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Posts Tagged ‘Oyster Mushrooms’

Mushrooms are 90-95% water and since we’ve had plenty of rain they’re popping up literally everywhere I go right now. When mushrooms appear you can’t dilly dally like you can with flowers; you’ve got to get to them relatively quickly, because animals like deer and squirrels will eat all they find in a matter of hours. What mushrooms animals don’t eat slugs and molds will. Nothing is wasted in nature and everything gets eaten in one way or another eventually, like the mushrooms in this photo; mold had started to cover them before they could even release their spores.

Here are a couple of slugs eating this mushroom; a common sight. Mushrooms don’t stay around long, so I’ve been in the woods every chance I had to get the photos that follow. I show them here not so you’ll run out and pick mushrooms to eat, but simply so you can see what is happening in the woods right now, and so you can enjoy their beauty as much as I do.

A jelly fungus called Calocera cornea covered this log. This tiny fungus appears on barkless, hardwood logs after heavy rains. The fruiting bodies are cylindrical like a finger coral fungus and it looks like a coral fungus, but microscopic inspection has shown it to be a jelly fungus. This photo shows only part of what covered this log. The huge numbers of what looked like tiny yellow flames licking out of the log was quite a sight.

Calocera cornea is called the small staghorn fungus, for obvious reasons. Each fruit body comes to a sharp looking point.

These are a good example of a coral fungus called spindle or finger corals (Clavulinopsis fusiformis.) They look quite different from the jelly fungus we just saw. 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. One fact helpful in identifying these yellow finger coral mushrooms is that they always grow in tight clusters, while look alikes do not.

There are many types of coral fungi in the woods at this time of year. They can be very hard to identify without a microscopic look at the spores but I think this one might be cockscomb or crested coral (Clavulina coralloides.) Crested corals have branches that end in sharp tips and these tips will often turn brown. I don’t see these as often as I do other types of coral fungi.

I’ve seen photos online of slime molds very similar to this one but the people who took the photos didn’t have any more luck identifying it than I did. For now all I can say is that it is a white slime mold, possibly a Physarum, in the plasmodium stage. I should also say that I had to use a flash for many of these photos because of the cloudy days and forest darkness. This plasmodial slime mold, like many others, moves using cytoplasmic streaming, which is basically a contracting of “muscles” by all of the separate nuclei until they come together in a single mass, when they shift from the growth to the fruiting stage.

One of the most fascinating things about slime molds is how they move. They are thought of as a giant single cell with multiple nuclei which can all move together as one at speeds of up to an inch per hour. They can also climb as they have on this tree.

As slime molds go, this many headed slime (Physarum polycephalum) is usually large and easy to see. This one covered a beech log. According to Wikipedia “A plasmodial slime mold is enclosed within a single membrane without walls and is one large cell. This super cell (a syncytium) is essentially a bag of cytoplasm containing thousands of individual nuclei.” Slime molds aren’t plants and they aren’t fungi. They come closer to being amoebas than anything else and are believed by some to have simple brains. My question is how they know what the others are “thinking?” They seem to have the same “group think” abilities as a school of fish or a flock of birds, and that is quite amazing.

People will tell you that there aren’t any blue slime molds but I tend to believe what I see over what people tell me so here is a blue slime mold that I’ve seen each year for the past three. These tiny things are so small all I can see is their color, like a blue smudge on a log. I can’t see any real detail by eye, so I have to let the camera see for me-quite literally “shooting in the dark.” From this blue stage they go on to become white.

We go from the tiny to the huge; this tree stump was about 7 feet tall and was absolutely covered with oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus.) The fallen part of the tree was also covered with them. I’ve never seen so many growing together.

Oyster mushrooms are pure white and seem to always grow in overlapping clusters like those in the photo. Oyster mushrooms have off center stems that usually grow out of the side of the log and are hidden by the cap when seen from above. That little insect might want to be careful; 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.

I’ve read that large amounts of water will cause deformation in chanterelle mushrooms (Cantharellus cibarius) and I wonder if that’s what is going on here. We have certainly had a lot of rain lately. Chanterelle mushrooms are considered a delicacy.

From the side chanterelles look like trumpets, but so do many other mushrooms including the false chanterelle. That’s why mushrooms should never be eaten unless you are absolutely sure you know what you’re eating. I’ve had mushroom experts tell me that you can never be 100% sure of a mushroom’s identity without examining its spores under a microscope. Since I don’t have a microscope that means you can never be sure of my identifications either, so please don’t eat any mushroom you see here until you have an expert examine it first. There are mushrooms so toxic that one or two bites have killed. We have mushroom walks led by an expert or experts here. If you want to become serious about mushroom foraging they are a good place to start.

