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Posts Tagged ‘Amber Jelly Fungi’

As soon as I mentioned spring in a blog post winter returned and we’ve had a cold, snowy week. Last Saturday it was cloudy but not too cold at 37 degrees F. when I went to play on the banks of the Ashuelot River in Swanzey. I’ve been playing on these river banks my entire lifetime and I’ve seen a lot of trees in the river, but I’ve never seen one actually fall in. That leaning white pine over on the left is going to fall in any time now, I’d guess, but I doubt I’ll see it happen. Once it falls in it might be in this spot for a year or two or maybe more, but eventually the river will flood and off it will go on its journey to the Atlantic. White pines are our tallest trees and I’m guessing that this one is over 100 feet tall.

Ice baubles that would have been more at home on a chandelier hung from the slab of ice that had formed over a stone.

They hung from anything close enough for the river to touch.

Just like a candle dipped in hot wax the waves engulf an icicle again and again, depositing a new layer of ice each time. The excess water runs down its length and pools there, creating the fat bottom just above the water. In this shot the point from where the bauble dangles doesn’t look very strong.

Last Monday the temperatures fell into the single digits F. and the wind roared with 60 mile per hour gusts. After that it was snowy all week and cold enough to keep the snow from melting. Everything that fell stayed right where it landed.

And the snow on tree trunks marked the direction the wind had blown it in from.

I saw lots of beaver activity here. They had sampled this young beech at might have come back and cut it down that night.

Sometimes a beaver will sample a tree and find it not to its liking, and leave it alone.

But usually they know what they’re cutting and they cut down trees and haul them away. They like beech and I’ve seen them cut huge old trees down to get at the upper branches.

The chips the beaver left behind looked like the same things a pileated woodpecker would have left but I didn’t find any woodpecker damage on any of the nearby trees.

I’ve noticed many times that fallen oak limbs have a golden color on their bark. What I don’t know is if this happens when the branch dies or is it there when they’re alive. I’ve cut down and cut up oak trees but I’ve never noticed the color on a fresh limb.

Fallen oak limbs often have jelly fungi on them, especially amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa) like that seen here. This one was about the size of a nickel and frozen solid. Once it thaws it will grow on as if nothing ever happened. It’s the only jelly fungus I know of that holds its size when it dries out. Most shrivel down into little chips on the bark.

I love the soft brown color of last year’s oak leaves and the way they curl together as if hugging to keep each other warm.

I think the fungus on this tree was conifer parchment fungus (Stereum sanguinolentum,) which I’m seeing a lot of this year. It is also called bleeding parchment because of the blood red liquid it exudes when damaged but this example was very dry. The fungus causes heart rot and means a death sentence for a conifer. I’ve seen this fungus in just about every bit of woodland I’ve been in recently and after not seeing it for years, that seems strange. It’s almost like an outbreak.

Milk white toothed polypore was dry enough to be almost unrecognizable but I’ve seen it enough to know what I was looking at. This crust fungus has ragged bits of spore producing tissue that hang down and look like teeth, and that’s where part of its common name comes from. This common fungus can usually be found on the undersides of hardwood branches.

Common ground pine (Lycopodium dendroideum) is a clubmoss and has nothing to do with pines. It also has nothing to do with moss; it’s a vascular plant that produces spores instead of flowers. The spores are produced in the yellowish “clubs” called strobili. In this photo the strobili are still tightly closed. When they open to release the spores they have a kind of ragged look to them. The dried spores they are highly flammable, and they were once used in place of flash bulbs in photography. That’s one reason that clubmosses were so hard to find at one time. People also made Christmas wreaths from them and that also helped to nearly wipe them out. They’ve made a comeback though and I see lots of them.

Snow always melts faster under the evergreens because the branches block so much of it from falling next to the trunk. This gives birds and small animals places to scratch around and find any morsels that might have been missed.

The return of the bluebirds made me think that other migrants might be coming back as well, but the sumac berries still aren’t being eaten. I’ve heard that the fruit is low in fat and not very nourishing but I would think it would at least fill an empty stomach and get them by until they could find something a little more nourishing. These berries are on a smooth sumac (Rhus glabra,) which I’ve never seen growing here.

The birds have eaten all the seeds from the asters, but what they leave behind is still pretty enough to make me think of flowers. It’s hard to imagine birds getting much nourishment from such tiny seeds but I suppose if you happen to be a tiny bird they’re just right.

They say a warm up is coming starting next week so I hope to be able to show you something besides ice and snow soon. I still haven’t seen a sap bucket but I dreamed I was in a sugar bush of huge old trees with hundreds of buckets hanging from them, so I hope to also be able to show you one of those soon. I have seen that plastic tubing they use instead of sap buckets these days, so I know the sap must be flowing.

