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Posts Tagged ‘Bracket Fungi’

Last Saturday was cloudy but warm with temperatures in the 40s. Rain was supposed come in the late afternoon so I headed out to one of my favorite places in Keene early in the day. It’s a trail through a small park at the base of Beech Hill and there is just about anything a nature lover could want there, including a mixed hard and softwood forest, streams, seeps, a pond, and a huge assortment of wildflowers, fungi, and slime molds in spring, summer and fall.

About 6-7 inches of nuisance snow had fallen a few days before but this is a popular spot and many other feet had packed it down before I got there. I find that my trail breaking days through knee deep snow have ended, so my strategy is to let others go first and then follow their trail. There’s plenty to see out there for everybody and it doesn’t matter who sees it first.

Two or three seeps cross the trail, which is actually an old road. As I said in a post last month, a seep happens essentially when ground water reaches the surface. They are like puddles that never dry up and they don’t flow like a stream or brook. In my experience they don’t freeze either, even in the coldest weather. They are always good to look at closely, because many unusual aquatic fungi like eyelash fungi and swamp candles call them home.

The small pond here has been a favorite skating and fishing spot for children for all of my life, and I used to come here to do both when I was a boy. I was never a very good skater though, so I spent more time fishing than skating.

Despite the thin ice sign in the previous photo there were people skating and playing hockey. The pond is plowed each time it snows and it isn’t uncommon for the plow truck to go through the ice, where it sits up to its windows in water until it is towed out. There is a dam holding back the pond and a few years ago it had to be drained so the dam could be worked on, and I was shocked to see how shallow the water was. I think I could walk across it anywhere along its length without getting my hair wet, and I’m not very tall. That gray ice in this photo looks very soft and rotten and with temperatures predicted to be above freezing all week there might be no skating ice left at all by next weekend.

I wanted to show how very clean the water in our streams are by showing you the gravel at the bottom of one through the crystal clear water, but just as I started to click the shutter some snow fell from a tree branch and ruined the shot. Or so I thought; I think this is the only shot of ripples I’ve ever gotten. There is a certain amount of luck in nature photography, I’ve found.

Snow builds up on the branches of evergreens like Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and when the weather warms it melts, and in a forest like this on a warm day all that melting snow could make you think it was raining. That’s how it was on this day so I had to keep a plastic bag over the camera.

Fresh snow once again covered everything. I’ve lost count of how many times it has snowed this winter but luckily it has warmed enough between storms to melt much of what has fallen before. Otherwise we’d be in snow up to our eyeballs. It was just a few years ago that I had to shovel snow up over my head because it stayed so cold between storms that none of it melted. I had pathways around the yard that looked like canyons, and I couldn’t see out over the tops of them.

Even in silhouette the thorns of hawthorn (Crataegus) look formidable. And they are; you don’t want to run headlong into one. Another name for the shrub is thorn apple because the small red fruits bear a slight resemblance to apples. These fruits have been used to treat heart disease for centuries and parts of the plant are still used medicinally today.

Something had eaten part of a leaf and turned it into something resembling stained glass.

A young dead hemlock tree’s bark was flaking off in what I thought was an unusual way. Sometimes the platy bark of black cherry trees is described as having a “burnt potato chip” look, but that’s just what the bark of this hemlock reminded me of.

For many years, long before I heard of “forest bathing” or anything of that sort, I’ve believed that nature could heal. In fact in my own life it has indeed healed and has gotten me through some very rough patches, so I really don’t know what I’d do if I could no longer get into the woods. But I recently read of a program where you go into a forest to “heal” by pasting leaves and pinecones to yourself and weaving twigs in your hair and I have to say that it is silliness like this that is driving people away from forests, not toward them. I hope you’ll take the word of someone who has spent his whole life in the woods: you don’t need to do anything, say anything, sing, dance, or anything else to benefit from the healing power of the forest. All you need to do is simply be there. If you want to sing and dance and weave twigs in your hair and paste leaves on your arms by all means do so, but it’s important to me that you know that you don’t have to do any of those things to benefit from nature. And please remember, if something sounds absurd it probably is.

What I think was powdery sunburst lichen (Xanthoria ulophyllodes) grew on a black locust tree. It was very small but thanks to my camera I could see that it was also very beautiful. It can be a real pleasure to find such colorful things when the whole world seems white.

