that this mushroom has many thousands of very tiny teeth, there so it can increase its spore bearing surface. This mushroom is a parasite on live hardwood trees, primarily maples and, according to mycologist Tom Volk, especially sugar maples. It causes heart rot in the tree and weakens it enough so strong winds can snap the trunk. As it turns out I was lucky to find this example growing just above eye level, because they usually grow quite high in the tree.

12. Bolete

This cute little bolete had been partially eaten by slugs but I thought it was still very photogenic. When I used to draw mushrooms its shape was always the picture I had in my mind. We’ve most likely all seen the shape a hundred times; usually colored red with white spots, and sometimes with an elf or fairy sitting on or under the cap. I haven’t been able to identify it but it resembles the devil’s bolete (Boletus satanas,) enough to tell me that I won’t be eating one.

13. Yellow Patches

Yellow patches (Amanita flavoconia) gets its common name from the yellow bits of the universal veil on its orange cap. The universal veil is made of tissue and completely covers the young mushroom. As the mushroom grows it eventually breaks through the membranous veil and pieces of it are left behind on the cap. Rain can wash them off, but since we’ve had so little rain the patches have stayed in place on this example.  This mushroom is in the amanita family and is considered toxic. The amanita family contains some very dangerous mushrooms, so we should never eat any mushroom that we aren’t 100% sure is safe.

14. Purple Cort

Young purple cort mushrooms (Cortinarius iodeoides) are very purple but lighten as they age. Squirrels and chipmunks won’t touch this one, possibly because it’s covered with a very bitter slime. This slime often makes the young examples look wet but this one looked quite dry. Slugs don’t have a problem eating it though, and I often see white trails on the caps where they have eaten through the purple coating to the white flesh below. Purple corts often develop white or yellow streaks as they age and this helps in identifying them.

16. Tussock Moth Caterpillar

I’m not sure what this caterpillar’s name is but I was sure that I wasn’t going to touch it because I’ve heard that sometimes these hairy caterpillars can give people quite a rash. This one was spiky all over.

17. Garter Snake-

I’ve seen just a handful of snakes this year but the other day this garter snake was sitting in the middle of a dirt road and just stayed right there while I took some photos. We’re having a toad population explosion so he will eat well, I’m sure.

18. Cottontail

At a certain time of day, in the early evening, the cottontail rabbits come out to eat and play along the banks of the Ashuelot River. I try not to bother them but I wasn’t thinking about rabbits as I walked noisily into their area and saw this one. He immediately froze as soon as he saw me. Rabbits do that; they freeze for a minute or two and then they run away, but not this one. Once he relaxed he just went back to eating as if I wasn’t even there.

19. Cottontails

And then his friend came hopping out of the bushes to join him. What was odd was how close they let me get to them. I walked slowly toward them as they looked right at me but they didn’t run away. Then when I stopped they just went back to eating as if they had no fear at all. I’ve never seen a rabbit act like that.  Not since a porcupine crossed a field and sat beside me in Walpole last year have I been so close to an animal.

20. Cottontail

This one wanted to make sure that we all knew that he was indeed a cottontail.

21. Cedar Waxwing

Getting caught up in the rabbit patch almost made me forget what I was doing at the river in the first place, which was seeing if the cedar waxwings were there yet. They were, and in great numbers. They come each year at this time when the silky dogwood berries ripen. They love the berries and will do just about anything to get them. One year I found myself between a bird and its silky dogwood bush and it kept flying right at my face; pulling up only at the last minute. It took me a minute to understand what he was trying to tell me but once I turned and saw the silky dogwood berries I knew what he wanted, so I beat it out of there and let him eat in peace. Cedar waxwings are beautiful sleek birds that travel in large flocks, at least at this time of year.

22. Silky Dogwood Berries

Silky dogwood berries (Cornus amomum) go from green to white and then from white to blue, but for a short time they are blue and white like Chinese porcelain. In fact I’ve always wondered if the original idea for blue designs on white porcelain didn’t come from berries just like these. Once they are blue and fully ripe the cedar waxwings eat them up quickly.

How quick and rushing life can sometimes seem, when at the same time it’s so slow and sweet and everlasting. ~Graham Swift

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1. Oyster Mushrooms

After a cold October the first week of November has seen temperatures near 70 degrees each day and this has encouraged the crop of fall mushrooms. The oyster mushrooms in the above photo grew on the underside of a fallen tree. Though they often appear to have no stem oyster mushrooms have off center stems that usually grow out of the side of the log and are hidden by the cap.

