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Posts Tagged ‘Goldenrod Gall’

So many more of the smaller things become visible when the leaves fall, like the tongue gall on these  alder cones (strobiles.) These long, tongue like galls are caused by a fungus called Taphrina alni. The fungus chemically deforms part of the ovarian tissue of the developing strobile and causes long, strap shaped galls called languets to grow from them. These galls, like most galls, don’t seem to bring any harm to their host.  I wish I knew how they benefit from growing in such unusual forms.

I didn’t know if this ladybug was dead or alive or maybe frozen, but it wasn’t moving. And where were its spots? The answer is, it doesn’t have spots because it isn’t our native ladybug; it’s a female multicolored Asian ladybug. From what I’ve read it is highly variable in color and was purposely introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a biological control agent. It is a tree bark dwelling beetle that consumes large amounts of aphids and scale, both of which do large amounts of damage to crops. They’re slightly larger than our native beetles and can drive homeowners crazy by collecting on windowsills, in attics, and even indoors in the spring. They can release a foul smelling defensive chemical which some are said to be allergic to.

We’ve had more snow in parts of the state. It’s very odd to leave my yard at my house that has no snow in it and drive to work where I see snow like this. It’s only a distance of about 25 miles, but it’s enough of an elevation change to cause cooler temperatures. It really drives home what a difference just a few degrees can make.

I thought this beech tree was beautiful, with its Christmas ornament like leaves.

And what was that poking up out of the snow?

It was a fallen limb which was covered by what I think was orange crust fungus (Stereum complicatum,) which is very common here. I see large fallen limbs almost completely covered by it. Though this isn’t a very good shot of it the color is so bright sometimes it’s like a beacon in the snowy landscape. The complicatum part of its scientific name means “folded back on itself”  and that is often just what it does.

Amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa) grew on the same branch the orange crust fungus grew on. I like holding these up so the light can shine through them because sometimes they look like stained glass. Being in the snow meant these examples had absorbed plenty of water so they were pliable and rubbery, like your ear lobe. I see this fungus everywhere, especially on fallen oak limbs but also on alder and poplar as well.

I decided to visit a grove of witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) that I know of to see if they were still blooming. Blooming or not, they were beautiful with all of the newly fallen snow decorating them.

And they were still blooming, even in the snow. This tells me that it must be the air temperature that coaxes them into bloom because it was about 40 degrees this day.

I know it’s far too early to be looking at buds for signs of spring but red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) buds are so pretty I couldn’t help myself. I’ve known people who thought that buds grew in spring when it warmed up, but most buds actually form in the fall and wait  for warm weather to swell up and break and form leaves and / or flowers. These buds should break in mid-May, if it’s warm enough.

I’ve seen some unusual lichens lately, like this grayish white example which had the same color apothecia (fruiting bodies) as the body (Thallus.)  This made them hard to see and I only saw them by accident when I got close to look at something else.

I wish I knew what caused the colors in a lichen. As far as we know they don’t use color to attract insects but many of them are brightly colored nevertheless. I have seen teeth marks in lichens so I’m fairly sure squirrels eat them and I know for sure that reindeer eat them, but I don’t know if this helps them spread or not. I also don’t know the identity of this lichen. I haven’t been able to find it in any of my lichen books or online.

Here’s another unusual lichen; actually two lichens separated by the nearly horizontal crack between them. The lichen on top might be a bumpy rim lichen (Lecanora hybocarpa,) which gets its name from its bumpy body (Thallus) and the rims around its apothecia.  The lichen below the crack has me baffled. It has a fringe around its perimeter that makes it look like a maple dust lichen but I can’t find any reference to apothecia on a maple dust lichen. It’s another mystery to add to the thousands of others I’ve collected.

Here is a true maple dust lichen (Lecanora thysanophora.) Note the white fringe around its outer edge, much like the lichen in the previous photo.  But unlike the previous lichen it has no visible fruiting bodies.

If you have ever tasted gin then you’ve tasted juniper berries, because that’s where gin’s flavor comes from. The unripe green berries are used for gin and the ripe, deep purple black berries seen here are ground to be used as a spice for game like deer and bear. The berries are actually fleshy seed cones and they appear blue because of a waxy coating that reflects the light in such a way as to make them appear blue. The first recorded usage of juniper berries appears on an Egyptian papyrus from 1500 BC. Egyptians used the fruit of junipers medicinally and Native Americans used them both as food and medicine. Stomach disorders, infections and arthritis were among the ailments treated.