I’ve seen this enough times to know I should look up to see what’s been going on.

Woodpeckers, that’s what’s been going on. In this case a pileated woodpecker, judging by the large rectangular holes.

The snow inside this tree shows how deeply they can drill into the wood, though sometimes they find that the tree is hollow. I’ve seen huge, living trees fall that were completely hollow; it was only their bark and the cambium layer under it that kept them standing.

This tree has had it, I’m afraid. It’s never a good thing to see fungi growing on a living, standing tree and in fact most of them won’t. Many fungi will attack and fruit on only dead and fallen trees because their mission is not to kill, only to decompose. It’s hard to imagine a forest without the decomposers. You wouldn’t be able to walk through it for all the fallen limbs and other litter.

Some bracket fungi are annuals that live for just one year and they turn white when they die, and I thought that was what I was seeing until I ran my hand over these. They were perfectly pliable and very much alive, even after the extreme below zero cold we’ve had. They were also very small; no bigger than my thumbnail.

The small white bracket fungi were very young, I think, and I haven’t been able to identify them. The fragrant bracket (Trametes suaveolens) might be a possibility. This is a photo of the spore bearing surface on their undersides.

There are things that are as beautiful in death as they were in life, and I offer up this empty aster (I think) seed head as proof. Though it is dry and fairly monotone it looks every bit as beautiful as the flower it came from to me.

I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything. ~Alan watts

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1. Cockscomb Coral Fungus

There are many types of coral fungi in the woods at this time of year. They can be very hard to identify without a microscopic look at the spores but I think this one might be cockscomb or crested coral (Clavulina coralloides.) Crested corals have branches that end in sharp tips and these tips will often turn brown as the ones in the photo have done. I don’t see these as often as I do other types of coral fungi.

2. Yellow Coral Fungus

The branch ends on this coral fungus are blunt and yellowish so I think this might be a golden coral (Ramaria aurea.) These are common here and can get quite large. This one was 4 or 5 inches across. It’s always exciting to find such beautiful things coming up out of the dead leaves.

 3. Turkey Tails

Turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) start to show up when the leaves that hid them fall off the lower branches of shrubs. They come in many colors, the most common being shades of shades of brown, but sometimes you can find purple or blue ones like those pictured here. Turkey tails are bracket fungi that always grow on wood and they are always worth looking for.

4. Dyer's Polypore aka Phaeolus schweinitzii

Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) is also called the velvet topped fungus because of its hairy appearance. These fungi are parasitic on the roots and heartwood of living white pines in the eastern U.S. and cause root rot. I usually find them on logs though, and have never seen one on a live tree. This fungus changes color as it ages. If found when young it can be used to dye wool a soft yellow or orange and older examples will dye wool brown.

5. Young Dyer's Polypore

This is what a young dyer’s polypore looks like. As you can see the color difference between young and old examples is dramatic.  Some of these mushrooms can get quite large but this one was only about 3 inches across. Though they sometimes look as if they’re growing on the ground as this one does, they’re really growing on conifer roots or buried logs.

 6. Golden Pholiota

Golden pholiota (Pholiota limonella) mushrooms grew on a beech log and looked like scaly puffballs, so it took a while to identify them. They can grow on living or dead wood in the summer and fall and usually form clusters. Their orange-yellow caps are slimy and covered in reddish scales. The late afternoon sun really brought out the golden color of these examples.

7. Lemon Drops

Lemon drops (Bisporella citrina) look like tiny lemon candies that have been sprinkled over logs, but they are 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.

8. Lemon Drops

Lemon drops start life as a tiny yellow disc and look as if they lie flat on the log, but a closer look shows that 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.” Lemon drops live up to their name and great clusters of them can often be seen on stumps and logs from quite a distance. Single examples are extremely small and very hard to get a sharp photo of.

9. Unknown White Fungus

I’m not sure what this misshapen mushroom was. It looks more like a truffle than anything else but it was growing above ground and truffles grow underground.

NOTE: Two visitors have identified this fungus as an aborted entoloma (Entoloma abortivum). Thanks guys!

