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Posts Tagged ‘Jelly Fungi’

1-trail-start

Ever since a friend of mine and I tipped Tippin Rock back in August something has been nagging at me. I’ve lived long enough to know that ignoring something that is nagging at you isn’t going to make it go away, so I decided to confront it head on. To do that I had to climb Mount Caesar in Swanzey, which is a huge mound of granite with a thin covering of soil. The above photo shows the start of the trail, which is bedrock. I’m not sure if shoe soles or the weather has removed what little soil there was there.

2-reindeer-lichen

Mount Caesar has the biggest drifts of reindeer lichens (Cladonia rangiferina) of anyplace I’ve seen.  I’ve read that they grow very slowly, so the colonies here are most likely hundreds of years old.  It is said that Mount Caesar was used as a lookout by Native Americans when settlers began moving in, and both settlers and natives probably saw these very same lichens. If damaged they can take decades to restore themselves, so I hope they’ll be treated kindly.

3-looped-white-pine

A young white pine (Pinus strobus) grew itself into a corkscrew. Trees often grow into strange shapes when another tree falls on them and makes them lean or pins them to the ground. That would explain this tree’s strange shape, but where is the tree that fell on it? There wasn’t a fallen tree anywhere near it.

4-trail

The trail goes steadily uphill and is bordered by stone walls for most of its length.

5-jelly-fungi

I’m seeing a lot of jelly fungi this year. This fallen tree was covered with them.

6-red-maple

I’ve seen a lot of target canker on red maples but this tree was covered almost top to bottom with it, and it was very pronounced.  Target canker doesn’t usually harm the tree but in this case I had to wonder if maybe the maple wasn’t losing the battle. Target canker is caused by a fungus which kills the healthy bark and the patterns of platy bark seen here are the tree’s response to the fungus; it grows new bark each year.

7-turkey-tails

I’ve been waiting all summer to find some turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) that had some colors other than shades of brown, and here they were the whole time. Hundreds of them crowded a fallen log.

8-turkey-tail

These turkey tails grew on a nearby stump. I also saw many bracket fungi that looked like turkey tails but their gills gave them away as impostors. Turkey tails always have tiny round holes called pores on their undersides, never gills.  If I find bracket fungi with gills I start looking up gilled polypores to try to identify them.

9-trail-end

Though you walk on soil for much of its length the trail ends just as it began; on solid granite.

10-view

The views were what I would expect on a cloudy day, but at least the clouds were high enough to be able to see the surrounding hills.

11-view

And the miles and miles of forest; 4.8 million acres in New Hampshire alone. It is why many of us still carry maps and compasses.

12-monadnock

To the east the clouds parted long enough for a good look at Mount Monadnock, which is the highest point in these parts; 2,203 feet higher than where I was standing on top of Mount Caesar.

13-monadnock

It must have been very cold up there but I could still see people on the summit. Unfortunately none of the shots showing them up close came out good enough to show. When he climbed it in 1860 Henry David Thoreau complained about the number of people on the summit of Monadnock. Nothing has changed since, and that’s one reason that I don’t climb it. Thoreau also said ”Those who climb to the peak of Monadnock have seen but little of the mountain. I came not to look off from it, but to look at it.” I feel the same way he did. It’s very beautiful when seen from a distance.

14-erratic

The glacial erratic called “the rocking stone” in a photo from 1895 was the object of this climb. I wanted to see if it rocked like Tippin Rock over on Hewe’s Hill did. I pushed on it from every side and watched the stone carefully to see any movement but I couldn’t get it to budge. You always have to wonder about these old stories, but the one about Tippin Rock proved true so this one probably is too. Maybe the next time my friend Dave flies in from California I’ll have him take a crack at it since he was able to rock Tippin Rock.

15-old-stump

An old weathered stump is all that remains of a tree that once grew on the summit. I’m guessing it was an eastern hemlock since they’re the only tree that I know of with stumps that decay from the inside out.

16-old-stump

Can you see the face? I’ll have to remember this when I do the next Halloween post.

17-blueberry

The blueberry bushes were beautifully colored. Since we’ve had several freezes I was surprised to see leaves still on them, but the temperature in the valleys is not always the same as it is on the hilltops. Cold air will flow down hillsides and pool in the valleys, just like water.

18-goldenrod

Even more of a surprise than the blueberry leaves was this blooming goldenrod. It was only about as big as my thumb but any flowers blooming at the end of November are special and I was happy to see them.

19-going-down

Going down a mountain always seems harder than going up but this time it was tough. Oak leaves are slippery anyway, but this time they had thousands of acorns under them, so I had to pick my way down the steepest parts very carefully. My calf muscles reminded me of the climb for a few days after.