Gray, furry willow pine cone galls appear on the very tips of willow branches, because that’s where a midge called Rabdophaga strobiloides lays its egg. Once the eggs hatch the larvae burrow into the branch tip and the willow reacts by forming a gall around them. These galls are about as big as the tip of your thumb and do not harm the plant.

A woodpecker, chickadee, or other bird started pecking at this goldenrod gall to get at the gall fly larva (Eurosta solidaginis) that is growing inside the gall. These galls have thick walls that discourage parasitic wasps like Eurytoma gigantean from laying its eggs inside the larval chamber. If successful the wasp larva quickly eat the gall fly larva. If the bird is successful then everything inside will be eaten.

We’re certainly having some beautiful sunrises lately, probably because of the low cloud deck we seem to have almost every morning.

And those low clouds can hide things, including mountains. Off to the left in this photo is the huge bulk of Mount Monadnock behind the clouds. It’s too bad it was hidden; the bright morning sunshine on its snowy flanks tells me it probably would have been a beautiful scene.

Seeing, in the finest and broadest sense, means using your senses, your intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being. It means looking beyond the labels of things and discovering the remarkable world around you. ~Freeman Patterson

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1. Staghorn Sumac  Fruit

Fuzzy staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) berries look much different after it rains.

2. Staghorn Sumac Fruit

This is what staghorn sumac berries look like when they’re dry.

3. Rolling Stone

I didn’t think I’d ever see a rolling stone, but this one rolled down a small hill right in front of me. Gravity, sunlight, and ground frost at work.

 4. Pileated Woodpecker Chips

I learned a long time ago that when you see wood chips all over the ground at the base of a tree it can only mean one thing-a pileated woodpecker has been at work.

 5. Pileated Woodpecker Hole

Sure enough he / she had drilled these white pines (Pinus strobus) full of holes. Pileated woodpeckers usually drill into trees that are already sick and are often hollow. Their holes are always rectangular with the long axis vertical, and with rounded corners. This tree isn’t long for this world but while it stands owls, ducks, bats, and other birds will live in these holes.

 6. Pussy Willow

This pussy willow (Salix) seemed to be a bit of an over achiever, with its furry, silvery buds showing in December.

7. Wild Cucumber Pod 2

When I was a boy my friends and I used to spend quite a lot of time throwing things at each other. Snowballs, crabapples, dirt clods, acorns-anything that wouldn’t inflict serious damage-were used as ammunition. One favorite source of ammo was wild cucumber vines (Echinocystis lobata.) The fruit has terrible looking spines that are actually soft and harmless until they dry like those in the photo. In this stage the spines are quite prickly, but since they’ve dried out and dropped their seeds they have little weight and that means they are worthless for throwing.  Probably a good thing.

8. Mealy Pixie Cup Lichens

The pebbly texture and trumpet shape point to the mealy pixie cup lichen (Cladonia chlorophaea.) Though these lichens resemble golf tees they aren’t even one tenth the size.

 9. Burning Bush Fruit

Birds don’t seem to be eating the berries of the invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus) this year and that’s a good thing, because this shrub doesn’t need any help in its mission to take over the understory. Since its introduction from Asia as an ornamental in 1860, Winged euonymus has spread as far south as the gulf coast, north into Canada, and as far west as Illinois.

 10. Empty Goldenrod Gall

A bird went to great lengths to get at the goldenrod gall fly larva (Eurosta solidaginis) that was growing inside of this goldenrod gall. Both downy woodpeckers and chickadees have been seen pecking at these galls but there are other predators after the gall fly larva as well. The galls form thick walls to discourage the parasitic Eurytoma gigantean wasp from laying her eggs in the gall chamber. If the wasp is successful when her eggs hatch the wasp larva quickly eat the gall fly larva.

11. Engraver Beetle aka Ips calligraphus calligraphus Damage on Log

The Engraver Beetle (Ips calligraphus) is called the calligrapher beetle because the damage it causes under the bark of pine trees looks like some form of ancient text. These beetles usually attack weak or dying trees but they can also kill healthy trees by girdling them.  Adults bore small holes in the bark and lay eggs in a cavity. Once the larvae emerge from the eggs they make tunnels in the inner bark. Once they stop feeding they will pupate at the end of these tunnels. The pupae then become young adults and fly off to find another tree. These beetles carry spores of a bluestain fungus (Ceratocystis ips) which can grow on the outer sapwood and stop the upward flow of water to the crown.