10. Tinder Polypore aka Fomes fomentarius

When the remains of the 5000 year old “Ice Man” were found in the Ötztal Alps in 1991, one of the things he carried were dried pieces of tinder polypore (Fomes fomentarius.) Treated strips of the fungus made exceptional fire starting material. Because it burned slowly it could also be used to carry fire from one camp to another and it even has medicinal properties, so it would have been a very valuable possession in 3,300 BCE.

11. Unknown Black Fungi

I found these odd shaped black fungi on a white pine log. I don’t know if they started life black or if they turned black as they aged. They were very rubbery like a jelly fungus.

 12. Dark Yellow Slime Mold

September has been a dry month so I haven’t seen many slime molds, but I do have a few shots of some that I found. I think this one might be Badhamia utricularis forming fruit bodies before going on to produce sporangia, which simply means that it’s going through the process of releasing its spores. Some slime molds consume fungi and this one seems to prefer crust fungi.

13. Orange Yellow Slime Mold

One of the most fascinating things about slime molds is how they can move. They are thought of as a giant single cell with multiple nuclei which can all move together as one at speeds of up to an inch per hour. They can also climb and often do so to release their spores. In this photo the sporangia (fruiting bodies) of Leocarpus fragills have climbed a twig so the wind might better disperse their spores. The twig was little more than the size of a toothpick, so that should give you an idea of how small the sporangia are. They are often so small that I can’t see any real detail by eye, so I have to let the camera see for me-quite literally “shooting in the dark.”

14. White Sperical Slime Mold

One of the frustrating things about slime molds is that there seems to be very little in print about them so they can be very hard to identify. However if you can get beyond that and just enjoy them for their beauty, then a whole new world that you never knew existed will open up for you. But wear your glasses; each of the tiny white “pearls” pictured was barely bigger than the period made by a pencil on a piece of paper.

Stuff your eyes with wonder … live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. ~Ray Bradbury

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Goodbye February! It might be the shortest month, but it always seems like the longest to me. It’s still very cold here with below zero nights but the sun has greater warmth and the days are longer so the snow is slowly melting away from the places where fungi, mosses and lichens grow. What follows is some of what I’ve seen on recent walks.

 1. Gouty Oak Gall

Gouty oak gall is caused by a wasp called, not surprisingly, the gouty oak gall wasp (Callirhytis quercuspunctata). In spring the wasp lays its eggs in expanding plant tissue and secretes chemicals that will cause the abnormal growth seen in the photo. The gall grows quickly and once the eggs hatch the larvae feed on its tissue. It can take two years or more for the gall wasps to reach adulthood. One adult exits the gall through each hole.

 2. False Turkey Tail aka Stereum ostrea

I saw hundreds of these small bracket fungi covering a tree trunk and thought Great-false turkey tails-I won’t have to spend two weeks trying to identify them for the blog!  Nature had other ideas though- one look at the undersides told me that they were not false turkey tails (Stereum ostrea) at all. Unfortunately my peek at their hidden faces didn’t tell me what they were, and after looking through 4 mushroom books and countless web pages, I still don’t know. I thought I’d include them here to once again illustrate how important looking at the spore bearing surface of a mushroom is when you are trying to identify it.

 3. False Turkey Tail aka Stereum ostrea Underside

This is what the underside of the bracket fungus in the previous photo looked like. I’m sure I’ve seen them before but I can’t find a similar example in a book. False turkey tails have a smooth, whitish underside-much different than the maze like surface seen here.

 4. Barberry Inner Bark

The bark of the common or European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) contains berberine, a yellow crystalline, bitter alkaloid. It is said that chewing a piece of bark, even on the hottest days, will make your mouth water and slake your thirst. The inner bark is very yellow and it and the bark from the plant’s roots have been used for centuries to make yellow dye used to dye fabric and leather.

 5. Gypsy Moth Egg Case

I recently found several gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) egg cases on a tree. Gypsy moths were first introduced from Europe in Massachusetts in 1869, to breed with the silkworm moth (Bombyx mori) to produce a hardier silkworm. Naturally, it escaped and has become one of the chief defoliators of deciduous trees and conifers in the eastern United States. Each egg mass can contain 100-1000 eggs and should be destroyed when found.

