Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Pear Shaped Puffballs’

1. Clouded Sulfur

I saw a clouded sulfur butterfly (Colias philodice) on an aster recently. It moved from flower to flower but was willing to sit still long enough for a couple of photos. I like the color combination.

2. Painted Turtle

Painted turtles are still lazing in the sun along the Ashuelot River. Soon they will burrow into the mud on the river bottom. As the water cools their internal temperature will drop to nearly match the water temperature and their metabolism will slow. They will take up enough oxygen to stay alive through their skin and hibernate until the weather warms in spring.

3. American Dagger Moth Caterpillar

The American dagger moth caterpillar (Acronicta americana) feeds on the leaves of deciduous trees like birch, elm, ash, hickory, maple, and oak. This one had someplace to be and was moving about as fast as I’ve ever seen a caterpillar move. It had a black head but it wouldn’t let me get a shot of it. American dagger moth caterpillars aren’t poisonous but some people do get a rash when they handle them.

4. Moose Antler

A coworker found a moose antler in the woods and I asked if I could get a photo of it for those who have never seen one. This was from a young moose and wasn’t that big, but some can get very big indeed. One recent trophy moose had antlers that spanned over 6 feet (75 5/8 inches) from tip to tip. Shed antlers aren’t a common site in these woods even though moose wander through every town in the region. Since they are relatively rare large moose antlers can be valuable when found in good condition. The trick is to find them before the mice, birds, coyotes and other critters chew them up.

5. Virginia Creeper

Fall always seems to start at the forest floor and slowly work its way up to the trees. At present it has reached the understory, as this Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) shows. I grew up with this plant; my mother loved it so much that she planted it to grow up the side of the porch. I watched it turn red each fall when I was a boy and now I look for it every year at this time.

6. Burning Bush

Burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) are also showing signs of fall, with more pink leaves coming every day. This shrub is much loved for its fall color but it is extremely invasive so its sale and cultivation are banned in New Hampshire. Our native highbush blueberry bushes (Vaccinium corymbosum) are quite colorful in the fall and are good alternatives for burning bush. Plant breeders have developed cultivars that are even more colorful than the natives. The American cranberry bush (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) is another native shrub that breeders have been working on and some cultivars display amazing color.

7. Burning Bush

They may be invasive but it’s hard to deny the beauty of burning bushes. Along the Ashuelot River in Swanzey there is a narrow strip of woodland where nearly the entire understory is made up of hundreds of these shrubs. It’s a great example of how invasive plants choke out the natives and create a monoculture. I’m not happy about the monoculture but when all of these shrubs turn the color of the leaves shown in the photo it’s an astoundingly beautiful sight. Though I can understand and even agree with every argument that says they should be destroyed, I have to admit that I’d be sorry to see them go.

8. Birches

Birch trees are among the first to turn in the fall but these examples are still showing more green than gold. We’ve had a very dry summer and I’m curious to see what the colors will be like this year; muted or more intense? So far the shrub colors don’t seem to be affected.

9. Lion's Mane Mushroom

Bear’s head or lion’s mane mushroom (Hericlum americanum) is a beautiful toothed fungus that looks like a fungal waterfall. Soft spines hang from branches that reach out from a thick central stalk. As it ages it will change from white to cream to brown. I didn’t think I was going to see one this year but I found this naval orange size example growing from the cut end of a felled tree just yesterday. I took its photo with my cellphone because that’s all I had with me. I haven’t had much luck taking close-ups with that phone so I was surprised when I saw that this shot was useable.

10. Coral Fungus

I think this white coral fungus might be cockscomb or crested coral (Clavulina coralloides.) Crested corals have branches that end in sharp tips which often turn brown. I don’t see these as often as I do other types of coral fungi. They are supposed to like growing under conifers and that’s just where I found it.

11. Golden Pholiota (Pholiota limonella) Mushrooms

Golden pholiota (Pholiota limonella) mushrooms grew on a beech log. The gilled, lemon yellow caps with reddish scales are slimy to the touch on these inedible mushrooms. An oak kindly dropped an acorn beside them for me so I could give you a sense of their size.

