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Posts Tagged ‘Late Fall Oyster Mushroom’

There is a power that comes when you’re in nature; sometimes it can come from gazing into the unrippled surface of a pond. Sometimes it comes when you sit with your back against an old tree. It is a kind of internal power that comes from the stillness, but sometimes I’d rather feel a different kind of power; an external power. Sometimes I want to just take life by the horns and hang on for what may be a wild ride, and I can find that here at forty foot falls.

Wet oak leaves and acorns can be almost as slippery as ice and I have fallen here a few times, but with your full attention and a bit of planning it can be done without mishap. I also go a bit slower these days. I always wear a bright orange hat and vest here because there are deer in these woods, and there are also deer hunters in these woods. The night after I came here I dreamed that I saw a beautiful white tail buck with a huge rack of antlers just standing at the edge of the woods. I also dreamed that I didn’t have a camera with me, which is usually the case when I see such things.

I saw what I think were more late fall oyster mushrooms (Panellus serotinus) on a log.

The gills looked right.

I made it up to what I call the middle falls easily enough. This is a good place to rest a bit, but don’t expect quiet. Though there wasn’t as much water as I’ve seen in the past the roar was the same.

I usually wait until this time of year after the leaves fall to visit here because this forest is very dark. I thought I’d have enough light for photos on this day but clouds rolled in and it was still quite dark. If the light appears different in one photo to the next that’s why.

I’ve known for a long time that what we call beech bark blister disease is caused by both an insect and a fungus but I had never seen it until now. The white cottony substance seen on this tree is the insect called beech scale (Cryptococcus fagisuga). According to Wikipedia science doesn’t fully understand how it works but it is known that excessive feeding by this insect causes two different fungi, Neonectria faginata and Neonectria ditissima, to produce annual cankers or blisters on the bark of the tree. The continuous formation of lesions around the tree eventually girdles it, resulting in canopy death. I would say in this instance we could call this excessive feeding by the scale. I’ve read in the past that each insect pierces the bark to feed, and that tiny hole is enough to let fungal spores in.

Here are the cankers or lesions, also called blisters. Some trees are covered with them as high up as you can see and I see dead beeches just about wherever I go. It’s really too bad because beech is one of our most beautiful trees.

A few years ago there was a terrible flood that came through here and washed away roads and structures, and one of the things it washed away was a bridge, and I believe this steel cable was part of that bridge.

In any event the cable is here and is easy to get tangled up in, so I always watch for it. On this day I used it to help pull myself up the hill.

Soon it will have become part of several trees. A woodcutter’s nightmare.

Once you’ve made it up the hill you get a first glimpse of what I call the canyon.

It’s a tumbled, jumbled place with huge boulders tossed here and there, and trees torn up by their roots. The power of water is incredible, and it shows here.

But it’s also a beautiful place; well worth the effort it takes to get here. I’ve used this view as the opening shot in posts I’ve done on mosses a couple of times.

It’s a beautiful, green place. You can see how vibrant and full of life the mosses are.

And you want to touch them; to pet them, almost. Broom moss (Dicranum scoparium) gets its common name from the way the leaves all point in the same general direction, making it look as if it had been swept by a broom. It’s a fairly common moss that grows in large tufts or mats on logs and tree bases, soil or stone.

The water, or the objects in the water, have stripped the bark off several trees.

Whatever sat on that tree for years and bent it like that has been washed away. Only the memory of it remains.

I made it all the way to the upper falls without a problem this time. The upper falls are a bit anticlimactic; it’s hard to believe all the water and destruction we’ve seen comes from what appears to be a trickle, but I wouldn’t want to be standing here after two days of heavy rain. One odd thing I noticed that I never have before is how everything, the boulder faces and even the waterfall itself, is tilted at about 10 degrees off vertical.

Now we go back down, and going back down this hill is harder than most. Some of it is so steep I have to sit down and slide on the leaves. Not very dignified perhaps, but it beats breaking a leg.