If they’re small, sticky and orange with bell shaped caps and grow on a cluster on a log they must be orange mycena mushrooms (Mycena leaiana.) These little (less than an inch across) mushrooms fruit from June through September and are fairly common. If you touch them the orange color will stain your fingers. Mycena mushrooms also come in bright red, pink and purple. Some also bleed a blood colored latex when cut.

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.

Considering the weather we’ve had red hot milk caps (Lactarius rufus) seem appropriate. Milk caps get their name from the white milky latex they exude, which is said to be extremely hot and acrid. Though it looks like it has a ring on the stem just under the cap in this photo I think that must be slug damage to the stem itself, because this mushroom has no ring. Of course, I could also be wrong about its name.

To see very 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. Each one in this group was smaller than a pea.

My Mushroom books don’t say much about club shaped fungi but I think this might be Clavaria ornatipes. This fungus is described as spatula or club shaped and greyish to pinkish gray. These fungi shrivel when they dry out and revive after a rain. They grew directly out of the ground and there were hundreds of them.

I’ve seen little orange mushrooms all over the place and they all seem to differ slightly is size, shape and color intensity. I think these might be chanterelle wax cap mushrooms (Hygrocybe cantharellus.) This type of mushroom is considered one of the most colorful and also one of the most aesthetically pleasing, according to mushroom identification books. One of my books even has them on its cover. I have to agree; they even look good broken.

What I think are horsehair parachute mushrooms (Marasmius androsaceus) look a lot like their cousins the tiny little pinwheel mushrooms (Marasmius capillaris,) except for the dark spot in the center of the cap. These mushrooms grow on leaf litter on the forest floor and help break down all the debris that falls from the trees. They usually grow in large groups but are so small many don’t see them. The caps on the largest of these might reach pea size on a good day.

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.

If you happen to see a mushroom that looks like it stuck its finger in a light socket you’re probably seeing something rarely seen. Called a “mycoparasitic mucorale,” Syzygites megalocarpes pin mold has been found on about 65 different mushrooms, but it will only appear when the temperature and humidity are absolutely what it considers perfect. It has multi branched sporangiophores that make the mushrooms it attacks look like it is having a bad hair day. This pin mold can appear overnight and starts off bright yellow, but as it ages it becomes paler until finally turning a blue gray color. It looks on the whitish side in this photo because I had to use a flash. It’s best not to get too close to these molds because inhaling their spores can make you very sick.

That’s all I have for mushrooms right now and for most of you that’s probably more than enough. I’m sorry for putting so many photos in this post but once you get bitten by the mushroom bug you can’t seem to stop looking for them, always hoping you’ll see something as adorable as these butter wax caps (Hygrocybe ceracea.) I hope you find all of them as beautiful as I do but if not I hope you will at least find them as interesting. I also hope you’ll see some of them for yourself.

Wild mushrooms and carpets of moss and bumblebees turning figure eights in the slashes of sun in the woods, as if they too are stupefied by the beauty of the place. ~Smith Henderson

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1-road-start

When it snows enough to make hiking a little more work I like to follow Beaver Brook in Keene. It’s a popular spot with both nature lovers and dog walkers and it’s rare that someone hasn’t made a path for you to follow. Since the old road that is now a trail essentially ends at a waterfall it’s easy to guess where the trodden snow path will lead.

2-ledges

One of the other reasons I like to come here in winter is because of the easy access to the ledges that are close beside the old road. There are many mosses and lichens that grow on thede ledges and I hoped to see the beautiful smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) that grow here, but unfortunately on this day snow covered them all.

3-blue-lichen

Though I didn’t see any smoky eye boulder lichens I did see one of the lichens that taught me that lichens can change color. This lichen is normally an ashy gray color in summer but as it gets colder it becomes darker and darker blue. This is the darkest I’ve ever seen it and I wonder if that’s because of the below zero nights we’ve had. I haven’t been able to identify it but it’s very granular and scattered, with no definite shape.

4-stairstep-moss

The stair-step moss (Hylocomium splendens) that I only find in this place is very delicate looking but it can take a lot of winter ice and snow and grows as far north as the arctic tundra. It is also called glittering wood moss and sparkles when the light is right. It grows on stone here and seems to like places when it can hang over an edge.

5-beaver-brook

Another reason I like coming here in winter is to see the often spectacular ice formations that grow along the brook, but this year it has frozen from bank to bank early and the only ice seen was flat and shapeless. Beaver Brook itself had been all but silenced except for a giggle heard here and there where there were small openings in the ice. It’s very strange to walk in a place where you know there is always the sound of running water and then suddenly not hear it. Only ice can silence a stream or river.

6-ice

There wasn’t even that much ice on the ledges, and I finally realized that the ice that grows here must grow from snow melt rather than seeping ground water. If it’s too cold for the snow to melt as it has been recently, ice doesn’t grow. If the ice came from seeping groundwater it would keep growing no matter how cold it got.