Mushrooms are often eaten by tiny worms called nematodes that live on plant and fungal tissue, but not oyster mushrooms. Scientists discovered in 1986 that oyster mushrooms “exude extracellular toxins that stun {nematode] worms, whereupon the mycelium invades its body through its orifices.” What this means is that oyster mushrooms are carnivorous. They also consume bacteria (Pseudomonas and Agrobacterium) in order to get nitrogen and protein.

2. Possible Clustered Collybia

One of the things that attracts me to mushrooms is the wide variety of beautiful colors and shapes they come in. I think these pink and red ones that I saw growing out of the side of a log might be clustered collybia (Gymnopus acervatus,) but I’m not certain of that. My mushroom books say that clustered collybia is a common fall mushroom but I’m not sure that I’ve seen it.

3. Mushroom Releasing Spores

Mushroom spores are carried by the wind so it is unusual to see them dropping to the forest floor like they have in the above photo. I’ve only seen this happen twice and each time it was on a still, humid day.

4. Witch's Butter

Jelly fungi like the witch’s butter (Tremella mesenterica) in the above photo seem to start appearing when it gets colder in the fall and many can be found right through winter, even though they sometimes freeze solid. I almost always find them on stumps and logs; often on oak. After a rain is the best time to find them.

5. Blue Crust Fungus

If you roll logs over like I do you’ll see some astoundingly colorful examples of crust fungi, like the blue example in this photo. I find this one a lot on oak logs, especially. Though I’ve tried for a year now I haven’t been able to identify it, so if you know what its name is I’d love to hear from you.

6. Velvet Shank Mushrooms on Tree

Velvet shank mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes) are a common sight in winter because they fruit very late in the season and sometimes even during a warm spell in winter. I’ve seen them a few times when there was snow on the ground and it’s always a surprise. The orange caps of these mushrooms often shade to brown in the center. The stem is covered in fine downy hairs and that’s where this mushroom’s common name comes from.

7. Mold on Mushrooms

These older examples of velvet shank mushrooms on the same tree looked as if they had been dusted with confectioner’s sugar but it turned out to be mold. Nothing is wasted in nature; everything gets eaten in one way or another.

8. Mushrooms and Puffballs

Puffballs and little brown mushrooms vie for space on a log. The mushrooms reminded me of vanilla wafer cookies.

9. Milk White Toothed Polypore aka Irpex lacteus

Milk white toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) is a crust fungus common on fallen branches and rotting logs. The teeth start life as tubes or pores in the spore bearing surface, which breaks apart with age to become tooth like as the above photo shows. As they age these “teeth” will turn brown and that’s how I usually see them. This example was very fresh.

10. Lemon Drops

Lemon drops (Bisporella citrina) look like tiny beads of sunshine that have been sprinkled over logs, but they are really sac fungi with stalked fruit bodies. The term “sac fungi” comes from microscopic sexual structures which resemble wineskins. There are over 64,000 different sac fungi, including cup and “ear” fungi, jelly babies, and morel mushrooms. Lemon drops start life as a tiny yellow disc and look as if they lie flat on the log, but each disc hovers just above the surface on a short stalk. As they age each disc will become cup shaped. The “citrina” part of the scientific name comes from the Latin citrin, and means “lemon yellow.” The smaller ones in the above photo are barely as large as a period made by a pencil on paper.

11. Yellow Fuzz Cone Slime Mold

At first I thought this was some kind of strange crust fungus but as I looked closer I realized that it had to be a slime mold, which I don’t usually find this late in the year. After some digging I found that it is called the yellow-fuzz cone slime mold (Hemitrichia clavata.) The fruiting bodies of this slime mold open into goblet shaped cups filled with yellowish fuzzy threads which makes the mass look like felt fabric. Though it appears very orange to me my color finding software tells me that it is indeed yellow. Other examples I’ve seen in the past have been bright, lemon yellow.

12. LBM on Twig

I don’t know the name of this tiny mushroom I saw growing on a twig but its shape reminded me of the beautiful dome on the Taj Mahal in India. Wouldn’t it be something if the idea for that type of architecture originally came from a mushroom? I’m convinced that the idea for the beautiful and ancient Chinese blue and white porcelain came from silky dogwood berries (Cornus amomum,) pleasingly dressed in the same blue and white for a short time in summer.