As I was driving off I saw a bright spot in the woods. At first I thought these fungi must be chicken of the woods but they couldn’t be because they had gills and chicken of the woods is a polypore with pores, so it was off to the mushroom books. I’m fairly sure now that they were the mock oyster or orange oyster (Phyllotopsis nidulans) mushrooms. They can be very hairy or fuzzy at first but smoother later. These were more like velvet. They are supposed to be very stinky but I got quite close and smelled nothing unusual. They can be found clustered on both hardwood and conifer logs from fall to late winter. They are said to cause a white, stringy rot in the log. They’re quite pretty and this is the first time I’ve seen them.

Leisure is a form of silence, not noiselessness. It is the silence of contemplation such as occurs when we let our minds rest on a rosebud, a child at play, a Divine mystery, or a waterfall. ~Fulton J. Sheen

Thanks for stopping in.

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I was going to climb a hill last Saturday but it felt quite warm at 55 degrees, so I went to the lake instead. This is Swanzey Lake, one of many lakes in the area. Since it is relatively close to Keene you can usually expect the swimming area on the east side of the lake to be packed with children on a sunny summer day. I spent many wonderful hours swimming and playing here as a boy. There were even bathrooms and a snack bar.

If it rained you could go into the hall but there wasn’t really much of anything to do other than sit and wait for the rain to stop.

On this day the water was low because of the drought so the beach was twice as wide as it usually is. I swam here regularly as a boy but I had a blockage in my mind that told me I couldn’t swim in deep water, even though I swam fine in shallow water. My cousin, who was a lifeguard, told me “Don’t say you can’t swim. I’ve seen you do it; you swim like a fish.” He said that just before he dropped me into the deep end of a swimming pool, and it was a good thing he was a lifeguard because I swam like a stone and had to be rescued before I drowned. Only after I surrendered to the fact that I would never swim for real did the paralyzing fear melt away so I could finally swim in deep water. I didn’t have many opportunities to show it off here though; the water goes out 30 feet before it is over an adult’s head and a swimming area was always roped off for younger children. There was a lifeguard that made sure you stayed inside the ropes as well.

I discovered that watching ripples through a camera lens is completely mesmerizing.

A large bird with big feet walked all over the sand of the beach. I thought it might be a heron but I don’t know for certain.

You get down to the beach by following a paved downhill driveway, and rainwater washes down the driveway with such force that it creates deep gullies in the beach. I would have thought that it would have been fixed by now but no. It has been going on since I was a boy and I found myself wondering how much sand had washed into the lake in all that time.

If it weren’t for the fact that the swimming area has been developed the forest would grow right down to the water’s edge. There is a small area that is still forested and some quite large white pines grow there. They are lichen covered, with the ones that want the most humidity like these shield lichens growing on the side toward the lake.

There are a few trees just at the beach start and their roots have become quite exposed, both by years of small foot traffic and the washing of the water.

I was very surprised to find trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) growing among the tree roots. Trailing arbutus is also called mayflower because that’s often when its small white to pink, very fragrant flowers appear.  Its oval evergreen leaves are tough and leathery and hug the ground but though it looks like a groundcover botanically speaking it has a persistent woody stem, so it is classified as a shrub. This was one of my grandmother’s favorite flowers and she would walk in the woods to find and smell it rather than dig it up to plant in her yard.  It’s too bad everybody didn’t do the same because this plant was once collected into near oblivion. These days it can be found at many nurseries so there is no longer any reason to dig it up. Since it’s very fussy unless it’s given the right amount of light, water, nutrients and soil type it won’t grow except where it chooses to anyway. It seemed to be doing well here in full sun, even though I usually find it in shady areas.

Horsehair lichens (Bryoria trichodes) and others grow on the sides of the trees opposite the water, which tells me they must need a little less humidity. Since it has rained little lately these lichens were very dry. Beard and hair lichens are extremely sensitive to air pollution and will only grow where the air quality is high. Deer, moose and squirrels eat this lichen and there are stories of deer rushing out of the forest and eating it out of the tops of felled spruce trees while loggers with chainsaws were still cutting the trees up.