7-ice-on-stone

The dribbles of ice on this stone looked ancient, as if they had been here forever.

8-patterns-in-stone

Even without ice on them the stones here are fascinating and speak of the countless eons of tremendous pressure that stretched and folded these hills into what we see today. The stones here were once a mineral stew and today many blood red garnets can be found.

9-fern

Evergreen ferns grow under the ledge overhangs and wait patiently for spring, when this year’s green fronds will finally turn brown and new shoots will appear. It is thought that staying green through the winter lets evergreen plants begin photosynthesizing earlier in the spring, which gives them a head start over the competition.

10-large-boulder

Off in the woods across the brook stands a huge glacial erratic boulder. If it could be hollowed out two people could easily fit inside it with plenty of room to spare. One day an old timer I met here told me that there are people who cross the brook to climb it, but I’ve never seen them do so. He’s the same old timer who told me that he had seen the brook flood and cross the road, which is a very scary thing to think about because not too far from here is downtown Keene.

11-lichens-and-liverworts

There are about 800 species of frullania liverworts and many grow as epiphytes on the bark of trees and shrubs where the humidity is high. Epiphytic plants take nothing from the host plants they grow on, so this liverwort does no harm to trees. As it gets colder these liverwort turn color until they become a dark purple; almost black, so they are much more noticeable in winter than in summer when they’re green. Some can get fairly large but this example was smaller than a tennis ball.

12-frullania-liverwort

The tiny leaves of frullania liverworts are strung together like beads. Some frullania liverworts are said to be very fragrant but though I finally membered to smell a few they didn’t seem to have any scent at all. This liverwort can cause something called woodcutter’s eczema. This eczema, called phytodermatitis (basically an itchy rash,) has been seen in loggers and others who regularly handle logs or cord wood with it on them. It doesn’t sound like anything serious and usually disappears in two or three weeks once the person stops handling logs with liverworts on them.

13-script-lichens

Script lichens (Graphis) grow on tree bark all along this old road. The dark “script” characters are the lichen’s fruiting bodies (Apothecia.) There are many script lichen species and each seems to prefer a certain species of tree. This photo shows the clear separation between three species. Though the dark fruiting bodies are all horizontal in these examples, their size and spacing is quite different. Script lichens are another lichen that seems to produce spores only in cold weather. In summer they appear as whitish or grayish splotches on tree bark.

14-script-lichens

I got excited when I saw this script lichen because I thought I had found the rare and beautiful asterisk lichen (Arthonia radiata) that I’ve been searching for, but I think the two fruiting bodies that look like asterisks were just an anomaly in what is a common script lichen (Graphis scripta.)  In a true asterisk lichen all of the fruiting bodies would be star shaped.

15-golden-birch

Many of the trees looked like they wore capes of ermine. Speaking of ermines, I searched for the otter slides that I’ve seen here in the past, but didn’t see any. The old road has steep hillsides along its length and otters come here to slide down them in winter.

16-guard-post

This road was laid out in the 1700s and was abandoned in the early 70s when a new highway was built-literally right across the existing road. Since then nature has slowly been reclaiming the area. Some of the old guard rails still stand but many have been swallowed up by the brook, which over time has eaten away the edge of the road.

17-big-snowball

From a distance I thought that a boulder had rolled down off the hillside and landed in the road but it turned out to be a huge snowball that someone had rolled. It was chest high and must have taken considerable effort to move.

18-fungus

Fall oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) grew on the trunk of a maple but were now frozen solid. These fungi cause white rot and are not a good thing to see on living trees. Oyster mushrooms are also carnivorous. Scientists discovered in 1986 that they “exude extracellular toxins that stun {nematode] worms, whereupon the mycelium invades its body through its orifices.” They also consume bacteria (Pseudomonas and Agrobacterium) in order to get nitrogen and protein.

19-moss-on-tree

We’ve all seen the deep channels in tree bark but what I didn’t know until I started researching mosses and lichens for this blog is how rainwater runs in these channels. They’re like small vertical streams and a frozen one can be seen over on the left in this shot. Mosses and lichens and even some fungi take advantage of these streams and grow beside them on the tree’s bark. By doing so they probably get a little extra water when it rains.

20-oak-leaf

An oak leaf had fallen on the snow. Its dark color will attract sunlight and that will heat it enough to melt the snow, and it will gradually sink in until it eventually disappears under it. Oak leaves are among the most water resistant leaves but being under the snow all winter is enough to waterlog even them.

21-approaching-falls

I made it to the falls which are over on the right out of the photo but I didn’t bother climbing down the embankment to take photos of them because they were frozen and hardly making a sound. It would have been a slippery climb for a shot of a big lump of ice and once I get down in there I’m never sure if I’ll get back out because it’s very steep.

