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Posts Tagged ‘Chicken of the Woods’

I saw quite a few mushrooms in September, including some I’ve never seen before, and I’m still finding them in October. This chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) mushroom was the biggest and most colorful. Another common name for them is sulfur shelf though I’ve worked with sulfur and this mushroom doesn’t remind me of it. I’ve read that as they age they lose the orange color but I don’t believe it now because I was able to watch these examples every day and they never lost their orange, even as they rotted away. The name chicken of the woods comes from the way they taste like chicken when cooked. Finding bright colors in the woods at any time of year is always a surprise and I always feel grateful that I was able to see them. This fungus was a beautiful thing and about as big as a soccer ball.

Chicken of the woods is yellow on the underside and has pores rather than gills. The pores are there in this photo but they are far too small to see.

We’ve seen the chicken so now for the hen. Hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa,) is an edible polypore that often grows in the same spot year after year. They are said to look like the back of a brown hen’s ruffled feathers, and that’s how they come by their common name. Though they’re said to be brown I always see green. My color finding software sees bands of gray, peach puff, and rosy brown, which is a surprise. I’ve seen a lot of these this year and every one grew at the base of an oak.

There is a whitish tan mushroom that grows on lawns and in the woods and isn’t very exciting so I’ve always ignored it.  After some research I found that it’s called the bluing bolete (Gyroporus cyanescens,) and if I had known that it turned a beautiful cornflower blue where it was bruised I would have looked more closely.

The bluing bolete is said to be edible but I certainly wouldn’t eat it or any mushroom without an expert’s identification. This mushroom contains a compound called variegatic acid which is colorless until it is exposed to oxygen. Once exposed it quickly turns blue, in this case. It can also turn red, I’ve read.

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. They also change color as they age. If found when young as this one was it can be used to dye wool a soft yellow or orange and older examples will dye wool brown.

This is what an older 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 5 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.

If you saw this growing on a fallen branch would you know what it was? I wasn’t absolutely sure until I turned it over.

I knew it was some type of shelf or bracket fungi from the back but I didn’t know it was turkey tails (Trametes versicolor.) I never knew their undersides were so pure white when they were young. When older the underside is kind of off white and full of pores. I also always thought they grew singly, but in clusters. The back view shows they’re actually all one body.

Golden pholiota (Pholiota limonella) mushrooms grew on a birch tree, which is something I’ve never seen before. In fact there are very few mushrooms that I’ve seen growing on a living birch, but these mushrooms can grow on living or dead wood. They appear in the summer and fall and usually form in large clusters. Their orange-yellow caps are slimy and covered in reddish scales. The dim morning light really brought out the golden color of these examples.

Wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum) starts out as tiny pink globules but as they age and become more like what we see in the above photo. As they grow the globules look more like small puffballs growing on a log.

Wolf’s milk slime mold is also called toothpaste slime and that’s because there is a pinkish orange material inside each globule with (usually) the consistency of toothpaste. It can also have a more liquid consistency as it does here, and that’s the way I usually find it. As it ages it will turn into a mass of brown powdery spores.

Some coral fungi come to a blunt, rather than pointed end and are called club shaped corals. I thought these might be Clavariadelphus truncatus but that mushroom has wrinkles down its length and these are smooth, so I’m not sure what they are. They were no more than an inch tall.

Crown coral fungi come in many colors but I usually find the tan / white varieties. The example in this photo was as big as a baseball (about 3 inches) and had a touch of orange, which I was happy to see. The way to tell if you have a crown coral fungus is by the tips of the branches, which in crown coral look like tiny crowns rather than blunt or rounded. They grow on dead wood but if that wood is buried they can appear to be growing in soil.

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 three times and twice it was on a still, hot, humid day. This time it was on a cooler but still humid day, without a hint of a breeze to blow the spores away.

An unusual mushroom that I’ve never paid attention to before is the black tooth fungus (Phellodon niger.) One of things that I find unusual about it is how, when they grow close enough together, their caps fuse together creating a large misshapen mass. But as this photo shows they also grow singly, as most of the ones I saw on this day did. Another odd thing about it is how the caps seem to split open on top.

On the underside of the black tooth’s cap are the black “teeth” that give it its common name. The teeth are called spines and the mushroom’s spores form on them. It’s easy to see how the spore bearing surface increases when a mushroom grows pores or spines on its cap. I’ve read that this mushroom is endangered in many countries like Switzerland and parts of the U.K. and there is a danger of its extinction in certain parts of the world. They seem to be abundant in this area.