 6. Partridge Berries

There are still plenty of partridge berries under the evergreens and on south facing slopes where the snow has melted. Turkeys love these berries so I’m surprised to see that there are any left.

 7. Trametes hirsuta

I think this grayish white bracket fungus is the hairy bracket (Trametes hirsuta). This fungus is very hairy and turns brown as it ages. It is closely related to turkey tail fungi (trametes versicolor) and is zoned like they are, but its zones aren’t as pronounced or as colorful as those on turkey tails, and are easy to miss.

 8. Wavy Starburst Moss aka Atrichum altercristatum

I think this moss might be wavy starburst moss (Atrichum altercristatum).It doesn’t look like it has been affected by winter at all. When wet its bright green, rippled leaves spread out and give this moss a star like appearance and when dry they curl and turn brown. Finding green mosses in winter seems to make it easier to get through somehow.

 9. Northern Catalpa Leaf Scar aka Catalpa speciosa

Northern catalpa has some of the largest leaf scars of any tree I know. This one was a half inch long. The leaf scars are sunken and come in sets of three spaced around the diameter of the twig. The heart shaped leaves of catalpa are also some of the biggest that I know of. Its large clusters of orchid like flowers are beautiful and its wood is rot resistant and makes good fence posts.

 10. Oak Buds 3

Red oak (Quercus rubra) buds don’t seem to be swelling much. The terminal buds of this tree usually appear in a cluster and are conical and reddish brown. I like the chevron like pattern that the bud scales make. Red oak is one of our most common trees in New England but in the past many thousands were lost to gypsy moth infestations. It is an important source of lumber, flooring and fire wood. The USDA says that red oaks can live to be 500 years old.

11. Striped Maple Buds 2

Native Striped Maple buds (Acer pensylvanicum) buds always remind me of a trident. The large central terminal bud is unusual because it has only two bud scales. Red oak buds like those in the previous photo have 3 or more bud scales. Striped maple is very fussy about where it grows and will not stand pollution, heat, or drought. It likes cool, shady places with sandy soil that stays moist. They bloom in June and have very pretty green blossoms. I can’t say that they’re rare here, but I don’t see them very often. I’ve been searching for one in bloom for 3 years and haven’t found one yet.

12. Vernal Witch Hazel

This vernal (spring blooming) witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) grows in a local park. I think it miscalculated this year and bloomed too early. You can see how some of its strap shaped petals got too cold and browned before retracting back into the tiny cup like bracts. Proof that even nature can make an occasional mistake. Our native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blooms in late fall.

The most beautiful things in life go un-noticed. ~ Omar Hickman

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 1. Thawing Stream

This winter has been colder than we’ve seen in several years, but the coldest winters always seem to come with a short break called a January thaw, and we’ve had ours this year. I think of it as a taste of spring in the dead of winter, and it is always welcome. January thaws usually last for about a week and temperatures rise an average of 10° F higher than those of the previous week. Spring has always been my favorite season so for me a thaw is also a tease that lights the pilot light of spring fever. By the end of February the fever will be strong.

 2. Icy Trail

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but that’s ice on the trail. I was glad that I wore my Yak Trax because there was nowhere you could go to avoid it except back the way you came.

 3. Multicolor Gill Polypore Lenzites betulina

At first glance you might think these were turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor), but it’s important to look at the underside of mushrooms when trying to identify them. Though they aren’t always shown on this blog I always try to get photos of their spore producing surfaces and any other features that might help in identify them.

4. Multicolor Gill Polypore Lenzites betulina

The undersides of the mushrooms in the previous photo show that these fungi can’t be turkey tails because turkey tails have pores, not gills. Though many bracket fungi have gills, the multicolor gilled polypore (Lenzites betulina) shown in the photos is the only one that has both gills and white flesh.  All of the other gilled bracket fungi have reddish brown flesh, which makes identifying the multicolor gilled polypore much easier than most. I also carry a pen and a small notebook to note things like white or brown flesh but a lot of times I don’t use it because I don’t like harming the mushrooms. I like to leave the woods exactly as I found them if I can, so the next person can see the same things I’ve seen.