An old tree stump was covered with American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) plants. They are also called teaberry or checkerberry and their small white flowers resemble those of the blueberry. It is probably the easiest of all wintergreens to identify because of the strong minty scent that comes from its crushed leaves. If you have ever tasted teaberry gum then you know exactly what it smells and tastes like. The plant contains compounds that are very similar to those found in aspirin and Native Americans used it much like we use aspirin. They also chewed the leaves for refreshment on long hikes.

Cushion mosses grew under an alder. White cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) can appear silvery, white, bluish green or grayish green but it always forms a thick cushion and stands out from the mosses that might surround it. It likes plenty of water and shade. It is probably the easiest of all the mosses to identify.

What could be better than green grass on November 21st in New Hampshire? Not that long ago you could ice skate in November.

This toadskin lichen (Lasallia papulosa) is very special to me because it is the only one I’ve ever seen that wasn’t on a mountaintop. Toadskin lichens show dramatic color changes when they dry out like many other lichens. When wet it is pliable and pea green and when dry it becomes crisp and ash gray like the above example. Toadskin lichens get their common name from their many “warts.” They attach themselves to stone at a single point that looks like a belly button, and that makes them umbilicate lichens.

I left the beach and went down the road just a bit to the boat launch. I used to fish here with my daughter and son when they were younger and I still see many people doing the same in the summer. We always hoped for lake trout but got sunfish instead.

The black line on that boulder shows the normal water level. I’d say it was down about a foot and a half which, when spread over the surface of the entire lake, is an awful lot of water lost.

I was surprised to see water still flowing over the dam but it was really just a trickle when compared to a normal water height.

Someone built a fine new bridge over the spillway. I stood on it to take that previous photo.

Mallards didn’t mind the low water level. In fact it probably made it easier for them to find food. There was quite a large group of them and I was surprised that they didn’t fly away when they saw me. Mallards are often very skittish in these parts, I think because nobody feeds them.

There is a large grassy area where people can sit and picnic. I sat here for awhile and enjoyed the sound of the waterfall while I watched the ducks. To sit by the water on a green lawn in the warm sunshine without a coat on in November while listening to the birds sing is a great gift.

What I think was a winter oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) grew on a tree. Its upturned gills made them easy to admire. This example was dying but I often find that mushrooms are often as beautiful in death as they are in life. The color and movement that this one showed were beautiful.

On another stump there was quite a crop of them. You have to watch what you’re doing at all times when foraging for mushrooms but especially the “winter mushrooms”, because the cold can change their color. We’ve had nights in the teens and I’m sure these examples had probably been frozen and had darkened because of it. They might have also been the late oyster mushroom (Panellus serotinus).

This one looked very fresh. I think it was a late oyster because of the yellow orange gill color. Late oysters aren’t considered as choice as winter oysters here but the Japanese consider them a great delicacy.

And this little mushroom had found a place to get out of the cold winds. I’m not sure what it was but I admired its pluck.

The strangest thing I saw this day was this willow shedding its bud scales and showing its “pussies.” The only guess I have is that it was fooled by the warm weather after the cold we had. Plants can be fooled by such things and they usually pay for it by not being able to produce seeds the following year.

If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. ~Tecumseh, Shawnee

Thanks for coming by. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day. 

A few of the many things I have to be thankful for this year are:
The neighbor’s rooster. I love hearing him crow each morning when I leave for work.
The wonderful smell of woodsmoke I smell each day on the way home as I drive by a barbecue restaurant.
The time change; the sunrises have been beautiful on my way to work.
And I’m most thankful for the fact that nobody I know has gotten sick. I do hope all of you can say the same.

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1. Trail

Last weekend I was itching to see a frozen waterfall so I went up to 40 foot falls in Surry. Unfortunately all the hemlock trees made it so dark that photography was out of the question, so instead I ended up at Porcupine falls in Gilsum. It was a very cold day with a breeze blowing, so it was a brisk hike up the old road.

 2. Stone Wall

A break in the stone wall beside the road reminded me of a Chinese dragon so I had to get a photo of it.

