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Posts Tagged ‘Fly Agaric Mushroom’

We’re still very dry here and I haven’t seen hardly any of the mushrooms I’d expect to see but here was a dead birch tree full of golden pholiota mushrooms (Pholiota limonella) just like it was last year. I thought that’s what they were until I smelled them but these examples had no citrus scent, so I’d say they must be Pholiota aurivella which, except for its smaller spores and the lack of a lemon scent, appears identical.

The frustrating thing about mushroom identification is how for most of them you can never be sure without a microscope, and that’s why I never eat them. There are some that don’t have many lookalikes and though I’m usually fairly confident of a good identification for them I still don’t eat them. It’s just too risky.

One of my favorite fungal finds is called the tiger’s eye mushroom (Coltricia perennis.) One reason it’s unusual is because it’s one of the only polypores with a central stem. Most polypores are bracket or shelf fungi. The concentric rings of color are also unusual and sometimes make it look like a turkey tail fungus with a stem. The cap is very thin and flat like a table, and another name for it is the fairy stool. They are very tough and leathery and can persist for quite a long time.

I found it this hen of the woods fungus (Grifola frondosa,) growing at the base of an old oak tree. This edible polypore often grows in the same spot year after year and that makes it quite easy to find. 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 see green.

I saw a young fly agaric (Amanita muscaria v. formosa) in a lawn recently. I love the metallic yellow color of these mushrooms when they’re young. They’re common where pine trees grow and this one was under a pine. The name fly agaric comes from the practice of putting pieces of the mushroom in a dish of milk. The story says that when flies drank the milk they died, but it’s something I’ve never tried. Fly agaric is said to have the ability to “turn off” fear in humans and is considered toxic. Vikings are said to have used it for that very reason.

I don’t see many stinkhorn fungi but I hit the stinkhorn jackpot this year; there must have been 20 or more of them growing out of some well rotted wood chips. I think they’re the common stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus) and I have to say that for the first time I smelled odor like rotting meat coming from them because these example were passing on.  

Here was a fresher example. The green conical cap is also said to be slimy but it didn’t look it. This mushroom uses its carrion like odor to attracts insects, which are said to disperse its sticky spores. I saw quite a few small gnat like insects around the dying ones.

At this time of year I always roll logs over hoping to find the beautiful but rare cobalt crust fungus (Terana caerulea,) but usually I find this lighter shade of blue instead. I think it is Byssocorticium atrovirens. Apparently its common name is simply blue 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 appear 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. They seem to be the least understood of all the fungi.

Some slime molds can be very small and others quite large. This one in its plasmodium stage was wasn’t very big at all, probably due to the dryness. When slime molds are in this state they are usually moving-very slowly. Slime molds are very sensitive to drying out so they usually move at night, but they can be found on cloudy, humid days as well. I think this one might be spreading yellow tooth slime (Phanerochaete chrysorhiza.) Slime molds, even though sometimes covering a large area, are actually made up of hundreds or thousands of single entities. These entities move through the forest looking for food or a suitable place to fruit and eventually come together in a mass.

Jack in the pulpit berries (Arisaema triphyllum) are ripe and red, waiting for a deer to come along and eat them. Deer must love them because they usually disappear almost as soon as they turn red. All parts of the Jack in the pulpit plant contain calcium oxalate crystals that cause painful irritation of the mouth and throat if eaten, but Native Americans knew how to cook the fleshy roots to remove any danger. They used them as a vegetable, and that’s why another name for the plant is “Indian turnip.”

False Solomon’s seal (Smilacina racemosa) berries are fully ripe and are now bright red instead of speckled. Native American’s used all parts of this plant including its roots, which contain lye and must be boiled and rinsed several times before they can be used. Birds, mice, grouse, and other forest critters eat the ripe berries that grow at the end of the drooping stem. They are said to taste like molasses and another common name for the plant is treacle berry.

American mountain ash (Sorbus americana) is a native tree but you’re more likely to find them growing naturally north of this part of the state. I do see them in the wild, but rarely. Their red orange fruit in fall and white flowers in spring have made them a gardener’s favorite and that’s where you’ll see most of them here though they prefer cool, humid air like that found in the 3000 foot elevation range. The berries are said to be low in fat and very acidic, so birds leave them for last. For some reason early settlers thought the tree would keep witches away so they called it witch wood. Native Americans used both the bark and berries medicinally. The Ojibwe tribe made both bows and arrows from its wood, which is unusual. Usually they used wood from different species, or wood from both shrubs and trees.