13. Mycellium

Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. When mushroom spores grow they produce mycelium, which eventually produces fruit, which is the aboveground part that we see. The mycelium in the above photo grew on the underside of an oak log that was in contact with the soil. Most of the mycelium that I see are white but they are occasionally yellow like those pictured.

14. Orange Crust

I think that the crust fungus in the above photo might be an example of an orange crust fungus (Stereum complicatum.) This small fungus has a smooth whitish underside with no pores. The complicatum part of the scientific name means “folded back on itself” and the above photo shows this example just starting that folding. It likes to grow on the logs of deciduous trees.

15. Wrinkled Crust Fungus aka Phlebia radiata

Wrinkled crust fungi (Phlebia radiata) lies flat on the wood that it grows on, much like a crustose lichen would, and radiate out from a central point. They have no stem, gills or pores and they don’t seem to mind cool weather; the two I’ve seen have been growing at this time of year. I think they’re a very beautiful mushroom and I’d like to see more of them.

To be surprised, to wonder, is to begin to understand. ~Jose Ortega Y Gasset

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Heath Waxcap

It’s still very dry here but we do get an occasional day of showers. That’s often enough to encourage a few mushrooms, but I haven’t seen anywhere near the numbers that I’ve seen in years past. Right now is just about time for the yellow / red / orange mushrooms to stop fruiting, and for the purple ones start. This orange example wasn’t very big but it was perfectly shaped for a mushroom. I think it might be a heath wax cap (Hygrocybe laeta.)

2. Purple Cort

Young purple cort mushrooms (Cortinarius iodeoides) are very purple but lighten as they age. Squirrels and chipmunks won’t touch this one, possibly because it’s covered with a very bitter slime. This slime often makes the young examples look wet. Slugs don’t have a problem eating it and I often see white trails on the caps where they have eaten through the purple coating to the white flesh below. You can just see that on the left side of this one’s cap.

3. Aging Purple Cort

Purple corts often develop white or yellow streaks as they age and this is a good way to identify them. This example looked positively psychedelic but no, it’ll only make you sick.

4. Yellow Spindle Coral

Yellow spindle coral fungi (Ramariopsis laeticolor) are still coming up. These examples were some of the tallest I’ve seen at around three inches. An increase in height doesn’t seem to change their diameter however; these were still close to the same diameter as a piece of cooked spaghetti. They have the odd habit of growing in the packed earth of trails so I often find that they have been stepped on and broken. I think of these mushrooms as bright but tiny flames coming up out of the soil.

5. Hairy Curtain Crust

I don’t know for sure but I think this hairy orange bracket fungus might be a single example of the hairy curtain crust (Stereum hirsutum.) Their color is said to be very variable and at times significantly different from one to another, so identification can be difficult, even for experienced mushroom hunters.

6. Russell's Bolete

There are many bolete mushrooms that look alike but I think this one is Russell’s bolete (Boletellus russellii) because of the scaly brownish cap and the way that it grew under oak and pine trees. Most boletes have pores rather than gills on the underside of the cap, but there are one or two that have gills. They are sometimes called sponge mushrooms and will often bruise different colors when touched. This one bruises bright yellow; others bruise blue, red, or black.

7. Russell's Bolete

The stem of a Russell’s bolete has deep grooves and angular ridges and looks as if it had been made from the wood of a cholla cactus. The pinkish color is an identifying characteristic.

8. Possible Orange Birch Boletes

These boletes grew right over the entrance to a chipmunk burrow and it looks like it might have tasted the smaller one. Actually I’m not sure if chipmunks eat mushrooms but squirrels sure do, and they start eating them early in the morning before lazy photographers can get going and get a photo of them. I wonder if these examples are orange birch boletes (Leccinum versipelle.)

9. Jelly Babies

To see small things you need to re-train your eyes. (And your mind, somewhat.) Jelly babies (Leotia lubrica) taught me that; one day I sat down on a stone to rest and looked down and there they were. I was surprised by how tiny they were, but they helped me see that forests are full of things just as small and sometimes many times smaller. You need to be ready (and able) to flatten yourself out on the forest floor to get good photos of jelly babies.