This bracket fungus had all the makings of a dryad’s saddle (Cerioporus squamosus) except for color. Dryad’s saddle is usually brown but I can’t find any information on whether or not they start out life white before turning brown. I have seen photos of them online where they looked whitish, but that could be due to lighting or camera settings. This one was definitely white all over and as big as a saucer.

One of the things about nature study that some people seem to have trouble with is leaving things dangling, with no answers.  When I go into the woods I almost always come back with more questions than answers but quite often, sometimes even years later, the answer comes to me. The question on this day was this grouping of grayish mushrooms growing on a stump. I’ve looked through three mushroom guides and a few websites and haven’t found a single small grayish mushroom with a frayed cap edge. I was fairly sure I’d have trouble identifying them but I wanted their photo anyway, because I thought they were very pretty. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that mystery is a big part of living, and I’ve had to do so yet again.

These little white mushrooms presented another conundrum but I think they might be one called Xerula megalospora. Unfortunately I’ll probably never be 100% sure, because you need a microscope to see the big, lemon shaped spores and I don’t have one.

What leads me to think that this example might be a Xerula megalospora is how mushroom expert Michael Kuo explains that “its gills are attached to the stem by means of a notch and a tiny tooth that runs down the stem.” For me though, their beauty is more important than their name and this one was quite beautiful; even more so upside down.

There is no end to wonder once one starts really looking.― Marty Rubin

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1. Milkweed Tussock  Moth Caterpillar

This milkweed tussock moth caterpillar (Euchaetes egle) and several of his friends were busy eating a milkweed plant one day on the river bank. They, like the more familiar monarch butterfly caterpillars, advertise the toxicity they get from the milkweeds with black, white and yellow colors and birds leave them alone. They were feeding on top of the leaves, right out in the open.

 2. Grass with Purple Seed Head

One day I saw this grass growing by a pond. I’ve never seen another grass with a dark purple seed head like this and I haven’t been able to identify it.

3. Lady Bug

I wonder if the aphid just above the head of this ladybug knew that he was on the menu.

4. Milkweed Aphids

I was wishing the ladybug was in my pocket when I saw all of these aphids on a swamp milkweed pod. I’m hoping I can collect some seeds from them this year but that won’t happen if aphids suck all the life out of the plants.

 5. Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly aka Cupido comyntas

This little butterfly led me down an interesting path recently. I saw a flash of blue wings and followed it around until it let me take some photos. Then when it came time to identify it I convinced myself that it was a Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis,) which is endangered and protected under federal law, and which you can go to jail for chasing.  After I caught my breath I took a closer look and noticed the little “tails” coming from the hind wings. They are one of the things that separate the Eastern tailed blue butterfly (Cupido comyntas) from the Karner blue so I was safe, but that was close!

6. Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly aka Cupido comyntas By D. Gordon E. Robertson

I couldn’t get a shot of the eastern tailed blue butterfly with its wings open but I did find this excellent photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson on Wikipedia so you could see the same beautiful wing color that I saw. Just in case anyone reading this might be wondering, I’ve sworn off chasing blue butterflies.

7. Possible Common Wood Nymph aka Cercyonis pegala

I didn’t have to chase this brown butterfly. It just sat there and let me take as many photos as I wanted when its wings were closed, but every time I tried to get a shot with the wings open it closed them. I still wonder if it was reading my mind. At first I thought it was a common wood nymph (Cercyonis pegala) but now I’m not so sure. It had large spots on its upper wings.

8. Possible Small Heath Butterfly aka Coenonympha pamphilus

At one point I thought this was a meadow brown butterfly (Maniola jurtina), but then I decided it was a small heath butterfly (Coenonympha pamphilu.) Now I’m not sure if it’s either one, and you’re finding out why I do plants and not butterflies.

NOTE: Josh Fecteau from the Josh’s Jounal blog has identified this one as a Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia). Thanks Josh!

 9. Virgin's Bower Seed Heads

Virgin’s bower vines (Clematis virginiana) are slowly going to seed.

10. Rose Hips

The hips of the Alberta wild rose (Rosa acicularis) are the only ones I know that have prickles. I’ve never seen them on rugosa rose hips. I’m not sure what the white liquid that looks like latex could be.

