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Posts Tagged ‘Jack O’ Lantern Mushroom’

It seems that these “looking back” posts get harder every year. Choosing a handful of photos is never easy but this year it seemed daunting at first. But then I sat down and remembered what this blog was all about, which is showing you the beauty of nature. I dangle a carrot and entice you into going out and seeing nature for yourself, and when you do you fall in love with what you see, just as I did. That’s the plan, anyway. So as you look at what I’ve chosen remember that these photos are about the beauty of this world and nothing else. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you might not think the stream ice in the above shot is beautiful at all. Hopefully though, as you wade through this post, you’ll find something that catches your eye. And remember, if I saw it, you can too.

This is more stream ice, this time with leaves trapped in it. This reminded me of putting a leaf between 2 sheets of waxed paper and then ironing the paper so it sealed around the leaf. It’s always slightly fuzzy, never clear like glass.

The first two photos were taken last January. In February I was at the North Pole, or so it seemed when I was looking at this wind sculpted snow. I love to see the designs the wind can make in snow, but it has to be the right kind of snow with the right consistency or it doesn’t seem to work.

This shot, taken later in February, makes me want to say “whew,” because it shows the first sign of warm colors and melting ice after a long white winter. I’ve always believed that once we’ve made it through February winter’s back is broken. Sure, we can get more snow and even cold, but it doesn’t usually last for weeks like it can in January and February.

In early March there was still snow on the ground but the willows burned brightly and this scene reminded me of an impressionist painting. Vincent van Gogh, maybe?

March is when the first flowers appear but I doubt many people notice the beautiful male alder catkins dangling from the bushes like strings of jewels. A catkin is really just a string of flowers and there are probably hundreds of tiny male blossoms in this shot.

April is when things really get going and large willow shrubs full of bright yellow flowers appear at wood edges and out in the fields. They’re a breath of spring that I look forward to each year and their blossoming usually signals the return of red winged blackbirds.

Bloodroot is one of our most beautiful wildflowers which don’t often appear until early May, but last spring they came along in April. I’m not sure how a flower could be more perfect than this. Its simplicity is what makes it so beautiful, I think. It isn’t busy and there’s nothing to deduce or discover; it’s all right there so all you need to do is just admire its beauty. If you happen to find bloodroot growing in the wild you should remember the spot because this plant will come up in the same spot for many years if undisturbed.

May is when I start looking at buds and though there were many to choose from, I chose this velvety soft, pink and orange, striped maple bud. They seem to glow, and seeing a tree full of them is a sight not soon forgotten. This is a smallish tree and common in this region, so the next time you’re walking along a trail in early May, look out for it.

By mid to late May some of our most beautiful wildflowers are just coming into bloom, like the wild columbine seen here. The columbines grow on stone ledges off in the woods where few people ever see them, but some like me consider them very special and make it a point to go to see them each year. They’re quite a rare find; this spot in Westmoreland is the only place I’ve ever found them. It’s a bit of a hike but it isn’t any work at all to go and see them on a beautiful spring day in May when the leaves are just coming out on the trees and the air is full of sunshine and birdsong. In five short months it will be time to take that walk again, and I’m already looking forward to it.

In this area nothing says June like our native blue flag irises. I watch the roadside ditches because that’s where I find a lot of them blooming beautifully in large clumps. I also see them on pond and river edges. They like a lot of water and can sometimes even be found in standing water. They’re a beautiful flower that always says summer to me and you don’t have to hunt for them, because they’re everywhere.

Flowers come fast and furious in June and you can find many newly opened species each day. For this post though, I chose Robin’s plantain, a fleabane that’s considered a lowly weed. It comes up in lawns everywhere but even though it’s a weed, nobody mows it until it’s done blooming. I think this photo shows why. It’s such a beautiful weed.

There are times in the woods when I see something I can hardly believe I’m seeing, and that’s how it was the first time I saw this fringed bog orchid. I know I’ve found something special when all thoughts leave my mind and I just want to be quiet. I know I’m in the presence of something rare and very special, and I imagine that I feel as I would if I were walking into one of the world’s great cathedrals. It’s hard to explain, but you just know that this is a special moment and it deserves all of your attention, and your gratitude as well. You are humbled, I suppose is the best way to explain it, and it happens the same way each July when I go into the swamp where this magnificent orchid grows.