The stripped and shapely maple grieves
The ghosts of her departed leaves.
The ground is hard, as hard as stone.
The year is old, the birds are flown.
~John Updike

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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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1. Brickyard Brook

Recently, after seeing a great example of a liverwort on the Plants Amaze Me blog I wondered why I never saw such things. After thinking about it I realized that, just like anything else in nature, if I wasn’t seeing liverworts it was because I wasn’t looking in the right places. Since they like to grow where they never dry out completely I headed for a local brook to see if there were any there. Leafy liverworts look kind of like seaweed, so I didn’t think I’d have too much trouble finding at least one example.

2. Foliose Lichen

One of the first things I spotted was this foliose lichen, which I think might be called rag bag lichen (Platismatia glauca). It was growing on a tree limb and was very beautiful. It is one that I don’t think I’ve seen before.

3. Foliose Lichen

I wanted you to be able to see the beautiful growth patterns in the center of the foliose lichen shown in the previous photo, so this is a cropped version. This could also be crumpled rag lichen (Platismatia tuckermannii).

 4. Lemon Drops

I saw several examples of lemon drops here and there along the brook. Lemon drops (Bisporella citrina) are sac fungi that are very small and very hard to photograph. They are disc shaped when small and eventually become saucer shaped. Sometimes they fruit in the hundreds on fallen hardwood logs. They are one of the easiest fungi to see in the woods, but because they are so hard to photograph I usually take many from several different angles.

 5. Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) grew on a rotting hardwood stump. These white mushrooms are also easily seen. Their caps overlap like shingles and it always looks like they are crowding each other, trying to grow as close as possible. They have a very short stem that is sometimes absent. Tiny worms called nematodes live on plant and fungal tissue but not on oyster mushrooms. Scientists discovered in 1986 that oyster mushrooms “exude extracellular toxins that stun the worm, 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. It’s like something out of a science fiction novel.

 6. Pool in Brickyard Brook

There are several large pools along this stretch of brook. These are the kinds of places where I love to just sit for a while, listening to the woods. On this day there was a large bird circling overhead and making a very strange sound that sounded like a cross between the croak of a great blue heron and the caw of a crow. It’s a sound I don’t remember ever hearing and though I’ve listened to many bird calls online, I can’t find the exact sound that the bird made.Though there aren’t many leaves on the trees in this photo there were still enough in the canopy to prevent me from seeing what kind of bird it was.

 7. Moss Mnium punctatum

I thought that this might be a liverwort but it turned out to be a moss called Mnium punctatum. Though some mosses like this one can resemble vascular plants, mosses have no xylem and phloem, or vascular tissue. This is why mosses are classified as Bryophytes-plants that have no roots, leaves, or stem. They also have no flowers or seeds and reproduce through spores. Since mosses have no roots they need to grow in areas with adequate moisture. This one was growing in soil that was dripping wet.

 8. Rock Covered With Liverwort Bazzania trilobata

Something about the moss on this stone didn’t look quite right.

 9. Liverwort Bazzania trilobata

That’s because it wasn’t moss at all-it was a liverwort that looked like a mass of centipedes. Though not the one I was looking for this liverwort, called greater whip wort (Bazzania trilobata), was interesting and had a beauty all its own. It is quite small-each “leaf” is only about 1/8 inch (3mm) wide. The way the leaves hang down gives the shoots rounded backs and make them appear insect like. They almost look as if they’ve been braided.

 10. Liverwort Bazzania trilobata

The “trilobata” part of the scientific name comes from the way each leaf ends in 3 lobes or notches. This characteristic tells you that you have the correct liverwort when trying to identify it. Like mosses liverworts are bryophytes and have no roots. Unlike mosses liverworts won’t stand anything but pure, clean water. Even chlorinated water can harm them, so if you see liverworts growing in your area you know the water is good and clean.

 11. Ledge Face

Since I didn’t have any luck finding the liverwort that I was after at the stream I decided to try another place where stone ledges stay wet from dripping groundwater. They are also covered with colorful lichens, as the photo shows. These looked like orange sulfur fire dot lichens (Caloplaca flavovirescens) but this was liverwort day, so the lichens will have to wait for another time.

 12. Liverwort Conocephalum conicum 2

I hadn’t walked very far when I saw this mass of plants growing on the ledges. It was obviously not moss, but was it what I was looking for?

13. Liverwort Conocephalum conicum

Yes it was-the very reptilian liverwort called great scented liverwort (Conocephalum conicum), also called snakeskin liverwort, for obvious reasons. I didn’t know it at the time but if you crush this liverwort it is supposed to have a very unique, spicy scent. The reason it looks so snake like is because of the way its pores and air chambers are outlined on its surfaces. It is the only liverwort with this feature, so it is very easy to identify. In my opinion it is one of the most interesting and beautiful things found in nature, and it was well worth searching for.

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. ~ Eleanora Duse

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