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Posts Tagged ‘Jelly Babies’

1. Coral Fungus

We had a couple more quick moving thunderstorms roll through and they dropped enough rain to get a few fungi stirring, as this yellow spindle coral fungi (Ramariopsis laeticolor) shows. These fungi aren’t very big; close to the same diameter as a piece of cooked spaghetti, but they can reach 3 or 4 inches tall. 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’ve watched these beautiful little fungi come back year after year in the same spot. I think of them as bright but tiny flames burning up out of the soil and always look forward to seeing them.

2. Berkeley’s polypore

Berkeley’s polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi) grew at the base of a tree. These are some of the biggest mushrooms that I’ve seen. Though they can reach as much as two feet across the examples above were only about the size of a 33 1/3 record album, if anyone remembers those. This large bracket fungus grows on the roots of hardwood trees and causes butt rot in the tree’s heartwood. The wood turns white before rotting away and leaving a standing hollow tree.

3. Mushroom on Tree

A limb fell off a tree and left a wound big enough for fungus spores to settle in and this is what they grew into. It must have been moist in there; I’m sure more moist than our soil is right now. I haven’t tried to identify the mushroom, but extreme longevity doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the tree. Mushrooms growing on live trees is never a good sign.

4. Jelly Babies

I have a special fondness for jelly baby fungi (Leotia lubrica) because they taught me just how small things in nature can be. One day I sat on a stone and looked down, and there they were; tiny colorful beings. The largest one pictured in the center of the above photo is smaller than the diameter of a pea, and the smallest are so small that I can’t think of anything to compare them to. They taught me to see with new eyes and a new understanding, and I’m very grateful. Since that day I’ve found that there is an entire Lilliputian world in nature that I never knew existed, and that makes me wonder what I’m missing without a microscope. The urge is to go ever smaller to see if and when the smallness ever ends.

5. Great Blue Heron on Log

I saw a great blue heron standing on a log in a pond one evening with his back to the sun. He had company.

6. Great Blue Heron and Wood Duck

As I zoom out you can see that the heron shared his log with a female wood duck. Wood ducks are very skittish here and I don’t see them very often. The males are a very colorful, beautiful duck but I didn’t see one in the area.

7. Wood Ducklings

I did see a clutch of wood ducklings though. There were 8 or 9 of them and they easily won that day’s award for cuteness.

8. Wood Duck Mother and Ducklings

Unfortunately my presence apparently made mama duck nervous, because after a minute or two she and her ducklings swam off into the setting sun. I was sorry that I had disturbed them but when I saw the log from a distance all I could see was the heron and I didn’t know the ducks were there. As they swam off all I could think of were the very big snapping turtles that live in this pond.

9. Great Blue Heron on Log

 I withered under the heron’s harsh, I’m-very-disappointed-in-you glare.

10. Gall on Maple Leaf

As if nature wanted to teach me a lesson for disturbing the ducks a clenched, fist like bladder gall rose up out of the tissue of a maple leaf. I thought it was bit much; after all I didn’t ask the ducks to do anything they wouldn’t normally do.

11. Pinecone in Knotweed Leaf

A pinecone had fallen through a knotweed leaf heavy end first, but with only enough momentum to go through the leaf for half its length it was stuck there. Nature could have just as easily dropped it on my head but the only things falling from the trees that day were hard little unripe acorns, and a few of them did hit me. They are falling unripe because the oaks are protecting themselves. Ripening a tree full of acorns takes a lot of energy and because we haven’t seen beneficial rain for over a month the trees will shed them to conserve energy. The same is true with pines and other trees. This cone was also unripe. The animals might have to tighten their belts this winter.

12. Feather

Some believe that different kinds of feathers have different meanings and that they are found in one’s path to relay a message. A black feather with purple iridescence for example, is said to represent a deep spiritual insight and finding one is supposed to be taken as a mystical sign. I’ve always seen them as just feathers that a bird dropped and never knew that they meant anything. I usually see at least one each day so I must have a lot of messages being conveyed that I can’t yet decipher. I wonder if finding a great blue heron feather would mean that I would learn great patience. I could always use more of that.

13. Purple Grass

I’ve tried for years to get a decent photo of the purple topped grasses that grow here and I think I might have finally done it with this purple love grass (Eragrostis spectabilis.) This beautiful little shin-high grass grows on sandy roadsides and flowers in late summer and early fall. Its purple flower heads will eventually turn a tannish color and break off. They are often seen rolling and floating along the roadsides like tumbleweeds in the fall.