Also in July, this past July at least, because of all the rain, fungi and slime molds began to appear. I learned a lot by paying attention and watching closely this past summer. I saw a huge variety of fungi and slime molds appear that I had never seen before and as far as I can tell it was all on account of the steady rains we had. After two years of drought it was an amazing show of what nature can do under the right conditions.

In August I found the tiny flowers of the field forget-me-not growing in a lawn and that seemed appropriate, because August was the month that I lost a sister to lung cancer. Though nature has shown me that there is a deep well of peace within us all we have to find it before we can drink from it, and it isn’t something that one of us can give to another; each of us has to find it for ourselves. This was the unfortunate truth that I realized there alongside the forget-me-nots in August.

The concentric circles in tiger’s eye fungi also seemed appropriate for August. To me life is like a song, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. When one song ends a new one begins to take its place, and on and on it goes in a never-ending circle, through all of eternity.

In September I saw one of the prettiest displays of mushrooms I’ve seen when I found these Jack O’ lanterns growing on and around this old red maple. There were hundreds of them and they grew in a ring on all sides of the old tree. A day or two later and I would have missed this beautiful display, and that’s a good reason to get into the woods each day if you can.

This shot is a bit ironic with a monarch butterfly on a purple loosestrife because we wish we’d see more of the butterflies and less of the very invasive purple loosestrife. I didn’t count but I saw a fair number of monarchs, mostly in August and September of last year. I wish I knew why there were so many more, and I wonder if the weather had anything to do with it. I wouldn’t think a butterfly would want to be rained on but there were so many flowers blooming because of it.

This shot from October shows what I mean about having so many flowers blooming. This is just a roadside meadow of sorts that I pass each day on my way to and from work. It’s there every year but this past summer was the best I’ve seen it look. Because of this spot I discovered that New England asters like an awful lot of water. Seeing them in such a wet spot made me take note of soil conditions in other places they grew and each one was quite wet, or at least more than just moist.

You certainly receive plenty of hints in September and even in August of summer’s passing but October is when it really hits you. At least, that’s when it hit me one October morning when I stood on the shore of Half Moon Pond and saw how all the trees had colored. It was a beautiful way to end our summer and it went on and on, and again I think that was because of all the rain we had.

Very late October and early November is the time to visit Willard Pond in Hancock if you want to experience all the majesty of a New England hardwood forest in the fall. The oaks and beeches put on what is easily the most beautiful autumn spectacle that I’ve seen. It’s a quiet, peaceful place with well placed benches where you can sit and listen to the calls of loons and enjoy the beauty of the pond and surrounding forest.

I took a hike down a rail trail in November and just before I left, I snapped this shot of a distant hillside. I could see color on the hillside from where I was but it was like a smudge, with no real detail. I was surprised when I looked at the photo and saw that it was a hillside full of oaks. Everyone seemed to like this one so I’ll show it again.

We had our fist snowfall in December, barely an inch here, so I went out and got some photos of it. It was a nuisance storm and we’ve had two or three since, but no real snowstorms. People who have to shovel it are counting their blessings, but people who make money plowing it don’t feel quite so lucky. I think we all need to face the fact that winter has changed. Just over the course of this blog’s 11 years I’ve watched it go from cold and snowy to rather mild on average in comparison. Spring starts earlier and fall lasts longer now.  

It did get cold enough in December for me to get a shot of this frost crystal on my car windshield one morning. Everyone seemed to like seeing it, so here it is again.

And that’s 2021 in New Hampshire in a nutshell. I hope yours was even more beautiful, and I hope everyone has a safe, healthy and happy 2022!

The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you’ve come. ~Mick Kremling

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1. Heath Waxcap

It’s still very dry here but we do get an occasional day of showers. That’s often enough to encourage a few mushrooms, but I haven’t seen anywhere near the numbers that I’ve seen in years past. Right now is just about time for the yellow / red / orange mushrooms to stop fruiting, and for the purple ones start. This orange example wasn’t very big but it was perfectly shaped for a mushroom. I think it might be a heath wax cap (Hygrocybe laeta.)

2. Purple Cort

Young purple cort mushrooms (Cortinarius iodeoides) are very purple but lighten as they age. Squirrels and chipmunks won’t touch this one, possibly because it’s covered with a very bitter slime. This slime often makes the young examples look wet. Slugs don’t have a problem eating it and I often see white trails on the caps where they have eaten through the purple coating to the white flesh below. You can just see that on the left side of this one’s cap.