It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape. ~Ruskin Bond

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

 

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Note to those new to this blog: Quite often I have photos of a lot of different things which for whatever reason didn’t make it into other blog posts. I save them all up and when I have enough I use them in a “things I’ve seen” post. They are by far the toughest posts of all because of the research involved but they seem to be popular, so I keep putting them together when I have the time. I hope you’ll enjoy this one.

1. Glossy Buckthorn Leaf

I liked the color of this leaf but didn’t pay much attention to what it was attached to until I looked at the photo, which shows vertical lenticels (pores) on the branch it was on. I couldn’t think of any tree or shrub that had vertical lenticels; cherry, birch, alder and other common trees and shrubs that grow in this area have horizontal lenticels. A little Googling told me that it must be glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus,) a very invasive shrub that I’ve never noticed in this spot. If you’ve seen anything similar I’d like to hear about it.

2. Feather on a Branch

I’m always finding feathers blowing around out there and this one was blowing even as I snapped the shutter. It has a dreamy kind of look. Or maybe it’s just out of focus.

 3. Black Jelly Fungus

It looks like someone must have smeared black paint or tar on this limb but I’ve been fooled by this before. It is really a black jelly fungus (Exidia glandulosa,) which shrivels down to a flake when it dries out. As you look at the following photo try to remember how flat it is here.

4. Black Jelly Fungus 2

This is the same black jelly fungus in the previous photo after some rain fell. It swelled up to 10 times the size and became clusters of shiny black, pillow shaped fruit bodies. They aren’t shiny everywhere though; if you take a close look at most jelly fungi you’ll find areas that are shiny and areas that have a matte like finish. Most jelly fungi have these two different surfaces and some, like amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa,) produce their spores on the shiny areas. Why they wait until winter to produce them is a mystery to me. Black jellies are quite large and can be seen from a distance, and I almost always find them on alder branches.

5. Mole Hill

The moles are telling me that the soil hasn’t frozen yet. People seem to get very upset when they see evidence of moles in their gardens but though their tunnels might be unsightly they really don’t do any damage to plants. Contrary to popular belief, moles do not eat more than an occasional bite or two of vegetation. They don’t eat grass or tree roots, bulbs, tree bark or the roots of annuals, perennials or vegetables. They aren’t rodents but are members of the order Insectivora and are primarily carnivores with a diet of beetle grubs, earthworms, beetles, and insect larvae. Among the small amount of plant material they do eat are fungi, and this can help clean up infected tree roots. One study of the stomach contents of 100 moles showed that only one had eaten vegetation, so if trails and burrows along with plant damage are seen then it is most likely caused by voles. Unlike moles, they can do a lot of damage to both trees and garden plants.

6. Black Raspberry

Though November was cold here December was mild. Mild enough apparently to fool this black raspberry into thinking it was spring. How do I know it’s a black raspberry? Because of the blue “bloom” on the stem. First year canes of black raspberry (and many other plants, fruits, and even lichens) use this waxy coating as a form of protection against harsh sunlight among other things, but raspberries and blackberries do not. There are several other ways to identify a black raspberry but this is the easiest way for those too lazy to use them.

7. Red Elderberry Buds

The chubby buds of red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) might have been fooled by the warmth too. They don’t usually show their beautiful purple color until they begin to swell in spring. The streaks of green down the middle show that the bud scales have started separating, and that isn’t good at this time of year because the bud scales protect the tiny new leaves and flowers within. Spring might reveal some deformed and / or burned leaves and flowers this year and that would be too bad, because red elderberry is one of the most beautiful plants in the forest in spring when its buds break to reveal its deep purple leaves.  Once the leaves begin to green up and photosynthesize the plant will produce white flowers that will be followed by bright red berries. The berries are a favorite of many birds and animals but they, along with all other parts of this plant, can make us quite sick.

8. Fungal Growth on Beech bark

Before I started nature blogging I sometimes said “Gee that’s interesting” and never went much further in trying to identify what I had seen, but when you start trying to explain to others what you have seen and what makes it so interesting you find that you have to be part scientist and part detective.  A good example of the detective work involved is the 3 years it has taken to identify these tiny fungi which I’m now fairly certain are called Annulohypoxylon cohaerens. Sorry but they have no common name, apparently. Every other time I’ve seen them they have been growing on American Beech logs (Fagus grandifolia,) but this time grew on a standing tree. They are hard, blackish lumps which are described as “perithecia with ostiole papillate stroma.” Come to think of it you also have to be a translator, which I’ll try to be after the next photo.