14. Juniper Haircap Moss

Splash cups on juniper haircap moss (Polytrichum juniperinum) aren’t seen that often in this area but you can find them if you know where to look. Mosses in the Polytrichum genus have male and female reproductive organs on separate plants, and when you see these little flower like cups you know you’ve found male plants that are ready to reproduce. Juniper haircap moss grows on every continent, including Antarctica.

15. Juniper Haircap Moss

The male juniper haircap moss produces sperm in these tiny splash cups (perigonial rosettes) and when a raindrop falls into the cup the sperm is splashed out. If there is enough water for them to swim in, they will then swim to the female plant and fertilize the eggs. Each cup, about half the diameter of a pencil eraser, looks like a tiny flower with its rosettes of leaves surrounding the reproductive parts.

16. Juniper Haircap Moss Spore Capsule

The female spore capsule (sporangium) of juniper haircap moss is covered by a cap called a calyptra, which protects the spore capsule and the spores within. It is very hairy, and this is what gives this moss part of its common name. Eventually, as the capsule ages it moves from a semi vertical to a more horizontal position before the calyptra falls off.  The spore capsule continues to ripen and when the time is right it will open and release the spores. I’m guessing that at this stage the capsule is about the same diameter as a piece of cooked spaghetti.

17. Juniper Haircap Moss Spore Capsule Without  Calyptra

When the time is right the end cap (operculum) of the reddish brown, 4 cornered but not square spore capsule will fall off and the spores will be borne on the wind.

18. False Solomon's Seal

Spring starts on the forest floor, and so does fall. By the time we see the colorful tree leaves many leaves have already put on their fall colors in the understory, among them those of false Solomon’s seal, which are some of the earliest. It marks the passage of time and though I like to see what their turning leaves will look like this year, I’m not ready to see them just yet. It seems like spring was just last week.

19. False Solomon's Seal Fruit

The berries of false Solomon’s seal turn from green to red and for a short time they are speckled with both colors.  I’ve read that soil pH can affect the fruit color. 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 stem. They are said to taste like molasses and another common name for the plant is treacle berry.

20. Branch Collar

I know I shouldn’t but when I think of fall I can’t help thinking about what follows. Thankfully though, things like this old pine log remind me that I’ll see beautiful things, even in winter. Sun, wind, rain and snow have smoothed and polished its wood and made it very beautiful, and in my opinion worthy of being exhibited in any museum. Nature is filled with things every bit as beautiful and I hope everyone will be able to see them. All it takes is a walk outside.

In summer, the song sings itself. ~William Carlos Williams

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1. Butter Wax Cap Mushrooms

We’re nearing the end of our yellow / red / orange mushroom phase and going into the purple phase, so I thought I’d get one more photo of what I think might be butter wax caps (Hygrocybe ceracea.) They are one of the most photogenic of all mushrooms, in my opinion. Those that I find almost always grow in groups. The tip of the oak leaf on the left gives a sense of scale.

2. Purple Corts

The word “lurid” came to mind when I saw these purple cort mushrooms (Cortinarius iodeoides.) It means “very vivid in color, especially so as to create an unpleasantly harsh or unnatural effect,” but the color is not at all unnatural, so I might need to find another descriptor. Their caps are quite slimy when they are young, so they always look wet.  They will lighten in color as they age.

3. Possible  Stinkhorn Mushroom

Is this a stinkhorn mushroom or another species whose cap hasn’t opened yet? The only way to find out was to watch it but since I live three quarters of an hour from where it grew, I wasn’t able to. Another one for the mystery folder.

4. Jelly Babies 3

To see small things you need to re-train your eyes. (And your mind, somewhat)  Jelly babies (Leotia lubrica) are what led me down that path years ago. 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.

5. Coral Fungus

Crown coral fungi come in many colors, but I usually find the tan / white varieties. The examples in this photo 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. Their peak season seems to be July through August here.

6. Spindle Coral Fungi

These are another coral fungus called spindle corals (Ramariopsis laeticolor.) The taller ones might reach an inch and a half high and their diameter is close to 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.

7. Velvet Stalked Fairy Fan aka Spathulariopsis veltutipes

Velvet stalked fairy fan mushrooms (spathularia velutipes) look more like leaves than mushrooms to me, but they are a form of spatulate mushroom that get their name from their resemblance to a spatula. They grow on conifer logs or in conifer debris on the forest floor.  These examples grew in the packed earth beside a trail. This was the first time I’ve noticed them.