11. Cauliflower Mushroom

This is the only cauliflower mushroom (Sparassis spathulata) that I’ve seen but I don’t know how I’ve missed them all of these years, because they’re big. This one was the size of a soccer ball. It has a strange growth habit that looks to me like a big ball of cooked egg noodles and in fact, people who eat them use them in place of egg noodles in dishes like beef stroganoff. They are said to grow on the roots of hardwoods but this one was under an eastern hemlock.

12. Tiny Yellow Mushrooms

These butter wax cap (Hygrocybe ceracea) mushrooms growing on a twig were very small and I wasn’t sure if I could even get a photo of them.  The biggest might have been a little over a quarter inch tall with a cap half the diameter of a pea. The smaller ones looked like yellow dots.

 13. Mystery Fungus

Here’s one for all of you mystery lovers out there. These string-like fungi (?) were on the vertical face of a rotting log but they didn’t look like they were growing out of it. They looked more like they had been placed there. It was hard to tell how long they were but it must have been at least 3-4 inches and their diameter was just about the same as a piece of cooked spaghetti. I’ve never seen anything like them.

 14. Mystery Fungus Closeup

Here’s a closer look at the mystery whatever they are. They appeared to be very fragile because two or three of them were broken into pieces. Were they even alive? I’ve looked through all of my mushroom books and spent considerable time on line trying to identify them but haven’t had any luck. If you know what they are or if you’ve ever seen anything like them I’d like to hear from you.

15. Chicken of the Woods aka Laetiporus sulphureus

This one was not a mystery. I’ve seen chicken of the woods before (Laetiporus sulphureus,) but never one as colorful as these. All of those I’ve seen in the past were plain sulfur yellow without the orange, and that’s why another common name for them is sulfur shelf. I’ve read that as they age they lose the orange color, so these examples must have been very young. The name chicken of the woods comes from the way they taste like chicken when cooked. Finding bright colors in the woods at any time of year is always a surprise and I always feel grateful that I was able to see them. I sat on the log beside these mushrooms for a while, admiring them. They were beautiful things, bigger than my hand.

Nature, even in the act of satisfying anticipation, often provides a surprise. ~Alfred North Whitehead

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Here is another post full of those odd, hard to fit in a post things that I see in my travels.

1. Amber jelly Fungus

The rains we had over Memorial Day made jelly fungi swell up and they can be seen everywhere right now. When it is dry, they will once again shrink down until they are almost invisible. This is amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa,) also called willow brain fungus because it grows on willow trees. It also grows on alder and poplar. Upper, shiny surfaces of this fungus bear spores and the lower, matte surfaces do not. This example doesn’t seem to have many shiny surfaces, but they often do.

 2. Gray Gilled Mushroom

The rain also helped bring a few mushrooms to fruiting stage. I liked the blue-gray color of the gills on this example. I think it is one of the Amanitas-possibly Amanita porphyria.

NOTE: A reader familiar with the above mushroom has corrected its identity. It is a wine cap mushroom (Stropharia rugosoannulata). Thank you Lisa!

 3. Chipmunk

When I was in high school there was a wooded area near the building where I and several of my class mates would hang out smoking, gabbing, and generally showing off and acting foolish. One day a friend of mine decided to see if he could catch a chipmunk barehanded. He caught it alright-in more ways than one. That cute little chipmunk instantly transformed into something resembling the Tasmanian devil on Bugs Bunny cartoons and gave him some nasty bites to the fingers.  I can’t remember much of what I learned in that school but I’ve never forgotten how sharp a chipmunk’s teeth are.

4. Larch Cone

I had been seeing photos of pink and purple larch cones (Larix laricina) on other blogs and frankly, I was a little jealous because all I ever saw in New Hampshire were dry, brown cones.  But that was because I’m color blind and wasn’t looking closely enough.  Thanks to Chris and her sister Marie over at the Plants Amaze Me blog, I’m now seeing plum colored larch cones. I think they’re as beautiful as many of the flowers that I’ve seen.

 5. Canadian Hemlock

This young Canadian hemlock (Tsuga Canadensis) tree was covered with new, light green growth and seemed to be so full of life that I had to take a picture of it. This tree might grow to 100 feet tall and 5 to 6 feet in diameter at maturity. These trees are also called eastern hemlock and, because of their unusual holding power, are often cut for use as railroad ties. Railroad spikes driven into hemlock ties are not as likely to loosen and work their way free as they are in other species.