3. Sulfur Dust Lichen

Further down the wall I saw some sulfur dust lichen (Chrysothrix chlorina) growing on the underside of a stone. I don’t know if it is sunlight or rain that this lichen dislikes but I always find it growing under some type of overhang where neither can fall directly on it, as if it were too shy to be seen.

4. Tracks

Somebody crossed and re-crossed the trail many times. I’m guessing it was a field mouse.

 5. White Fungus

I’m also guessing that the same little critter that left all of the tracks in the snow had been eating this mushroom, but I don’t know that for sure. I took this photo because what struck me most was how the mushroom was whiter than the snow.

6. Indian Tobacco Seed Heads

I saw some Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) seed heads poking up out of the snow and they made me wish that I could see the small blue flowers that preceded them. It’ll be a while yet before I see them or any other flowers though. This little lobelia gets its common name from the way its seed pods look like the tobacco pouches that were carried by Native Americans.

7. Frozen Stream

One of the strangest things about this hike was the silence. I wish I could somehow show how very different a walk like this can be between summer and winter. Last fall on my first trip to see this waterfall it was simple; I just followed the roar of the stream, but on this day there was no roar or any other sound except my own huffing and puffing and the squeak of the snow. I had to watch carefully for the turnoff that I knew was somewhere up ahead.

8. Bridge

This bridge crossing the stream marks the place but it’s out in the woods a few yards away from the old road and I passed it even though I was watching for it.  I had to backtrack to find it.

 9. Frozen Falls

The view of the frozen falls from the bridge was a bit anti-climactic, and I decided as I stood here that frozen waterfalls in general aren’t that exciting; at least, from what I’ve seen of them.

 10. Frozen Falls

A side view wasn’t much more spectacular, but the photos don’t really convey the bigness of the thing. I’m guessing the height of the ice is maybe 35-40 feet from top to bottom.

11. Bench

Nobody was sitting on the bench and I wasn’t surprised. It was very cold and I was starting to shiver, so I thought I better get walking.

 12. Yellow Something

I stopped to see what I thought was a yellow slime mold growing on a log the last time I was here but now I see that it is hairy, much like the filamentous Trentepohlia aurea algae I find growing on the rock faces in the deep rail trail cut in Westmoreland. I’ve read that it can be yellow, among other colors, and that it can grow on logs. In China there is a red variant that has carpeted an entire river valley and is so beautiful and unusual that it has become a tourist attraction. The valley has been renamed “Red Stone Valley.”

 13. Mushroom on Birch

I saw a reddish brown mushroom on a birch tree that was frozen as solid as a brick. When I think of mushrooms that grow on birch trees I think of birch polypores (Piptoporus betulinus), but this wasn’t one of those because it had gills instead of pores. I have a feeling that this might have been a late fall oyster mushroom (Panellus serotinus.) We have seven different varieties of oyster mushroom here in New England and they can be found on a variety of trees in spring through late fall.

14. Mushroom Underside

The mushroom grew on the birch tree at about knee high but I wanted a shot of its gills so I took off my gloves and knelt in the snow, taking and rejecting shot after shot. Occasionally I get so engrossed in the object at hand that I lose myself in it and often have no idea how long I’ve been studying it. That happened on this day and as usual ended with the realization that once again I had been outside of myself. Not only had I lost track of time but I hadn’t felt the cold, and that isn’t wise in January in New Hampshire. Feeling the cold is what helps us keep Jack Frost from stealing our fingers and toes.

15. Orange Soil

There are certain towns, or areas inside of towns, in Cheshire County that have a very strangely colored soil that has always looked orange to me. Since I’m colorblind I’ve always told myself that it was really brown but no, my color finding software sees orange as well. In my last post I found out that oak leaves really can be pink and now we have orange soil.

I should mention that seeing this soil on your property is a bad sign because it is pure silty sand and few plants will grow well in it. If you have this kind of poor soil you should immediately start adding all of the compost and manure that you can get your hands on before trying to grow a garden.