 5. Fern Growing in Boulder Crack-2

Evergreen intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia) looks fragile, but it can take a lot of weather. I found these examples growing in a crack in a room sized boulder. This is one of just a handful of true evergreen ferns. I usually expect to find another evergreen fern called polypody or rock cap ferns (Polypodium vulgare) growing on boulders but I didn’t see any in this area.

 6. Melt Runoff

The only time nature seems to be in a hurry is when snow melt rushes downhill. There was a lot of rushing going on this day.

 7. Melting Ice

All that water had to go somewhere and with the soil still frozen a lot of it puddled up in low spots in the woods. Mini ponds like the one in the photo could be seen everywhere.  Many were about the size of back yard skating rinks and once re-frozen they would have been great to skate on.

 8. Ashuelot Ice Shelves Collapsing

Along the Ashuelot River the ice shelves hanging out over the water were collapsing under their own weight. Not a good time to find yourself accidentally standing on one of these!

 9. Jelly Crep Mushrooms aka Crepidotus mollis

Jelly creps (Crepidotus mollis) are small, quarter sized “winter mushrooms” that like to grow on hardwood logs. They are also called soft slipper mushrooms and feel kind of spongy and flabby, much like your ear lobe.

 10. Jelly Crep Mushrooms aka Crepidotus mollis

The gills of the jelly crep are soft and turn from whitish yellow to brown as they age. You can see how these mushrooms grow in overlapping tiers in this photo.

11. Red Maple Buds

Red maple flower buds (Acer rubrum) are just waiting for the signal. These are one of my favorite early spring flowers and I’m looking forward to seeing them again. The flowers, twigs, leaf stems, seeds, and autumn foliage of this tree all come in varying shades of red.

The sun came out,
And the snowman cried.
His tears ran down
On every side.
His tears ran down
Till the spot was cleared.
He cried so hard
That he disappeared.

~ Margaret Hillert, January Thaw

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1. Pond Ice

This photo of pond ice does something to satisfy that abstract craving that I have every now and then. It seemed to want to be in black and white so I granted its wish, even though it hardly changed from the original. These shards of ice were quite long and looked like they had just started to form. The process of ice crystals beginning to form in super cooled water is called nucleation.

 2. Bracket Fungi on Bracket Fungi

There were bracket fungi growing on this tree when it fell. Bracket fungi have their top toward the sky and bottom toward the soil but when the tree they grow on falls, what was horizontal can become vertical. They solve that problem by growing young, horizontal bracket fungi from the older ones that now grow vertically. That’s determination.

 3. Bracket Fungi on Bracket Fungi

A shot from another direction shows that these bracket fungi have teeth.  I think they might be Steccherinum ochraceum, which is a tooth fungus that can form brackets and is strongly affected by gravity and sunlight.

4. White Pine Bark

This old white pine had very colorful bark. There were several other old specimens growing quite close together but this was the only one that looked like it wanted to be as colorful as a sycamore.

 5. Crumpled Rag Lichen aka Platismatia tuckermanii

Last year I did a post with this lichen in it and at the time I thought it was an example of a spotted camouflage lichen (Melanohalea olivacea), but after doing a little more research I’m now fairly certain that it’s a crumpled rag lichen (Platismatia tuckermanii .)The large greenish brown discs are apothecia or fruiting bodies, and they help identify this lichen. I usually find these on birch limbs.

6. Heather Rag Lichen

I think this is an example of a lichen called heather rags (Hypogymnia physodes), but there are so many that look almost the same that I can’t be completely certain. This lichen has gray, inflated, puffy looking lobes like heather rag lichens do, but so do many others. Heather rags gets its common name by its habit of growing on unburned heather in the United Kingdom, but it is also quite common here in the north eastern U.S.  No matter what its name, this example is a beautiful lichen.

7. Heather Rag Lichen Closeup

Lichen books say to look for soralia bursting from lobe tips when identifying heather rags lichens. Soralia are clusters of intertwined alga and fungi that form a granule-like mass, and I think I see a few of those in this close up. Soralia are a vegetative way for lichens to reproduce. Once separate from the main body of the lichen they will start new lichens, just as taking a cutting from a plant produces a new plant.

8. Small Brain Jelly Fungi

These yellow fungi looked like tiny dots, about half as big as a pencil eraser, on a fallen log. It wasn’t until I saw the photo that I realized they were very small examples of “brain” fungi, possibly Tremella mesenterica, also called witch’s butter. If so they are the smallest examples I’ve seen of that fungus.