8. Orange Chanterelle Wax Cap aka Hygrocybe cantharallus

What I think are orange chanterelle wax cap mushrooms (Hygrocybe cantharallus) grew along the side of a mossy log. Three or four of these tiny mushrooms could hide behind a pea but they always grow in clusters so they’re relatively easy to see. It always seems to be dark where I find them so I have to use a flash. Orange and yellow mushrooms seem to hold their color fairly well under a flash but the stems and gills have lightened slightly on some of these, so I probably should have used an L.E.D.

9. Wood Ear Fungi aka Auricularia cornea

Wood ear fungi (Auricularia auricular) are almost ear size and are hard to find in this area. These rubbery fungi grow on rotting wood and are used in hot and sour soup in China. Science has shown that they can decrease blood cholesterol levels, and it is thought that they may be part of the reason that the Chinese exhibit such a low incidence of heart disease. They don’t look very appetizing to me, but if they were hidden in a soup or maybe spaghetti sauce I might be able to get them down.

10. Yellow Patches Mushroom aka Amanita flavoconia

Yellow patches (Amanita flavoconia) gets its name from the yellow bits of the universal veil on its orange cap. The universal veil is made of tissue and completely covers the young mushroom. As the mushroom grows it eventually breaks through the membranous veil and pieces of it are left behind on the cap. Rain can wash them off, and that is most likely why this example has so few of them.  This mushroom is in the amanita family, which contains some of the most toxic mushrooms known. I know I’ve said it a hundred times but it bears repeating: never eat any mushroom that you aren’t 100% sure is safe.

11. Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms are pure white and seem to always grow in overlapping clusters like those in the photo. The one standing straight up is unusual; oyster mushrooms have off center stems that usually grow out of the side of the log and are hidden by the cap.

Mushrooms are often eaten by tiny worms called nematodes that live on plant and fungal tissue, but not  oyster mushrooms. Scientists discovered in 1986 that oyster mushrooms “exude extracellular toxins that stun {nematode] worms, whereupon the mycelium invades its body through its orifices.” What this means is that oyster mushrooms are actually carnivorous. They also consume bacteria (Pseudomonas and Agrobacterium) in order to get nitrogen and protein.

12. Black Chanterelle

Black chanterelles (Craterellus cornucopioides) are also called deep purple horn of plenty mushrooms and are rare enough in this area to only grow in one spot that I know of. When I first found these last year I learned that they are considered a great delicacy by mushroom hunters, but are also rare. Because of their color mushroom hunters complain that they’re very hard to see but for a change I think colorblindness serves me well, because I can see them without any difficulty. I’ve read that colorblind people can “see through” camouflage and I’m beginning to wonder if it might not be true.

13. Berkeley's Polypore aka Bondarzewia berkeleyi

By far the biggest mushroom that I’ve ever seen is Berkeley’s polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi.) I put a quarter above and to the right of the center of this one so you could get an idea of how big this monster was. It must have been 2 feet across at its widest point. This mushroom grows at the base of hardwoods in the east and in the west a similar example, Bondarzewia montana, grows at the base of conifers. The first time I saw Berkeley’s polypore I misidentified it as chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus.)

 14. Orange Mushroom Gills-2

 The world of mushrooms is full of fascinating facts but also stunning beauty, and that’s why I never ignore even the broken ones. You never know what you’ll see.