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before its afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? ~ Dr. Seuss

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Here are some of the things I’ve seen in woods, parks and yards this week.

 1. Skunk Cabbage in Snow

The skunk cabbage flowers (Symplocarpus foetidus) just shrugged off the recent snow and melted their way through it. These plants use cellular respiration to produce energy in the form of heat, and can raise the air temperature around themselves enough to melt snow and ice. The process is called thermogenesis, and very few plants have this ability. In spite of being able to fuel their own furnaces, these plants don’t seem to be in any hurry to grow leaves. You can see a small one just starting between the two flowers.

 2. Amber Jelly Fungus aka Exidia recisa

Amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa) looks like cranberry jelly to me, but the software I use to cheat color blindness sees more brown than anything else. This fungus likes to grow on willow trees and is also called willow brain fungus. It also grows on alders and poplars, and that is where I usually find it.

3. Red Maple Buds

The plum colored bud scales of red maples (Acer rubrum) have opened enough to let the tomato red flower buds begin warming in the sun. It won’t be too much longer before we see the bright red blossoms dangling from this tree’s branches.

4. American Elm Buds

The oval, flat, pointy buds of American elm (Ulmus americana) also have plum colored scales, but what they hide inside is much browner than that of red maple. Before Dutch elm disease wiped out most of our elms in the 50s and 60s Keene, New Hampshire had so many huge old elms that it was called the Elm City. Many businesses in the area still use Elm City in their names, even though most of the trees are now gone. There are a few hardy survivors widely scattered about the region though, and I visited one of them to get this picture. Elm flowers are beautiful enough to warrant a return trip.

5. Shagbark hickory Bud

The buds of shagbark hickory (Carya ovate) won’t win any beauty contests but they are slowly unfurling themselves, just as the earth is slowly warming and awakening to welcome spring.  There is no doubt that nature is turning to a new season, whether we are watching or not.

6. Scilla

Speaking of awakening-the scilla (scilla siberica) bulbs that I planted 2 years ago are just starting to show some color. It’ll be nice to see their cheery blue blossoms under the honeysuckles at the edge of the forest again. These bulbs are easily confused with glory of the snow (Chionodoxa) because the differences are so slight (flattened stamens) that even botanists have trouble telling them apart. It is for that reason that many botanists think the two plants should be classified as one.

 7. Cornelian Cherry Bud aka Cornus mas

We’re lucky to have a cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) in a local park and I was happy to see it showing some color. This very unusual, almost unknown shrub isn’t a cherry at all-it is a in the dogwood (Cornus) family and blooms very early in the spring before the leaves appear. It hails from Europe and Asia and has beautiful yellow, 4 petaled flowers that grow in large clusters. This is a rarely seen, under-used plant that would be welcome in any garden.

8. Box Flower Buds

Also getting ready to bloom was this boxwood shrub (Buxus sempervirens.)  Though the buds are white, soon small greenish yellow flowers will line each stem at the leaf axils. This shrub is very common and is often used for hedges.

9. Oak Rough Bullet Gall

Rough bullet galls on oaks are caused by the oak rough bullet gall wasp (Disholcaspis quercusmamma.) According to the Iowa State University Extension Service, in the fall the adult wasp chews its way out of the gall and lays its eggs in the dormant terminal buds of the oak host tree. In the spring when the egg hatches and the white, legless larvae feeds the oak tree will grow around it, completely enclosing it in a gall. The larva feeds on the inside of the gall, becomes an adult, and the cycle repeats itself. These galls are found only on bur oak, (Quercus macrocarpa,) and swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor.) The galls don’t hurt the tree, but they do excrete a sticky substance which attracts ants and bees.

 10. Opened Goldenrod Gall

 In this case the cycle didn’t get to repeat itself, because a bird pecked its way into this goldenrod gall and ate the fly larva it found inside. If the larva had escaped the gall on its own the evidence would be a tiny, round hole-not the large, ragged gash seen in the photo. Chickadees, woodpeckers, and even some beetles eat the larva of the goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis.)