9. Fungal Growth on Beech bark

“Perithecia with ostiole papillate stroma” means (I think) that the fruiting bodies of the fungus are round or flask-shaped (Perithecia). Ostiole means the fruiting body has small pores which the spores are discharged through and papillate means that they are nipple or pustule shaped.  A stroma is a cushion like mass of fungal tissue. So all of that means that we have a round, cushion like mass of fungal tissue with tiny, nipple shaped pores, and if you look closely at the above photo you’ll see that they are exactly that. They are also often very small –less than half the diameter of an average pea. I’m very glad that I don’t have to wonder what they are anymore.

 10. Unknown Yellow Fungi in Log

But I’m not entirely through wondering, because no one who studies nature ever is.  I saw a flash of yellow in the crack in a log as I walked by and, though it was too small to see very well the camera revealed something that looks like a bunch of lemon drop fungi (Bisporella citrina) all squashed together. They usually grow as tiny yellow disks on the surfaces of logs, so I’m not real sure what is going on here. I’ve never seen anything else like it.

11. Red Tailed hawk

We have many cornfields here in Keene and recently I’ve been watching what I’m fairly certain is a red tailed hawk hunting them. I haven’t been able to get a decent phot of this bird but several times I’ve watched him fly from the tallest tree in one area to the tallest tree in another, always in sight of the corn stubbled, open fields. For this shot I had my lens maxed out as far as its zoom capabilities, which would be the equivalent of about 8oo mm on a DSLR, but he still saw me and flew even further away.

 12. Boreal Oakmoss Lichen

When I hear the word “boreal” I think of tundra and the cold north woods of Canada, but it turns out that we have at least a bit of boreal right here in New Hampshire in the form of boreal oakmoss lichen. If that is, I have identified it correctly. With the help of my new lichen book Lichens of North America, I think I have.  I find this lichen on both hardwoods and softwoods, usually on the branches of birch or white pine and it’s very easy to spot at this time of year.

13. Dark Green Lichen

This lichen has had me confused for a few years now and still does, even with the new lichen book. I’m fairly certain it is one of the beard or horse hair lichens (Bryoria,) but I can’t figure out which species. Every time I’ve seen it, it has been growing on the branches or trunks of white pines (Pinus strobus), often very near the boreal oakmoss lichens in the previous photo. If you know what it might be I’d love to hear from you.

14. Pine sap

White pines seem to bleed their resin all summer long, especially where they have been damaged. The resin is amber colored and very sticky but in the winter it hardens and turns a whitish color. Usually, that is-in this instance it turned blue. I’m not sure what caused the damage on this tree but I’m guessing that parts of it might have been caused by a porcupine. They will eat the inner bark of white pines and can kill a tree if they girdle it.

15. Pine Sap

Here’s a closer look at the bluest part of the frozen pine resin. In the past I’ve been fooled by pine sap that has dripped on stones and turned blue. They looked just like some kind of blue crustose lichen, so if you find “blue lichens” on a horizontal face of a stone that is near a white pine I’d be wary of them. If it is on a vertical face of the stone where pine resin couldn’t possibly have dripped then it could really be a blue lichen. They’re rare, but I have seen them.

All is mystery; but he is a slave who will not struggle to penetrate the dark veil. ~Benjamin Disraeli

Thanks for stopping in.

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This is another one of those posts full of unusual things that I see in the woods that don’t seem to fit in other posts.

1. Amber Jelly Fungi

These amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa) were frozen solid and looked like lollipops, or maybe half lollipops. This fungus is called willow brain because it is often found growing on willows. It produces spores on its upper surface, which is smooth and shiny, and the underside has more of a matte finish. Winter is a great time to find jelly fungi of many kinds, but you have to look closely. Those in the photo were no bigger than a dime-roughly 18mm.

 2. Split Gill Mushroom

Split gill fungi (Schizophyllum commune) are probably the easiest winter fungi to identify because of their wooly winter coats. These mushrooms grow year round on dead limbs but for some reason, I only notice them in winter. That could be because they are very small-no larger than a penny at best-roughly 19mm. They’re also very tough and leathery. They grow on every continent except Antarctica and because of that are said to be the most studied mushroom on earth. Scientists have recently isolated a compound from them that has been shown to inhibit the HIV-1 virus.

3. Split Gill Mushroom-2

The “gills” on the split gill fungus are actually folds on its under surface that split lengthwise when it dries out. This example was very dry. The splits close over the fertile surfaces as the mushroom shrivels in dry weather. When rehydrated by rain the splits reopen, the spore-producing surfaces are exposed to the air, and spores are released.

5. Beech Bud

Beech trees have their long, pointed buds all ready for spring. When these begin to break and unfurl they are one of the most beautiful sights in the forest, in my opinion. The fuzzy, silvery new leaf looks like an angel wing, but just for a very short time.

 6. Zig Zag Tree Wound

I can’t even guess what caused this zig-zag pattern in this tree bark. My first thought was lightning, but that would run from the top down. This scar comes out of the soil and runs about 3 feet up the trunk.