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

~Sylvia Plath,
Mushrooms

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We’ve had plenty of heat and high humidity here and then last weekend we had a few passing thundershowers that absolutely poured rain. When these three weather events happen together it often means mushrooms and other interesting things will be appearing in the woods. Everything shown in this post was found in an area of less than a quarter square mile in a damp, acidic and quite shady white pine forest. What I think is a yellow spindle coral mushroom (Clavulinopsis fusiformis) was absolutely glowing in the forest litter at the edge of a path near a pond. It was very small-the maple leaf and pine needles surrounding it give a good idea of its size. This could also be a club mushroom called yellow or orange club (Clavulinopsis laeticolor.) The tightness of the cluster is part of the identification process and the differences are very subtle between the two species.Another broken coral or club fungus was growing near the previous example. I wanted to show this picture because it shows that these “clubs” are hollow like a straw. No, this is not a jellybean, but it sure did look like one in the woods because it was just about the size and shape of one. It seemed more orange in person, though. Wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrumis) is also called toothpaste slime mold because of the thick, pasty liquid that oozes out of them when they are squeezed. I think this might be one of them. They come in all colors except green (no chlorophyll) and can have a shiny coat or a more matte finish. This identification should not be taken as gospel though, because I have very limited experience in slime mold identification. Also, a single slime mold can change appearance several times; looking like an amoeba one day and a fungus the next. I think this tiny, almost perfect sphere is another wolf’s milk slime mold. Its outer shell was hard to the touch-many slime molds have hard shells that shatter into pieces. A good indication of how small it was can be gleaned from the mosses surrounding it-it was about the same diameter as a pea. I’d guess that it had a stalk which was hidden by the mosses. Slime molds aren’t fungi, plants, or animals-they are amoebas-single celled organisms-that come together in a mass when they are ready to produce spores.There are over 700 different species of slime molds and their shapes and colors vary greatly. This, I think, is a purple one. When slime molds run out of food-bacteria and yeasts- they literally begin to move and can often appear web or net like. They form streams of cells called pseudoplasmodium and move at about one millimeter per hour. Once they come together into a mass like that pictured the cells change their shape again and can form stalks that are capped by fruiting bodies. A fruiting body can look like either of the previous jellybean or sphere shapes, or can sometimes resemble blackberries, hair, dripping wax, and other shapes bizarre enough to be from another planet.

These fruiting bodies contain millions of spores which will eventually be dispersed by the wind. The purple mass pictured was small but the color made it stand out and it was very easy to see against the leaf litter. I think this might be Physarum polycephalum. This plasmodial slime mold, like many others, moves using cytoplasmic streaming, which is basically a contracting of “muscles” by all of the separate cells until they come together in a single mass. They then shift from the growth to the fruiting stage as described above with the purple slime mold. Slime molds die if they dry out, so most of this usually occurs at night or on damp, humid days after a rain. The bright color of this one made it easy to see. I’ve seen this same habit in white slime mold many times but never really paid much attention to it. Is this slime mold or just plain old forest leaf mold? I can’t answer that question but I have seen similar photos that were labeled slime molds. This mass covered quite a large area compared to others in this post. It was close to 2 feet long and about a foot wide.Here is yet another form that shape shifting slime molds can take. I believe this is the plasmodium stage of egg shell slime mold (Leocarpus fragilis.) These slime molds have a brittle outer shell that cracks and fractures like an eggshell. They will mature and become dry and turn first brown, and then gray. Blackish spores will be produced. Eggshell slime molds like to hang out on pine needles just like those pictured were doing. They also like logs, stumps, and sometimes will even appear on living plants. More egg shell slime mold (Leocarpus fragilis) on pine needles. (I think)I don’t think that these are slime mold fruiting bodies because the slightly deformed “cap” makes them look like jelly babies. Jelly babies are the fruiting bodies of a fungus in the Leotiaceae family. They come in a variety of colors but seem to always have the same shape. I saw these same fungi in July and wrote about them in a post called July forest finds. At that time I thought they might be young lipstick powder horns (Cladonia macilenta,) but now I think that they might be jelly babies. Whatever they are, this makes the third time in less than a month that I’ve seen them. Next time I see these-what I think are jelly babies-I’ll have to damage one to look under the cap to see if it has gills. These and those in the previous picture could be Cudonia circinans if they are pale brown to ochre, have thin flesh and are not gelatinous. To make matters even more confusing, there is another similar fungus called bog beacon.This is definitely gelatinous. This jelly fungus is called yellow witch’s butter or yellow brain fungus (Tremella mesenterica.) Many different species of fungi have gelatinous flesh that can be almost any color. This one was growing on the underside of a log in a brush pile. When it hasn’t rained and these dry out they turn dark orange.I found a pink slug dining on some fluorescent purple slime mold that had grown over some brownish bracket fungi. I love the colors in the slime mold. I have more pictures of another big pink slug that I ran into on this same day, but they’ll appear in another post.

    “Without mysteries, life would be very dull indeed. What would be left to strive for if everything were known?” ~ Charles De Lint

If, like me, you think that slime molds are interesting and beautiful things, try going to You Tube and typing “Slime molds.” Once there you can watch time lapse videos of slime molds actually moving and growing. Thanks for stopping in.

 

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