10. White Slime Mold

Some of the smallest things that I try to get photos of are slime molds. Though they aren’t classified as fungi they often grow near and sometimes on mushrooms. In nature everything gets eaten; even fungi. I think this slime mold is a coral slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, variety fruticulosa.)

11. Turkey Tails

I think these turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) must have been young because they all wore velvet. Though turkey tails are very common I’ve seen only a few over the past two years, and those weren’t as colorful as they sometimes are. I always like finding the blue and purple ones. I might see one blue or purple turkey tail colony for every hundred brown ones.

12. Purple Turkey Tails

The day after I wrote that I hadn’t seen any blue or purple turkey tails (Trametes versicolor,) guess what I found? Some fungi can be every bit as beautiful as flowers and that’s one reason why finding them is so much fun.

13. Banded Polypore

Another common bracket fungus is the red banded polypore (Fomitopsis pinicola.) These are much larger and tougher than turkey tails and like to grow on conifers, especially spruce logs and stumps where they will often grow for many years. This is considered a decay fungus and it causes heart rot, so seeing it on a living tree does not bode well for the tree.

14. Crust Fungus

Wet rot (Coniophora puteana) is a fungus that will grow on wet timbers or other wood structures in houses and seeing it there is never a good sign. It is also called the cellar fungus and likes wood that stays consistently damp. Any time this fungus is seen on the wood of a house that wood will most likely need to be replaced. Luckily this example was growing on a rotting log in a shaded part of the forest.

15. Jack O' Lantern aka Omphalotus illudens

I wouldn’t feel right if I did a mushroom post without adding a reminder that some mushrooms are poisonous, like these examples of what I think are Jack O’ Lanterns (Omphalotus olearius.) Tom Volk of Tom Volk’s Fungi says “They smell very good, and many people have been tempted to eat this fungus — but it’s poisonous. Omphalotus poisoning usually manifests itself as severe cramps, vomiting and diarrhea, all of which can last up to a few days.” That doesn’t sound like a very good way to spend a few days to me, but it illustrates how important accuracy is when it comes to collecting mushrooms for food. If you think you’ve found Jack O’ Lantern mushrooms and are unsure of their identity just look at one in a darkened room; through a process called bioluminescence the gills of Jack O’ Lanterns glow green in the dark.

Take a walk outside – it will serve you far more than pacing around in your mind. ~Rasheed Ogunlaru

Thanks for stopping in.

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1. Riendeer Lichen

I haven’t had time to do much climbing over the last few months so I thought I’d make up for the lapse by climbing Mount Caesar in Swanzey. It’s one of my favorite climbs because there is so much to see there, like this drift of reindeer lichen that looks like a snowy path through the woods even in August.

2. Trail

The uphill climb isn’t steep but it’s steady. Recent logging operations here haven’t helped the trail any, but at least it wasn’t muddy.

3. Bedrock

In some places the granite bedrock is exposed. I like the patterns of minerals in it.

4. Starflower

Starflowers (Trientalis borealis) have gone to seed but the tiny white seed pods haven’t opened yet.

5. Starflower Seed Pod

Starflower seed pods look like tiny soccer balls and can be tough to get a good photo of. Putting a penny on a stump to use as a background helped.

6. Cicada

I found a dead cicada on the trail and put him on a stump for a better photo too. I never knew they were so blue.

7. Downy Rattlesnake Plantains

As if to illustrate how you can hike the same trail a hundred times and still not see all there is to see, I found downy rattlesnake plantain orchids growing right beside the trail. I can’t believe that I’ve walked right by them all these years without seeing them.

8. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain Flowers

This orchid’s flowers are very small and hard to photograph, so I went back with a piece of black artists foam core board and got this shot so you could see what they look like. They look a lot like the flowers of the checkered rattlesnake plantain that I showed in another recent post and indeed the two plants are thought to cross pollinate naturally. I don’t know what made them appear so sparkly in this photo.

9. Acorns

Acorns were falling all around me but the real surprise was hearing a large tree fall off in the woods. I couldn’t see it and was glad I wasn’t anywhere near it because it made a tremendous crashing sound when it fell. That’s a rare experience for me.

10. Fairy Stool

Cinnamon fairy stools (Coltricia cinnamomea) grew here and there all along the trail. They get their common name from the concentric bands of cinnamon brown coloring on their inch diameter caps. They are a tough, leathery polypore which, if picked when fresh, will hold their color and shape for a long time.