7. Cheese Polypore

White cheese polypore (Tyromyces chioneus) is, according to the website Mushroom Expert.com, just about the most boring mushroom going. But it is a “winter mushroom” and that, in my opinion, makes it at least a little interesting. It grows on hardwood logs and causes white rot, and gets its common name from its scientific one. Tyromyces means “with a cheesy consistency,” and chioneus means “snow white.” These mushrooms are big enough to be seen from a distance and when they are fresh they have a pleasing fragrance that some think is like cheesecake.

8. Frozen Mushroom Gills

This mushroom was frozen solid but had still held on to its colors, which reminded me of fall.

9. Alder Toungue Gall

Instead of being caused by an insect like many galls, alder (Alnus glutinosa) tongue gall is caused by a fungus (Taphrina alni). The fungus chemically deforms parts of the ovarian tissue of the female cone-like catkins (strobiles) and causes long, tongue shaped galls known as languets to grow from them. These galls seem to like high humidity so are usually found on alders that grow near ponds and streams.

10. Orange Jelly Fungi

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many orange jelly fungi (Dacrymyces palmatus) growing in one place before. They were on a hemlock stump no bigger than the average doughnut. Most of the orange ones that I see are growing on hemlock.

 11. Orange Jelly Fungi 2

These orange jelly fungi (Dacrymyces palmatus) grew inside a hollow log. Walking slowly and looking into hollow logs is a great way to find unexpected things but I only stick my hands in them after I’ve had a look first, because I’ve also seen sharp toothed chipmunks in them.

 12. Black Jelly Fungus

Black jelly fungi (Exidia glandulosa) often decorate alder bark in this area. These were a bit shriveled because of the cold and the lack of rain, but once we see some rain they will swell up and look like puffed up pillows. It’s amazing how much jelly fungi can swell up after a rain.

 13. Witch Hazel Bracts

Last year the witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) along the river were still blooming on January 21st, but not this year. All that is left are the cup shaped bracts which the strap shaped yellow petals unfurl from. I think 10 below zero in early December was too cold too soon and “switched them off” for this winter. Normally they won’t bloom much past Thanksgiving, so the last two or three years of seeing them bloom later and later have been unusual.

 14. Maleberry Seed Pods

If you glanced at a maleberry (Lyonia ligustrina) shrub in spring or early summer you might think it was a blueberry, because its flowers resemble blueberry flowers. Both shrubs are in the blueberry family and maleberry is sometimes called male blueberry. You would be waiting a long time to find anything blue on this bush though-its fruit is a hard capsule full of seeds. The 5 part capsules make this an easy shrub to identify in winter. I just look for the star on the end of the capsules. I find them on the banks of ponds, growing next to alders.

Commonly we stride through the out-of-doors too swiftly to see more than the most obvious and prominent things. For observing nature, the best pace is a snail’s pace.  ~Edward Way Teale

Thanks for coming by.

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I’ve been walking these New Hampshire woods for a long time now-close to fifty years-without ever seeing a black fungus. This year it seems like I’m suddenly seeing them everywhere. The latest I found- growing on a dead limb-are in the photo below. This was before the recent snowfalls of an inch or two. 

These look brown in the picture, but when I found them they looked black.  I think the color shift must be because of the way the sunlight is hitting them. Now that I see them in the photo, they look like a fungus known as Jew’s Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae), so named, as the story goes, because Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an elder tree. “Judas’s ear” was later shortened to “Jew’s ear.” These were growing on oak, not elder, and I prefer brown jelly ear to Jew’s ear. It could also be brown witch’s butter (Tremella foliacea). Not being able to positively identify it is frustrating.

A further source of frustration is in the photo below-another jelly fungus that I’ve not been able to identify.

 I wrote about these in December when I found them but still haven’t been able to positively identify them. As I said then, I think these might be Black Bulgar (Bulgaria inquinans.) Common names for Black Bulgar include gum mushrooms, jelly drops, rubber buttons, or pope’s buttons. They could also be black witch’s butter ( Exidia glandulosa.)

Not being able to identify bits of nature gets me frustrated because it usually isn’t that difficult; I’ve been doing it since grade school. But, as anyone who studies nature knows, now and then a wild thing appears that can be almost impossible to identify. A good field guide helps, so I bought a better one than the one I already had for mushrooms.

 This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to learn more about mushroom identification, but the section on jelly fungus wasn’t much help in my quest. 

To be fair to the book though, the jelly fungi are one of the most complicated groups and often can’t be completely identified without a microscope. To make things even more complicated, many slime molds go through a jelly like phase.

So, to lessen my frustration over not being able to identify these unusual forest dwellers, I’ve decided that from now on I’ll just enjoy seeing and getting pictures of them and leave the identification to the experts.

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