3. Aging Purple Cort

Purple corts often develop white or yellow streaks as they age and this is a good way to identify them. This example looked positively psychedelic but no, it’ll only make you sick.

4. Yellow Spindle Coral

Yellow spindle coral fungi (Ramariopsis laeticolor) are still coming up. These examples were some of the tallest I’ve seen at around three inches. An increase in height doesn’t seem to change their diameter however; these were still close to the same diameter as a piece of cooked spaghetti. They have the odd habit of growing in the packed earth of trails so I often find that they have been stepped on and broken. I think of these mushrooms as bright but tiny flames coming up out of the soil.

5. Hairy Curtain Crust

I don’t know for sure but I think this hairy orange bracket fungus might be a single example of the hairy curtain crust (Stereum hirsutum.) Their color is said to be very variable and at times significantly different from one to another, so identification can be difficult, even for experienced mushroom hunters.

6. Russell's Bolete

There are many bolete mushrooms that look alike but I think this one is Russell’s bolete (Boletellus russellii) because of the scaly brownish cap and the way that it grew under oak and pine trees. Most boletes have pores rather than gills on the underside of the cap, but there are one or two that have gills. They are sometimes called sponge mushrooms and will often bruise different colors when touched. This one bruises bright yellow; others bruise blue, red, or black.

7. Russell's Bolete

The stem of a Russell’s bolete has deep grooves and angular ridges and looks as if it had been made from the wood of a cholla cactus. The pinkish color is an identifying characteristic.

8. Possible Orange Birch Boletes

These boletes grew right over the entrance to a chipmunk burrow and it looks like it might have tasted the smaller one. Actually I’m not sure if chipmunks eat mushrooms but squirrels sure do, and they start eating them early in the morning before lazy photographers can get going and get a photo of them. I wonder if these examples are orange birch boletes (Leccinum versipelle.)

9. Jelly Babies

To see small things you need to re-train your eyes. (And your mind, somewhat.) Jelly babies (Leotia lubrica) taught me that; one day I sat down on a stone to rest and looked down and there they were. I was surprised by how tiny they were, but they helped me see that forests are full of things just as small and sometimes many times smaller. You need to be ready (and able) to flatten yourself out on the forest floor to get good photos of jelly babies.

10. White Slime Mold

Some of the smallest things that I try to get photos of are slime molds. Though they aren’t classified as fungi they often grow near and sometimes on mushrooms. In nature everything gets eaten; even fungi. I think this slime mold is a coral slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, variety fruticulosa.)

11. Turkey Tails

I think these turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) must have been young because they all wore velvet. Though turkey tails are very common I’ve seen only a few over the past two years, and those weren’t as colorful as they sometimes are. I always like finding the blue and purple ones. I might see one blue or purple turkey tail colony for every hundred brown ones.

12. Purple Turkey Tails

The day after I wrote that I hadn’t seen any blue or purple turkey tails (Trametes versicolor,) guess what I found? Some fungi can be every bit as beautiful as flowers and that’s one reason why finding them is so much fun.

13. Banded Polypore

Another common bracket fungus is the red banded polypore (Fomitopsis pinicola.) These are much larger and tougher than turkey tails and like to grow on conifers, especially spruce logs and stumps where they will often grow for many years. This is considered a decay fungus and it causes heart rot, so seeing it on a living tree does not bode well for the tree.

14. Crust Fungus

Wet rot (Coniophora puteana) is a fungus that will grow on wet timbers or other wood structures in houses and seeing it there is never a good sign. It is also called the cellar fungus and likes wood that stays consistently damp. Any time this fungus is seen on the wood of a house that wood will most likely need to be replaced. Luckily this example was growing on a rotting log in a shaded part of the forest.

15. Jack O' Lantern aka Omphalotus illudens

I wouldn’t feel right if I did a mushroom post without adding a reminder that some mushrooms are poisonous, like these examples of what I think are Jack O’ Lanterns (Omphalotus olearius.) Tom Volk of Tom Volk’s Fungi says “They smell very good, and many people have been tempted to eat this fungus — but it’s poisonous. Omphalotus poisoning usually manifests itself as severe cramps, vomiting and diarrhea, all of which can last up to a few days.” That doesn’t sound like a very good way to spend a few days to me, but it illustrates how important accuracy is when it comes to collecting mushrooms for food. If you think you’ve found Jack O’ Lantern mushrooms and are unsure of their identity just look at one in a darkened room; through a process called bioluminescence the gills of Jack O’ Lanterns glow green in the dark.