16. Ice Covered Moss

I wanted to take a photo of some moss covered in ice to show how tough mosses really are, but when I saw this photo I was more interested in the ice than the moss because of the strange light that seems to be inside it. It’s as if the light of creation itself was in there, shining out of this tiny drop.  It reminded me of photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and of William Blake holding infinity in the palm of his hand in his poem Auguries of Innocence.

Lose yourself in nature and find peace. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thanks for coming by.

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I thought, just in case the world didn’t end on the 21st, that I’d take a few pictures for today. As usual, these are photos of things that didn’t seem to fit anywhere else.

1. Mackrel Sky

When cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds look like fish scales it is said to be a “mackerel sky.” An old saying says that “a mackerel in the sky means three days dry,” but whether or not it remains dry depends on the amount of moisture in the lower atmosphere. A mackerel sky in winter is said to mean eventual snowstorms and flurries, and that’s exactly what we saw here 3 days after this mackerel sky.

2. Cirrus clouds

Mare’s tails are the uncinus (hook shaped) form of cirrus clouds and form high in the sky where it is cold and very windy. They are made up of tiny ice crystals and are often a sign of a cold front moving over a warm air mass. This can signal bad weather is coming and these appeared the same day that the mackerel sky did. Cirrus means “curls of hair” in Latin.

3. Cable in Tree

If you have ever been cutting up logs into firewood with a chainsaw and have run into a nail or piece of wire, then this scene will send shivers down your spine. This is a very dangerous set up for a future logger, not to mention the trauma caused to the tree. Loggers and arborists have found bullets, wedding rings, cannon balls, saws, garden shears, beer bottles, hubcaps, horse shoes, and just about anything else you can imagine inside live trees.

4. Bracket Fungi on December 19

We’ve had snow, ice and freezing temperatures but these fungi appeared recently on a tree that is a favorite perch of red winged blackbirds. Unfortunately the birds might have to find another spot to roost, because fungi on a living tree almost always mean its death. I think these are late fall oyster mushrooms (Panellus serotinus.) Late fall yes, but I never expected to see them in mid-December.

5. Hoar Frost

When water vapor turns into ice crystals instead of liquid water, it makes frost. When the frost grows beyond the typical fine white coating and forms “needles” it is called hoarfrost. Frost forms similar to the way that snowflakes do, except that it forms near the ground while snowflakes form around dust particles floating in the air. I learned these fascinating facts by reading Jennifer Shick’s blog, called A Passion for Nature. It’s a blog that is worth visiting if you have the time.

9. Oak Tree Growing on a Stump

I found this colorful oak seedling growing in an old lichen covered stump. I was surprised that it still had leaves at all, and stunned that they were still so colorful in December.

10. Rose and Bittersweet

Two of the most invasive plants in New Hampshire are the multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) and oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus.) Here the bittersweet twines around the rose in what will eventually become a death grip, with the bittersweet strangling the rose. Oriental bittersweet is strong enough to strangle and take down trees and that is why the forest service wants it eradicated. After fighting it for years as a gardener I have to say-good luck with that.

11. Barberry Fruit

Another highly invasive plant that is found all over the state is Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii,) and these little red berries that are prized by birds are the reason for its great success. This plant is actually a native of southern Europe and central China that was imported as a landscape specimen. It is now scorned and considered a noxious weed because its sharp thorns impede the movement of wildlife. I can say from experience that they also impede human movement.

12. Beech Bud

Leaf buds on beech trees (Fagus) are a favorite food of deer and one theory of why young beech trees hang on to their leaves says that the dry, papery leaves are unpalatable to the critters. According to the theory, this makes deer search for other food and leave beech trees alone.

13. Dead Bracket Fungi

Sometimes there is beauty even in death. I thought these dried bracket fungi looked like miniature white roses from a distance.

14. Empty Bee Balm Seedhead

The birds have eaten all the seeds out of the bee balm (Monarda) in my yard, so maybe they should get some bird seed for Christmas.
Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store ~Dr. Seuss
Have a Merry Christmas, everyone. Thanks for stopping in.

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