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Posts Tagged ‘Cobalt Crust Fungus’

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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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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1. Split Gill Underside

I loved the look of the underside of this split gill mushroom (Schizophyllum commune.) I’ve heard that the underside of this fungus could be reddish but until I saw this one I had only seen them in white. The gills split lengthwise as it dries out and that’s where its common name comes from. These are “winter mushrooms” and I often find them very late in the year, even when there is snow on the ground.

 2. Cobalt Crust Fungus

The cobalt crust fungus (Terana caerulea) is very beautiful and some say very rare, but I wondered if its rarity was because it grew on the underside of fallen oak limbs where they touch the soil surface. Unless the limb was disturbed it would never be seen, so since seeing this one I have peeked under several old rotting limbs to see if I could find another one. I haven’t seen one so maybe it really is rare. Another name for it is velvet blue spread. It can also come in lavender but since I’m colorblind it will always be blue to me.

3. Burning Bushes

Along the Ashuelot River in Swanzey there is quite a wide swath of invasive burning bushes (Euonymus alatus,) also called winged euonymus. They are protected by the trees overhead so they don’t begin to turn color until quite late. In this photo they are in their dark orangey-pink phase, but before too long they’ll all be pale pastel pink

4. Burning Bush Berries

This is why there are so many burning bushes along that section of river. The birds seem to love their berries. The bushes are beautiful at this time of year but they shade out native plants and create a monoculture, much like purple loosestrife and Japanese knotweed.

5. Virgin's Bower Foliage

Virgin’s bower leaves (Clematis virginiana) have taken on their fall plum purple shade.

 6. Royal Fern

In the fall royal ferns (Osmunda regalis) go from green to yellow, and then to orange brown. They grow in low swampy places along the sides of streams and ponds and are one of our most beautiful fern.

 7. Blackberry Gall

Blackberry seed gall is caused by the blackberry seed gall wasp (Diastrophus cuscutaeformis.) These very small round hollow galls look like seeds and form in clusters around blackberry stems. Each tiny gall has a stiff, hair like spine and together they form a hairy mass like that in the photo.  I showed this same mass here last spring and it was bright yellow-green and I wondered why it was described as brownish red. Now I know that it just needs time to age.

8. Grapes

The many smells of a New England autumn are as pleasing as the foliage colors. One of those smells is that of fermenting grapes, and I have a feeling that the woods will smell like grape jelly for a while this year.

9. Asparagus Berry

Asparagus plants come in male and female, meaning they are dioecious. If you see a small red berry on your asparagus then you have a female plant, but there has to be a male nearby. You also have asparagus seeds, which can be stored in a cool dry place and planted in the spring.  You’ll wait a while for an edible harvest though.

10. Juniper Berries

Some of the junipers are loaded with berries this year. Actually, though they’re called berries, botanically speaking they are fleshy seed cones. Unripe green berries are used to flavor gin and the ripe, deep purple-black berries are the only part of a conifer known to be used as a spice.

 11. Velvet Shank Mushrooms

Velvet shank mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes) are another “winter mushroom” that typically fruits in late fall. I’ve found them with snow on the ground during warm spells in winter, and they can and do survive freezing temperatures. Their stems feel like velvet and, though it can’t be seen well in this photo, are darker at the base and lighten as they get nearer the cap.

12. Fuzzy Foots

I thought these were chanterelle wax cap mushrooms (Hygrocybe cantharellus) but the dark stems didn’t quite match the descriptions. After searching my mushroom books again I realized that they are fuzzy foot mushrooms (Xeromphalina campanella,) so called because of the dense tuft of orange brown hairs at the base of each stem. I found them growing on the side of a mossy log. Each cap is about the same diameter as a nickel. They are one of the most photogenic of all the mushrooms, in my opinion.

13. Blue Crust Fungus

While I was looking for more cobalt crust fungi I found this light blue one instead. Like cobalt crust fungus it grew on a limb where it made contact with the soil. It’s a beautiful thing but I haven’t been able to identify it through books or online. If you’re reading this and happen to know what it is I’d love to hear from you.

 14. Forked Blue Curl Seed Pods

The seeds and seed pods of forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) are so small that I can barely see them, but a macro lens reveals all of the hidden details, including the surprising colors and hairiness of the plant. Each pod carries two tiny seeds and since these plants are annuals those seeds will make sure that a new generation comes along next year.

15. Washed Up Leaves

The object of this post was to show that not all of the beauty is up in the trees at this time of year. We look to the sky and dream of paradise, forgetting that it is all around us, all of the time.

If you are lost inside the beauties of nature, do not try to be found. ~Mehmet Muratildan

Thanks for coming by.

 

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