6. Chicken-of-the-Woods aka Laetiporus sulphureus

Last year I misidentified a bracket fungus by calling it chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus .)  (This is a good example of why you don’t eat any old mushroom you read about on blogs.) I thought I’d take another crack at it this year by identifying the fungi in the above photo as chicken of the woods.  Its orange color makes it easy to see, but I don’t see many of them. This mushroom is also called sulfur shelf, and gets one of its common names because of the way that it tastes like fried chicken.

7. Dandelion Seed Head

I like macro photography because it often reveals heretofore unseen things on plants that I’ve seen thousands of times.  Good examples are the ribbed and barbed dandelion seeds, called achenes, that my aging eyes will otherwise never see. The seeds are a fine example of how a dandelion flower is actually made up of many small flowers-each flower produces a single seed. If you counted the seeds you would know how many flowers were on the original flower head.

8. Orchard Grass

Orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) is flowering now, as are many other grasses. This is a tall, cool season grass that is shade tolerant and drought resistant. I keep watch for grasses with their pollen ready to fly on the wind at this time of year. It is an interesting event that isn’t often paid much attention to.

9. Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) got its common name from its cinnamon colored spore bearing fronds. Once a cinnamon fern begins to fruit it stops producing fronds and puts all of its energy into spore production. The fertile fruiting fronds will be covered top to bottom with spore producing sori. Sori are a fern’s equivalent of flowers.

10. Royal Fern

Royal ferns (Osmunda spectabilis) have also started producing spores. Another name for this fern is “flowering fern,” because someone once thought that the fertile, fruiting fronds looked like bunches of flowers. Royal fern is the only fern that grows on every temperate continent except Australia, which makes it one of the most widespread of all living species. They are also thought to be one of the oldest living things, with fossil records of the Osmundaceae family dating back over 300 million years. Individual plants are thought to be able to live 100 years or more.

11. White Admiral Butterfly aka Limenitis arthemis

Regular readers will no doubt remember that I wrote about commenting on another blog about how New Hampshire seemed to be in a butterfly drought, and then right afterwards had a butterfly land on the trail in front of me. Well, it hasn’t stopped yet. Apparently nature is teaching me a lesson because this white admiral butterfly landed just a few feet away from me the other day.

12. Red Spotted Purple Butterfly aka Limenitis arthemis astyanax

 Less than a minute after I took a few photos of the white admiral butterfly this red-spotted purple butterfly landed right beside me. When I mowed the lawn that evening there were smaller butterflies landing on the clover blossoms. So okay-I get it. New Hampshire does not have a butterfly drought and I’ll never say that we do, ever again.

Maybe nature is trying to tell me that the butterfly drought might just be my imagination, and maybe all of this came about because I haven’t been paying attention. To that I have to argue that I have been paying attention-to plants, not butterflies.

Nature reserves the right to inflict upon her children the most terrifying jests. ~Thorton wilder

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Another group of mushrooms are bracket or shelf fungi. They can be just as colorful as the mushrooms in the last post and are usually easier to find because they usually grow up off the ground on trees, stumps, and logs.