11. Coral fungus

My Mushroom books don’t say much about club shaped fungi but I think this might be Clavaria ornatipes. This fungus is described as spatula or club shaped and greyish to pinkish gray. It grew directly out of the ground.

12. Coral fungus

The reason club and coral fungi grow the way they do is to get their spores, which grow on their tips, up above the soil surface so the wind can disperse them. This example is another of the Clavaria club fungi I think, but I haven’t been able to identify it.

13. View

There are good views to the south from the top of Mount Caesar though on this day it seemed just a bit hazy.

14. Swanzey LakeIt was a very hot and humid day with temperatures approaching 90 degrees and I found myself wishing I was swimming at Swanzey Lake rather than sitting up here in full sun.

15. Monadnock

I couldn’t leave without looking across the hills to Mount Monadnock over in Jaffrey. It’s the highest mountain in these parts and is also the second most climbed mountain in the world, and on a day like this there were probably hundreds of people on it.

16. Toadskin Lichen

My friends the toad skin lichens (Lasallia papulosa) were very dry and ashy gray for the most part, but I did find a moist green one here and there. I’ve only seen these lichens growing on the very tops of hills so visiting them comes with a price. They’re beautiful and rarely seen though, so it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

18. Looper Moth

I never would have seen this moth if it hadn’t flown in front of me to land on a tree trunk. Even though I knew where it had landed I had a hard time finding it, so perfect was its camouflage.  I think it might be a looper moth in the family Noctuidae. There are many, including some familiar ones like the cabbage looper and the golden looper. They all seem to be experts in camouflage, just as this one was.

19. Violet Coral Fungus aka Clavaria zollingeri

Easily the most beautiful thing I saw on this day was this violet coral fungus (Clavaria zollingeri.) My daughter had climbed here the day before and told me that she had seen it but this is a big mountain and I had little hope of finding it. Her directions were perfect though and there it was; the most beautiful coral fungus that I’ve ever seen. I knelt before it to admire its beauty and forgot the heat, the mosquitoes, and even myself for a while.

The events of the past day have proven to me that I am wholly alive, and that no matter what transpires from here on in, I have truly lived. ~Anonymous mountain climber

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Tree Carving

As soon as I mentioned wood eaters this tree spirit started looking worried. Actually this carving doesn’t have anything to do with this post other than to show a tree’s remarkable ability to heal itself. This was carved into a tree on his property a few years ago by a local resident and it shows how quickly the bark is coming together to heal the wound. In a few more years if the tree stays healthy you won’t be able to see any sign of this carving.

2. Turkey Tails

On the other hand if you see a tree with turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) like these on it, the chance of it healing itself is slim to none. Turkey tails are sabprobic fungi, meaning they decompose dead or decaying organic material. Though they do occasionally grow on live trees, if you find them on a standing tree it is most likely dead. Turkey tails cause white rot of the sapwood. They also show great promise in cancer research.

3. Orange Crust Fungus

Crust fungi are called resupinate fungi and have flat, crust like fruiting bodies which usually appear on the undersides of fallen branches and logs. Resupinate means upside down, and that’s what many crust fungi seem to be. Their spore bearing surface can be wrinkled, smooth, warty, toothed, or porous and though they appear on the undersides of logs, the main body of the fungus is in the wood, slowly decomposing it. Some, like the white rot fungus Phanerochaete chrysorhizon pictured above have been found to be useful in degrading of various pesticides, PCBs, and other poisons.  Some will even “eat” plastics. Because some crust fungi break down lignin, which is the brown in wood, and leave the white cellulose behind they are also being studied for use in the paper industry for “biopulping.”

4. Blue Crust Fungus

It’s too bad that many crust fungi grow in hidden places like the undersides of logs because many are quite beautiful. I’ve spent quite a while trying to identify this blue-gray one but haven’t had much luck. I think it must be a variation of the cobalt crust fungus (Terana caerulea.)

The forest would be a very different place without fungi breaking down all of the twigs, branches and logs. It would probably be more like an impenetrable brush pile, just waiting for a fire to come and clean it out.

5. Cobalt Crust Fungus

Here is a cobalt crust fungus (Terana caerulea) that I showed in another post recently. I’m showing it again here to illustrate the difference between it and the example in the previous photo, and also the one that follows.