9. Pear Shaped Puffball

I saw some pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme) on a log and noticed that the darker, outer skin had split to reveal a lighter inner surface.  I assumed that this meant that they were ready to release their spores and poked one with a stick. Sure enough it puffed out some spores, which show as light gray powder in this photo. Inhaling enough of these spores can result in lycoperdonosis, which is a respiratory disease that starts out like a cold. The disease causes symptoms similar to those found in pneumonia, and is sometimes misdiagnosed as tuberculosis or pneumonia. If left untreated it can be fatal.

10. Sweet Birch Seeds aka Betula lenta

If you see a cherry tree with this type of growth on it you have found a sweet birch (Betula lenta,) not a cherry. I’ve pointed that out because its bark looks a lot like cherry bark and they are sometimes confused. The cone like object pictured is a female catkin. These catkins begin to shatter and release their seeds in late fall. The seeds, a few of which can be seen in the photo, are called nutlets and are winged, much like an elm seed. The easiest way to identify sweet birch is by chewing a twig. If it doesn’t taste like wintergreen, it isn’t sweet birch. Native Americans boiled the sap and made it into syrup. If enough corn is added, birch beer can also be made from it. After chewing quite a few twigs it seems to me that syrup or beer made from this tree would taste a lot like oil of wintergreen, and I don’t know if I could handle wintergreen flavored flapjacks.

11. Plagiomnium cuspidatum Moss

I found a large patch of baby tooth moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum) growing on a flat boulder in the sun. This moss can be a little tricky to identify because it has two types of stems with different growth patterns. Vegetative stems trail like a vine and stems with fruiting capsules (sporophytes) stand upright as they are in the photo. Each leaf has tiny serrations from its tip down to about mid leaf, and that’s a good identifying feature.

 12. Plagiomnium cuspidatum Moss Immature Sporophytes

The sun had melted a dusting of snow from the patch of baby tooth moss just before I found it and many of the sharply pointed  immature sporophytes had tiny drops of water clinging to them. When mature the sporophytes will be more barrel shaped with flat ends, and will bend until the capsules droop just past horizontal.

Go to the winter woods: listen there; look, watch, and ‘the dead months’ will give you a subtler secret than any you have yet found in the forest. ~ Fiona Macleod

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Everywhere I go these days I run into water. Sometimes literally-like absentmindedly finding myself ankle deep in a puddle-but usually I see it rushing down hillsides and across trails, as if its very existence depended on it finding the lowest point in the valley as quickly as possible.

Sm. Waterfall Blurred

Since the days of film cameras I’ve had the opinion that blurred water in a photo simply showed the photographer’s skill in manipulating the camera’s controls, but otherwise served no useful purpose.  I’ve had to revise that opinion recently because in photos of little rivulets like this one the water was so clear that it became almost invisible if it wasn’t blurred.  My opinion has therefore been upgraded to useful, but easily overdone.

 Tree Fungi

These mushrooms grew on a fallen tree near a stream and were as soft as velvet and wiggled like Jell-O, and they reminded me of cookies. (I hadn’t had lunch yet.)

 Tree Fungus Underside

Many bracket fungi are polypores and have pores on their undersides. These had gills and a short, off-center stalk, so they aren’t true bracket fungi and they aren’t polypores. Now I know a few things about what they aren’t, but I haven’t been able to identify them to discover what they are.

Spring Runoff

Way up in the hills small rivulets join forces and become bigger streams that fall down the hillsides. These streams might run for a week, a month, or a few months but few of them run year-round. The water in this photo wasn’t blurred. At least, not intentionally.

 Male Red Maple Blossoms

All along the streams and rivers red maples (Acer rubrum) are blooming. Here the male blossoms are showing pollen. Even though I became an allergy sufferer at age 50 I still love seeing the trees bloom in spring.

 Female Red Maple Flowers

The female flowers of red maple (Acer rubrum) are just opening-waiting for the wind to bring pollen from the male blossoms.

Brook

All the water running off the hillsides has to go somewhere, and in this case it causes this small brook to swell and fill its banks. In high summer you can walk across this brook in places while barely wetting your ankles. This is called Beaver Brook after the many beavers that once lived here.