Kousa dogwood fruit looks a little different but it’s the edible part of a Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa.) This dogwood is on the small side and is native to Asia. I don’t see it too often. It is also called Japanese or Korean Dogwood. Kousa Dogwood fruit is made up of 20-40 fleshy carpels. In botany one definition of a carpel is a dry fruit that splits open, into seed-bearing sections. Kousa dogwood fruits are said by some to taste like papaya.  

In my own experience I find it best to leave plants with white berries alone because they are usually poisonous, and no native plant illustrates this better than poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans.) Though many birds can eat its berries without suffering, when most humans so much as brush against the plant they can itch for weeks afterward, and those who are particularly sensitive could end up in the hospital. I had a friend who had to be hospitalized when his eyes became swollen shut because of it. Eating any part of the plant or even breathing the smoke when it is burned can be very dangerous.

All parts of the yew tree (Taxus) are poisonous except (it is said) the red flesh of the berry, which is actually a modified seed cone. The seed within the seed cone is the most toxic part of the plant and eating as few as 3 of them can cause death in just a few hours. In February of 2014 a man named Ben Hines died in Brockdish, Norfolk, England after ingesting parts of yew trees. Nobody has ever been able to figure out why he did such a thing but the incident illustrated how extremely toxic yews are.

Beavers are trying to make a pond in a river and they had dammed it up from bank to bank. It wasn’t the biggest beaver dam I’ve seen but it was quite big. The largest beaver dam ever found is in Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park and spans about 2,800 feet. It has taken several generations of beavers since 1970 to build and it can be seen from space. Imagine how much water it is holding back!

Eastern or Virginia carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica) are huge; at least as big as half my thumb. They also look very different than the bumblebees that I’m used to. These bees nest in wood and eat pollen and nectar. They don’t eat wood but they will excavate tunnels through rotten wood. The adults nest through winter and emerge in spring. Though it is said to be common in the eastern part of the country I I see very few. I’ve read that they can be up to an inch long and this one was all of that. Females can sting but they do so only when bothered. Males don’t have a stinger.

Folklore says that the wider the orangey brown band on a wooly bear caterpillar is, the milder the winter will be. If we’re to believe it then this winter will not be very mild because this wooly bear has more black than brown on it. In any event this caterpillar won’t care, because it produces its own antifreeze and can freeze solid in winter. Once the temperatures rise into the 40s F in spring it thaws out and begins feeding on dandelion and other early spring greens. Eventually it will spin a cocoon and emerge as a beautiful tiger moth. From that point on it has only two weeks to live.

The upper surface of a painted lady’s wings look very different than the stained glass look of the undersides but unfortunately I can’t show that to you because the photos didn’t come out. This painted lady was kind enough to land just in front of me on a zinnia. It’s the only one I’ve seen this year.

There is little that is more appropriate than a bee sleeping on a flower, in my opinion. Here in southwestern New Hampshire we don’t see many wildflowers in October, but every now and then you can find a stray something or other still hanging on. The bumblebee I saw on this aster early one morning was moving but very slowly, and looked more like it was hanging on to the flower head rather than harvesting pollen. Bumblebees I’ve heard, sleep on flowers, so maybe it was just napping. I suppose if it has to die in winter like bumblebees do, a flower is the perfect place to do that as well. Only queen bumblebees hibernate through winter; the rest of the colony dies. In spring the queen will make a new nest and actually sit on the eggs she lays to keep them warm, just like birds do.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. ~Henry David Thoreau

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We’ve seen a return of oppressive humidity and that has triggered daily thunderstorms. Since mushrooms are about 95 percent water, this means we’re having perfect weather for mushroom hunting. I’ve never seen as many as we have this year, of every shape and color imaginable.

 1. Yellow Finger Coral

Last year the season for finger coral mushrooms seemed brief, but this year they go on and on and are still easily found. One fact helpful in identifying these yellow finger coral mushrooms (Clavulinopsis fusiformis) is that they always grow in tight clusters, while look alikes do not. These are also called spindle corals.