Take a walk outside – it will serve you far more than pacing around in your mind. ~Rasheed Ogunlaru

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Here are some more of those sometimes odd, often beautiful, and always interesting things that I see in the woods.

 1. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

It’s interesting how nature seems to use the same shapes over and over again in different ways. The round fruiting cups, called apothecia, of the Poplar Sunburst Lichen (Xanthoria hasseana) remind me of the suckers on an octopus or squid. Instead of latching onto things however, this lichen uses its cups for spore production. To give you a sense of scale-the largest of those in the photo is about an eighth of an inch across. The entire lichen might have been an inch and a half across.

 2. Many Forked cladonis Lichen

This lichen had me stumped for a while because I thought that beard lichens only grew on trees, and it was growing on stone. One bristly lichen that does grow on stones is called rock bushy lichen (Ramalina intermedia) but it has flattened branches that resemble noodles, and the one in the photo has round branches. I went back to re-visit it the other day and found that, though it was perched on a large boulder, there was soil on the boulder. That fact led me to discover a lichen new to me-the many forked cladonia (Cladonia furcata,) which grows on soil or stone. It is eaten by elk and reindeer in northern latitudes. This is the only example of it in this area that I know of.

 3. Common Liverwort aka Marchantia polymorpha

I went through most of my life ignoring liverworts, but after seeing one or two of them now I see them everywhere. The one in the photo is the common liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha.) It can often be found growing in nursery pots as a weed, but I found this one by a stream. This is also called the umbrella liverwort, because male plants have reproductive structures (Antheridiophores) that look like the ribs of an umbrella. They remind me of palm trees.

 4. Orange Mushroom Gills

Sometimes I like to take a photo of something I see just because I find it interesting or beautiful, without worrying about its name or how and why it grows the way that it does. That’s all that this photo of orange / brown mushroom gills is.

 5. Fallen Mushroom

Sometimes mushrooms are as interesting dead as they are alive. Sometimes even more so.

 6. Virginia Creeper Berries

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) stems and berries add color to the landscape. I got to these before the birds did. A paper titled “The dissemination of Virginia Creeper Seeds by English Sparrows” by Bartle T. Harvey describes how the author found 70 Virginia creeper seedlings in fifty square feet of ground under a known English sparrow roost in Colorado.

 7. Possible Jack O Lantern Mushrooms

I think these mushrooms might be jack ‘o lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus illudens,) which are orange and fruit in late fall in clusters on wood. If I could see them at night I’d know for sure, because through bio-luminescence this mushroom’s gills glow in the dark. It is said that they glow an eerie green color and work in much the same way that fireflies do. They are also very toxic.

8. Jack O' Lantern Mushrooms

This photo of glowing jack o’ lantern mushrooms is from Wikipedia. Only the gills glow, even though it looks as if the entire mushroom does.

 9. Orange Jelly Fungus

More orange can be found in the forest in the form of orange jelly fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus.) These are very common but I see more of them at this time of year than I do in warmer months.

 10. Hobblebush Buds

Hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) have already grown their spring leaves and they will remain this way, naked and unprotected, throughout the winter months. I got a good lesson on why they are called hobblebush recently when my feet got tangled in the ground hugging branches. They hobbled me and I went down fast and hard. Luckily there were no stones there to fall on-a miracle in the Granite State.

 11. Maaple Leave ViburnamAnother viburnum, maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), has leaves that turn to just about every fall color , including deep purple,  before they finally fade to an almost imperceptible pastel pink before falling to the ground.

 12. Marple Leaf Viburnum

This is an example of just some of the colors that can be found on maple leaf viburnums.

 13. Larch

The few larch trees (Larix) went out in a blaze of color. Larches lose their needles from the bottom up. It is our only conifer that loses all of its needles in the fall.

 14. River Reflections

The shrubs along the river have lost their leaves. The few yellow leaves that appear here and there are on bittersweet vines.

If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

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