6. Bluestain

Though this appears to be close to the same color as the cobalt crust fungus I think that it might be bluestain, which is also called sapstain because of the way it stains the sapwood of logs. If this log were sawn into planks the blue color could show on the surface of one or more of the planks. Both deep and surface bluestain can be caused by fungi called Ophiostoma minus and others, which all seem to be collectively called bluestain fungi and which can eventually kill the tree. It is thought that bark beetles and mites help it spread.

7. Toothed Crust Fungus

Some crust fungi have teeth, like the toothed crust (Basidioradulum radula) in the photo above. This crust fungus starts life as round, brownish yellow patches with creamy white margins. These round patches eventually grow together to form large irregular colonies like that in the above photo. It is very tough and has a waxy coating that protects it and allows it to revive after drying out. It’s another crust fungus that feeds on dead and decaying limbs and logs.

8. Milk White Toothed Polypore

This milk white, toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) is another upside down (Resupinate) fungus with a tooth shaped pore surface. As the photo shows, it will sometimes try to grow a cap which is white and hairy, and grows curled up around the edges. This fungus feeds on the dead sapwood and occasionally the heartwood of fallen hardwood logs and causes white rot.

9. Bootstrap Fungus

Bootstrap fungus is caused by honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea), which are parasitic on live wood and send out long root like structures called rhizomorphs between the wood of a tree and its bark. When fresh these rhizomorphs are cream colored but darken to brown or black as they age. The fungus is also called armillaria root rot or shoestring root rot. It causes a white pulpy rot in the wood and kills many species of both soft and hardwood trees.

 10. Honey Mushrooms

These are the honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea) that cause the bootstrap fungus seen in the previous photo. If you see them growing on a live tree, it’s all over for that tree. These examples were well past their prime when I found them.

11. Fungal Rhizomorphs

Fungal rhizomorphs are threadlike or cordlike structures made up of branched tubular filaments called hyphae. They absorb nutrients and moisture and I think of them as a mushroom’s roots, even though that isn’t entirely accurate. They are worth looking for in leaf litter and on the undersides of logs because they can be very beautiful.

12. Pink Stain on Tree Bark

Trees and logs can be stained various colors, including black, white, brown, blue, green, yellow, red, and even pink. Discolorations can be caused by fungi, molds, bacteria, yeasts, minerals in soil, inorganic deposits, metals, enzymes, and even stress brought on by tension or compression. It takes a microscope and a trained eye to uncover what causes discolorations and since I have neither I can’t say what caused this pink stain on the bark of the tree in the photo. It looked good and healthy otherwise and I didn’t see any fungi growing on it.

13. Pink on Cut Log

Nor can I say what caused the pink stain on the wood of this cut limb. It isn’t a color that you see often in nature, though.

14. Spalting on Elm

Sometimes woods affected by fungi can become very desirable to woodworkers. Spalting is essentially any form of wood coloration caused by fungi but there are 3 major types; pigmentation, white rot and zone lines. Sometimes all 3 can be present as they are on the end grain of the elm log in the above photo. Pigmentation is the blue gray color, which is probably caused by bluestain or sapstain. The white rot can be seen in the areas that look soft or pulpy, and the zone lines are the dark, narrow lines found radiating randomly throughout the log. Zone lines often form where 2 or more types of fungi meet.

15. Spalted-Maple-Lidded-Box

A few woodworkers have learned how to recreate the natural spalting process artificially, and the worth of a log can jump from $30.00 to $3,000.00 after a few weeks of spalting. Why would a log attacked by fungi be worth so much money? Because of the beautiful things that can be made from it, like the spalted maple covered box made by Michael at Michael’s Wood craft blog. Michael knows wood and he makes some beautiful objects from it, including cutting boards, ice cream scoops, honey sticks, and just about anything else you can think of. If you haven’t seen his blog you’re missing a real treat. You can visit it by clicking here. You’ll see some of the most beautiful woods that you’ve ever laid eyes on.

I’ve found by studying wood specific fungi that I have a greater understanding of how the forest works, and a greater appreciation of the beauty of the fungi themselves. I’ve also had a lot of fun and have learned a lot by searching for various fungi and learning how they affect certain types of wood. It’s a fascinating subject!

If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks. ~Richard Feynman

I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving.  Thanks for coming by.

 

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