Log

Sometimes when I walk through these forests it is easy to imagine the immense wilderness that faced the first colonists. I wonder how they felt when they first realized that, as far as they knew, this forest stretched on indefinitely.  If I think back even farther I can imagine Native Americans living in a true paradise so alluring that many early colonists “rescued from the savages” didn’t want to return to what their race called civilization.

Beaver Brook Falls

The brook tumbles through a small gorge before spilling over Beaver Brook Falls with a roar. The falls are fairly impressive at this time of year, but they look quite different in July and August.

Turkey Tails

I haven’t seen many turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) over the past winter. I saw a lot of dried out ones with washed out colors, but very few with color like those in the photo. As I’ve said before, these fungi have a lot of secrets and they don’t give them up easily. Every time I see them I’m reminded of how little I really know about them.

Ashuelot River Waves

With all of the water from all of the surrounding hills spilling into it, the Ashuelot River is feeling pretty powerful these days, and it is. The eerie booming sounds coming from the boulders and debris that it rolls along its bottom can be felt as well as heard. Almost like thunder, it rolls through you.

Ashuelot on 4-14

So far this year the Ashuelot has held all of the thousands of gallons of runoff water within its banks. From here it will travel to the Connecticut River and then to the Long Island Sound where it will spill into the Atlantic Ocean. Once it evaporates into the atmosphere it might return and give us some welcome summer rain.

Study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rocks. Also learn from holy books and wise people. Everything – even mountains, rivers, plants and trees – should be your teacher. ~Morihei Ueshiba

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Last week brought the January thaw that the weathermen promised but it wasn’t wash your car in the driveway weather. Though temperatures reached the 40s for a day or two and snow was melting, the sun was hardly seen. Instead the skies were gray and thick fog occasionally enveloped everything.  One day I decided to drive up and out of the deep bowl that is Keene, New Hampshire. I was hoping that I’d get above the mist and see some sun but instead it got even thicker as the elevation changed so I could barely see the road by the time I reached the top of the hill. There was no escaping it.

1. Sun at Noon

This was taken at lunch time one day. It felt more like late afternoon. The sun tried hard each day but couldn’t burn through the dense fog.

2. Thin Ice Sign

The ice is dangerously thin this year. As you can see by all of the footprints, people aren’t paying attention.

 3. Canada Geese on Ice

The geese aren’t worried about a little thin ice. Geese that come and land on this part of the river are extremely wary for some reason, and fly off at even the hint of someone nearby. I was able to get two quick shots before they took off.  Sorry this one is fuzzy-I was at the limit of my zoom capabilities.

 4. Foggy Mountain

I know that there is a large mountain here somewhere because I’ve climbed it.

5. Foggy Trail

The foggy trail was empty of even sound-not a leaf rustle or bird song was heard. And it was wet-so much so that I was afraid my cameras might get wet, so I turned back.

 6. Rose Hip with a Drip

Everything was dripping in the heavy fog.

 7. Moss Sporangia in Fog

The mosses were loving it.

 8. Orange Witch's Butter

This orange witch’s butter (Tremella mesenterica ) was frozen solid just a while ago, but the warmth and rain plumped it right back up again. It feels and jiggles just like Jell-O.

9. Dried Out Black Jelly Fungus

This is what black witch’s butter looks like when it hasn’t rained for a while.

 10. Black Jelly Fungus

And this is what black witch’s butter (Exidia glandulosa) looks like when it has had plenty of moisture. Both of these examples were on the same alder shrub, but taken at different times.

 11. Bracket Fungi

Bracket fungi don’t seem to mind any weather unless it is hot sunshine.

 12. Mare's Tails

The sun finally came out as always, the temperature shot up to 60 degrees, and the sky was blue again. For a day. Those clouds in the lower half of the picture are called mare’s tails and they usually signal that a storm is brewing. It got murky again the next day and snowed two days later. My color finding software sees mostly Dodger blue (as in the L.A. Dodgers baseball team) in this sky, but also sees dark teal blue, cornflower blue, steel blue and light sky blue. Imagine all of that in a simple blue sky!

It is the memory that enables a person to gather roses in January ~Anonymous

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