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. ~Eleanora Duse

Thanks for coming by.

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This is another one of those posts full of unusual things that I see in the woods that don’t seem to fit in other posts.

1. Amber Jelly Fungi

These amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa) were frozen solid and looked like lollipops, or maybe half lollipops. This fungus is called willow brain because it is often found growing on willows. It produces spores on its upper surface, which is smooth and shiny, and the underside has more of a matte finish. Winter is a great time to find jelly fungi of many kinds, but you have to look closely. Those in the photo were no bigger than a dime-roughly 18mm.

 2. Split Gill Mushroom

Split gill fungi (Schizophyllum commune) are probably the easiest winter fungi to identify because of their wooly winter coats. These mushrooms grow year round on dead limbs but for some reason, I only notice them in winter. That could be because they are very small-no larger than a penny at best-roughly 19mm. They’re also very tough and leathery. They grow on every continent except Antarctica and because of that are said to be the most studied mushroom on earth. Scientists have recently isolated a compound from them that has been shown to inhibit the HIV-1 virus.

3. Split Gill Mushroom-2

The “gills” on the split gill fungus are actually folds on its under surface that split lengthwise when it dries out. This example was very dry. The splits close over the fertile surfaces as the mushroom shrivels in dry weather. When rehydrated by rain the splits reopen, the spore-producing surfaces are exposed to the air, and spores are released.

5. Beech Bud

Beech trees have their long, pointed buds all ready for spring. When these begin to break and unfurl they are one of the most beautiful sights in the forest, in my opinion. The fuzzy, silvery new leaf looks like an angel wing, but just for a very short time.

 6. Zig Zag Tree Wound

I can’t even guess what caused this zig-zag pattern in this tree bark. My first thought was lightning, but that would run from the top down. This scar comes out of the soil and runs about 3 feet up the trunk.

7. Cheese Polypore

White cheese polypore (Tyromyces chioneus) is, according to the website Mushroom Expert.com, just about the most boring mushroom going. But it is a “winter mushroom” and that, in my opinion, makes it at least a little interesting. It grows on hardwood logs and causes white rot, and gets its common name from its scientific one. Tyromyces means “with a cheesy consistency,” and chioneus means “snow white.” These mushrooms are big enough to be seen from a distance and when they are fresh they have a pleasing fragrance that some think is like cheesecake.

8. Frozen Mushroom Gills

This mushroom was frozen solid but had still held on to its colors, which reminded me of fall.

9. Alder Toungue Gall

Instead of being caused by an insect like many galls, alder (Alnus glutinosa) tongue gall is caused by a fungus (Taphrina alni). The fungus chemically deforms parts of the ovarian tissue of the female cone-like catkins (strobiles) and causes long, tongue shaped galls known as languets to grow from them. These galls seem to like high humidity so are usually found on alders that grow near ponds and streams.

10. Orange Jelly Fungi

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many orange jelly fungi (Dacrymyces palmatus) growing in one place before. They were on a hemlock stump no bigger than the average doughnut. Most of the orange ones that I see are growing on hemlock.

 11. Orange Jelly Fungi 2

These orange jelly fungi (Dacrymyces palmatus) grew inside a hollow log. Walking slowly and looking into hollow logs is a great way to find unexpected things but I only stick my hands in them after I’ve had a look first, because I’ve also seen sharp toothed chipmunks in them.

 12. Black Jelly Fungus

Black jelly fungi (Exidia glandulosa) often decorate alder bark in this area. These were a bit shriveled because of the cold and the lack of rain, but once we see some rain they will swell up and look like puffed up pillows. It’s amazing how much jelly fungi can swell up after a rain.

 13. Witch Hazel Bracts

Last year the witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) along the river were still blooming on January 21st, but not this year. All that is left are the cup shaped bracts which the strap shaped yellow petals unfurl from. I think 10 below zero in early December was too cold too soon and “switched them off” for this winter. Normally they won’t bloom much past Thanksgiving, so the last two or three years of seeing them bloom later and later have been unusual.

 14. Maleberry Seed Pods

If you glanced at a maleberry (Lyonia ligustrina) shrub in spring or early summer you might think it was a blueberry, because its flowers resemble blueberry flowers. Both shrubs are in the blueberry family and maleberry is sometimes called male blueberry. You would be waiting a long time to find anything blue on this bush though-its fruit is a hard capsule full of seeds. The 5 part capsules make this an easy shrub to identify in winter. I just look for the star on the end of the capsules. I find them on the banks of ponds, growing next to alders.

Commonly we stride through the out-of-doors too swiftly to see more than the most obvious and prominent things. For observing nature, the best pace is a snail’s pace.  ~Edward Way Teale

Thanks for coming by.

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