In my last post I told how I had stumbled upon the biggest mushroom I had ever seen, which was a chicken of the woods (Laetiporus Cincinnatus.) The very day that I wrote that, I found another chicken of the woods growing at the base of a tree not 10 feet from the road. This one was even bigger than the first-easily as big as a car tire-so I put a quarter on it to give you an idea of scale. You have to look closely-this one is so big that it makes the quarter look like a dime. I think these are hairy stereum bracket fungi, also called hairy curtain crust (Stereum hirsutum.) The common name comes from the way these fungi are covered with fine hairs on their upper surface when young. As they age they lose the hairs and become smooth like other bracket fungi.  Colors can vary but the hairs and very wavy edges help with identification. They like to grow on fallen deciduous trees and are one of the false turkey tail fungi. False turkey tail fungi are a polypore, which basically means they have pores instead of gills. This mushroom was growing on a stump and it was quite large. I think it might be a tiger sawgill (Lentinus tigrinus.) Apparently the name refers to the scales on the cap that are supposed to resemble a tiger like pattern.  Tigers have stripes and to me the scales look more like spots, so shouldn’t it be a leopard sawgill? The Lentus part of the scientific name means tough or pliant. When this mushroom grows on a living deciduous tree it causes white rot, and that means the tree is finished. I think this might be another hairy stereum (Stereum hirsutum) bracket fungus just getting started. It’s interesting to see how it seems to flow out from under the bark almost as if it were liquid rather than solid. I’m not sure what its little friend wanted, but he might have been looking for some lunch. I think these might be white cheese polypores  (Tyromyces chioneus.) This is another bracket fungus that causes white rot. They start life soft, watery, and velvety and then yellow slightly and become hard and smooth. When very old they look shriveled or wrinkled. Their common name comes from their scientific name- Tyromyces means “with a cheesy consistency,” and chioneus means “snow white.” I’m not sure if these had a cheesy consistency, but they were certainly snow white. Some bracket fungi have gills on their undersides, some have pores, and some are “toothed” with many tiny spines. True turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) have pores and false turkey tails have a smooth brown surface. That’s the easiest way to tell the two apart. The Stereum ostrea pictured here (I think) is a false turkey tail. These fungi live on hardwood logs and cause white rot. The one pictured here was quite young. Often age and even where the fungus grows will cause variations in size, shape and color in bracket fungi.   The thin dark strip before the white edge leads me to believe that this is a Ganoderma applanatum, which is called artist’s fungus, artist’s conk, or artist’s polypore. The art comes in when the white flesh is scratched and the scratches turn a light brown color. I have one that I drew a picture on over 30 years ago. I can’t be positive that’s what it is though because the colors vary so much and I didn’t test this one to see if its flesh was brown / cinnamon colored. This one was quite big-about the size of a dinner plate. These look orange brown to me. Identifying them has proven much harder than it should be, but I think they might be another example of hairy stereum bracket fungi (Stereum hirsutum.) These fungi have such variable colors and shape that it’s hard to know for sure. I got a little frustrated at not being able to see the colors of these fungi accurately so I just this minute found a shareware program called “What Color.” You just put the cursor on a color and it tells you what it is. So far, it seems accurate. In these turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) it sees tan, dark khaki, thistle (purple,) plum (darker purple,) light slate gray, olive green, dark sea green, steel blue, light steel blue, rosy brown, and sienna.  That seems like an awful lot of colors. I think tan with light purple edges would do. This bracket fungus reminds me of those old balloon tires with wide white walls. I think this might be called the red banded polypore (Fomitopsis pinicola.) If it is, the top reddish part of the fungus will become one in several bands of yellows, reds, orange-reds and finally black nearest the tree.  Rust red is the band color farthest from the tree. Its white flesh turns yellow when bruised. Red banded polypore is said to grow on over 100 species of trees.  Another very similar fungus is the resinous polypore (Ischnoderma resinosumThese horse hoof shaped fungi are called tinder polypore (Fomes fomentarius)because of their age old use as tinder to start fires. In the middle ages strips of these fungi were used in flintlock rifles. A spark from a flint would ignite the tinder polypore, which in turn would ignite the gunpowder. The Cree tribe of Native Americans also used these fungi to carry coals from one place to another. Tinder polypores produce huge amounts of spores; measurements in the field have shown that they release as many as 800 million spores per hour in the spring and summer! They grow on dead deciduous trees and logs. I found 30 or more marching up a dead maple one day. The shareware color finding program sees dark salmon pink in these turkey tails, along with greens, browns, and grays. I would have said brown with a white edge. Many of the turkey tails I saw last winter had a lot of purples and blues in them but so far this year they lean more toward browns and tans. I wish I could find information on what causes the colors in bracket fungi-I wonder if cold affects color. My color finding software says saddle brown nearest the tree, then 100% gray on the body, and then white on the outer edge. I can agree with that.  I can’t find this mushroom in either of my books, which illustrates how sometimes the most common looking mushrooms are the hardest to identify. According to the color finding software the colors found in these are light blue, lavender, light steel blue, saddle brown, sea green, olive green, slate gray, light cyan, Alice blue, azure, tan, and sienna. I’m amazed how many colors can be found in turkey tails (Trametes versicolor.) And these are the plain ones!

Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art a mushroom ~ Thomas Carlyle

Thank you for having a look.

 

 

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