 11. Scattered Rock Posy Lichen

I went back to visit the one scattered rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) that I know of in this area to see what affect the recent cold and snow had on it. It doesn’t seemed to have changed at all since I saw it last month, except maybe for a few more flat, pale orange fruiting bodies (Apothecia.) It grows on granite in full sun.

Only with a leaf
can I talk of the forest.
~Visar Zhiti

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It has been cold here this week with below zero nights and below zero wind chills during the day. My days of being outside “enjoying” that kind of weather are over for the most part, so these pictures were taken just before this latest cold snap.

1. Bog in January

Our days are still dim, with feeble sunshine even at noon when this was taken.  We’ve had more snow but barley more than dustings compared to what we’ve seen in years past. One snowfall seems to melt before we get more, so there haven’t been more than 5 or 6 inches on the ground at any one time. Certainly not snowshoe weather!

2. Witch Hazel Leaf

Any spot of color is welcome at this time of year and this orange witch hazel leaf (Hamamelis virginiana) really caught my eye.

 3. Goldenrod Gall

A tiny hole at the base of this goldenrod gall means that the goldenrod gall fly that once lived here has moved on. It is thought that the insect’s saliva causes the plant stem to grow into a gall. A larger hole at the top of the gall can mean that a bird has pecked its way in to eat the fly larva, which can survive being frozen almost completely solid in the winter.

 4. Winter Moss

I’ve ordered a moss identification book but it hasn’t come in yet so I’m not sure what kind this is, but its green color seemed cheery against the white snow. I think it might be one of the sphagnums. The moss book, if you’re interested, has a tedious title: Outstanding Mosses and Liverworts of Pennsylvania and Nearby States by Susan Munch. Readers of this blog often ask me what books I use for identification and I don’t look forward to answering that question for mosses and liverworts!

5. Foliose Lichen on Pine

I think this might be hooded tube lichen (Hypogymnia physodes) but I’m not 100 percent certain because I can’t find it in my lichen book. I found it growing on a white pine branch (Pinus strobus.) It looked plump and happy but lichens can and do change color as they dry out.

6. Dried Carrion Flower Fruit

I’m fairly certain that these are the mummified berries of the carrion flower vine (Smilax herbacea.) These blue berries are a favorite of birds, so I was surprised to see them in this state. This plant is easy to identify even in winter because it is a vine. It gets its name from the strong odor of its flowers.

7. Ice Covered Pebbles

We had some freezing rain one day so it was a good idea to wear the Yaktrax. I’ve already taken several minor spills this winter.

 8. January Turkey Tails

These turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) have been covered by light snow several times, and when the snow melts they always look the same. I’m not sure my theory that cold intensifies their color is going to hold water.

9. Toothed Fungi with Lichen and Moss

This tree had a virtual garden full of mosses, fungi and lichens on it, even though this was taken after our first blast of below zero weather. The small bracket fungi were toothed on the underside. I’ve seen these before but couldn’t identify them then, and still haven’t been able to now. I think the lichen is called Parmotrema tinctorum. I can’t find a common name for it.

 10 Sycamore Leaf

This sycamore leaf (Platanus occidentalis ) was almost as big as a dinner plate. I put a quarter on it so you would have something to compare it to.

11. Icy Brook

We’ve had snow, cold, and even below zero nights but also enough warmth to keep our lakes, rivers and streams from freezing over. Open water at the end of January makes this an unusual winter.

It is not easy to walk alone in the country without musing upon something. ~Charles Dickens