 2. Golden Coral Mushroom

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

 3. Orange Coral Mushroom

I think this pale orange one might be crown tipped coral (Clavicorona pyxidata,) which changes color from white through pink and finally orange.

 4. Gray Coral Fungus

Gray coral (Clavulina cinerea) is heavily branched with sharply pointed tips. Some mushroomers think this might be a variety of cockscomb coral.

 5. White Coral Fungus

Cockscomb coral mushrooms (Clavulina cristata) are ghostly while and, like many coral mushrooms, seem to prefer growing in hard packed earth like that found on woodland trails. These were everywhere the day I took this photo. It’s startling to see something so pure white come out of the dark soil.

 6. Bear's Head

Bear’s head or lion’s mane mushroom (Hericlum americanum) is a toothed fungus that looks like a fungal waterfall.  Soft spines hang from branches that reach out from a thick central stalk. This is another color changing mushroom that goes from white to cream to brown as it ages. I find it mostly on beech logs and trees. This one was large-probably about as big as a cantaloupe.

 7. Butter Waxcaps

I think these small yellow mushrooms might be butter wax caps (Hygrocybe ceracea.) I don’t see very many yellow mushrooms.

 8. Purple Cort

Purple cort mushroom caps (Cortinarius iodeoides) always look wet but they aren’t-they are slimy. That’s why they often have leaves, pine needles, and other forest debris stuck to their caps. This one was quite clean.

 9. Orange Mycena aka Mycena leaiana

Orange mycena (Mycena leaiana) Like to grow in clusters on the sides of hardwood logs. Its stems are sticky and if you touch these mushrooms the orange color will come off on your hand. I think this is one of the most visually pleasing mushrooms and I was happy to see several large clusters.

10. Marasmius delectans

An animal had knocked over what I think is a Marasmius delectans and I found it backlit by the very dim light one cloudy afternoon.  This mushroom is closely related to the smaller pinwheel mushrooms that follow. This one was close to the diameter of a nickel. The Marasmius part of the scientific name means “wither” or “shrivel” in Greek, and refers to the way these mushrooms shrivel in dry weather and then rehydrate when it rains.

 11. Pinwheel Mushrooms

Tiny little pinwheel mushrooms (Marasmius capillaris) can be very hard to focus on. I usually take quite a few photos of them from different angles and end up scrapping most of them. Pinwheel mushrooms are relatively easy to identify because they grow only on fallen oak leaves. The caps on the largest of these might reach pea size on a good day.

12. Fly Agaric

The yellow-orange fly agaric (Amanita muscaria var. formosa) has an almost metallic shine sometimes. The white spots (called warts) are what are left of the universal veil that covered the mushroom when it was in the immature “egg” stage. I usually find these growing under white pine or eastern hemlock trees.

13. Jelly Cup Mushroom aka Ascotremella faginea

I don’t see too many jelly cup fungi like this Ascotremella faginea, which is classified as one of the sac fungi. Gelatinous fungi like these can absorb large amounts of water and then shrink down to a fraction of their original size as they dry out. They can appear in any one of many different shapes and colors and little seems to be known about them. There were 2 or 3 of this type growing on a rotting beech log.

14. Orange Jelly Fungus

Orange jelly fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus) is also found on logs and is fairly common. This one was wet and as big as a walnut, but as it dries out it might shrink down to hard little lump that is half the size of a pea. Then, once it rains again it will return to what it looks like in the photo. This is also sometimes called brain fungus and witch’s butter.

15. Black Chanterell

The deep purple horn of plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides) is another mushroom that is very beautiful, and one that I hadn’t ever seen until the day this photo was taken. Also called the black chanterelle, mushroom hunters say it is very hard to find because looking for it is like looking for black holes in the ground. Some have said that they can look right at it and not see it. For once I’m grateful for the colorblindness that makes it easier for me to see such an apparently rare thing.

Information for those interested: I recently bought an LED light to use in dark places instead of a flash, which can discolor some subjects. I used it on the 3rd, 5th, and 14th photos, counting down from the top. Flash was used on the 1st, 9th, and 11th photos, again counting down form the top. The LED light works well and I’m happy with it but I’d still rather use natural lighting, and it was used for everything else.

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

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