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I think it’s time for another post full of all of those things I see that don’t seem to fit in with the flowers. I never saw a pine tree with blue (purple?) cones until I saw this one at a local park.  I’ve searched books and online extensively and the only other tree that I can find that even remotely resembles this one is called a Bosnian Pine (Pinus heldreichii var. Leucodermis or Mint Truffle.) Several cultivars of that plant have cones very similar to these.Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) are just starting to come up in our area. Indian pipe has no chlorophyll so it can’t make its own food. Instead it feeds off the roots of a fungus. Russula and Lactarius mushrooms are two that are known hosts. This plant doesn’t benefit its host plant, so it is considered a parasite. Because it lacks chlorophyll it doesn’t need light to grow-these plants were found quite deep in a pine forest where only dappled sunlight could be seen. Native Americans used the sap for medicinal purposes, which most likely explains the common name of Indian pipe. Each stalk holds one nodding flower. Indian pipes are related to blueberries and rhododendrons. Puffballs have started appearing as well. This one was as big as a quarter and is the first I’ve seen this year.  It was growing in some dry pine woods. New milkweed pods are just beginning to form. Very small, new pods are edible and some say they taste like okra. Others say that the plant is mildly toxic and shouldn’t be eaten, so it’s all in who you choose to believe when it comes to eating wild plants. If milkweed is grown in the garden to attract butterflies these pods should be picked off before they go to seed. This will stop the plant from spreading to other parts of the garden. This pearly crescent spot butterfly (Phyciodes tharos ) stopped by and sat on a milkweed leaf long enough for me to get a few pictures.  The crescent shaped spot on the underside of its wing gives this butterfly its name. Though it is said to be very common this wasn’t the easiest insect to identify, so if I’m wrong I hope someone will let me know. Goldenrod stem galls are very easily identified. They are caused by the Goldenrod Gall Fly (Eurosta solidaginis,) which is a parasite. The female injects eggs into the goldenrod stem. Once they hatch the larvae begin to eat inside the stem of the plant. Their saliva contains a chemical which causes the plant to deform and create a gall around the larvae. The larvae live in the gall for a full year, leaving the gall the following spring.  Downy Woodpeckers and Carolina Chickadees sometimes break into the galls to eat the larvae. If the stem gall is elliptical rather than round it is caused by a gall moth (Gnorimoschema gallaesolidaginis.Another gall regularly seen on goldenrod is called bunch gall. Bunch galls are caused by a gall midge (Rhopalomyla solidaginis) which lays its egg in a leaf bud. When the larva hatches the plant stops growing taller but continues to produce leave and the new leaves bunch all together at the top of the plant, forming the type of gall seen in the picture. This midge does plant hunters a favor because it likes only Canada goldenrod (Solidago Canadensis.) It was so dark in the woods because of the leaf canopy that I had to use the flash to get a picture of this large shelf fungus growing on an American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) tree. If this were round it would be as big as a basketball. I’m not sure of the species, but it was pure white underneath. This white ash tree (Fraxinus Americana) had an alarming number of seed pods on it this year. Often when a tree produces more seeds than normal it is because it is under stress and is compensating for its coming death by making sure there will be plenty of seedlings to carry on the species. Unfortunately white ash trees are very susceptible to damage from insects and disease. The wood of the white ash is the first choice for baseball bats and tool handles because it is so tough. American Burr reed (Sparganium americanum) is an odd looking plant that can be found growing in or near slow moving water. This plant has both male and female flowers. The male flowers are the smaller round clusters at the top of the zig zag stem and the female are the larger clusters lower down. Burr reed is a wind pollinated plant and once the male flowers have released their pollen they wither away while the female flowers develop into fruit. This plant was growing near a stream at the water’s edge. Burr reed has leaves that resemble those on cattails and it often grows with them, making it hard to find unless it is flowering or fruiting. Burr reed fruit. Burr reed seeds are an important food for waterfowl. Muskrats will eat the whole plant. The flower that this spider is crawling on was smaller than a pencil eraser and the spider was tiny. I think it’s a crab spider, but I’m not 100% sure. The native red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) berries are ripe. Birds don’t seem to be thrilled by these white berries and leave them alone until mid to late winter when other foods are scarce. Some Native Americans used to eat the berries to treat sore throats and colds, and others smoked the inner bark of the shrub like tobacco.This year’s crop of broadleaf cattails (Typha latifolia) is flowering.  We also have narrow leaf cattails (Typha angustifolia.) On narrow leaved cattails the male and female flowers have a gap between them and on broadleaf cattails they touch, as the picture shows. The tiny male flowers always appear at the top of the stalk and the female flowers make up the brown “club.” Once the female flowers have been pollinated the male flowers will disappear. Both species intermingle and hybridize so it can be difficult to tell them apart at times. Cattail roots can be dried, ground and used as flour but they act as filters and filter contaminates out of the soil, so I’d want to know the conditions of both the water and soil before eating them. Many of the pictures in today’s post were taken near this stream. As far as I know it has no name, but a large number of unusual plants grow in and around it and many animals visit it regularly.

As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream, the great door that does not look like a door opens.~ Stephen Graham

Thanks for stopping by.

Update note: I realized that there was a picture missing so I just inserted it. It is the large bracket fungus. The text was there but the picture had disappeared!

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