12. Pear Shaped Puffballs

Pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme) grow in clusters on stumps and logs but these examples were growing on a rotted part of a living, standing tree. That’s not good and the tree will eventually have to go. Their common name comes from their upside down pear shape which can’t really be seen in this photo. As they age pores open in the top of each one so its spores can be released.

13. Wild Plums

The wild plums are ripening. I found a thicket of about 3 small trees under some power lines in Swanzey a few years ago and though I’ve taken photos of the flowers I never came back to take any of the fruit until this year. I thought they were American plums (Prunus americana) but I’m not positive about that. They could also be Canada plums (Prunus nigra.) I’m going to have to pay very close attention to the flowers next spring. The fruit is small at about half the size of a hen’s egg but is said to make delicious jelly, whether American or Canadian.

14. Indian Cucumber Root

Botanically speaking a whorl is an “arrangement of sepals, petals, leaves, stipules or branches that radiate from a single point and surround or wrap around the stem,” and nothing illustrates this better than Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana.) Its leaves wrap around the stem arranged in a single flat plane, so if you saw them from the side theoretically you would see an edge, much like looking at the edge of a dinner plate. If any leaf or leaves in the arrangement are above or below others it’s not a true whorl.

15. Little Bluestem

Native little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) catches the light and glows in luminous ribbons along the roadsides. This grass is common, growing in every U.S. state except Nevada and Washington. According to the USDA its appearance can vary in height, color, length of leaves, flowering, and clump diameter from location to location. It’s a beautiful little 2-3 foot tall grass that lends a golden richness to life outdoors. After a frost it takes on a reddish purple hue, making it even more beautiful. The world would be a duller place without it.

16. Little Bluestem Seedhead

There is a lot going on in a light catching little bluestem seed head but I won’t try to explain it; I’ll just let you enjoy its unique beauty.

17. Hindu God Ganesh

I’ve been walking the banks of the Ashuelot River almost since I learned how to walk and I’ve seen some unusual things over the years, but by far the most unusual thing I’ve seen recently is this statue of the Hindu deity Ganesh that I found on its banks in Swanzey. Ganesh is said to be the lord of success and the remover of obstacles on one’s spiritual path. He is also thought to bring education, knowledge, wisdom and prosperity, so I’m wondering what it is the river is trying to tell me. It seems like whatever it is can only be good.

He who has experienced the mystery of nature is full of life, full of love, full of joy. Radiance emanates from the whole existence itself; it does not know the meaning of holding back. ~ Maitreya Rudrabhayananda

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

1. Snowy Path

There was a blog post coming up in just a few days and I had nothing; not even an idea, and I wondered if, for the first time in almost 4 years, I’d miss a post.  I shouldn’t have wondered at all because I know that all I have to do is free my mind of expectations and walk into the forest. If I go into the woods expecting or hoping to find a certain thing then I usually don’t find it, but if I just walk in with an open mind and let nature lead, I often see things that I’ve never seen before.

2. Snow on Ice

If you have ever walked down a woodland path with a two year old child then you know that they’re open to anything and fascinated by everything. They also walk very slowly down a crooked path, toddling from this to that and back again with a sense of wide eyed wonder. That’s exactly how to see the things in nature that others miss-let yourself be a child again. I walk at the pace of a two year old and my path is never straight. I stop and look around often, never knowing what I’ll see, and if I have to get down on my knees to take a photo I’m sure to scan the forest floor around me for a full 360 degrees before I stand up again. I’ve seen some amazing things by doing that.

3. Orange Crust Fungus

One of the first things I found on this day was this orange crust fungus, which I think is the crowded parchment fungus (Stereum complicatum.) The complicatum part of its scientific name means “folded back on itself.” This fungus often grows on fallen oak limbs and parasitizes some types of jelly fungi.

4. Puffballs

Before I stood up I followed my own advice, looked around and saw these pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme,) which grew on a log and stood out against what I think is a bright white lichen background, possibly whitewash lichen (Phlyctis argena.)

5. Whitewash Lichen

I walked further down the trail and saw this excellent example of whitewash lichen. From a distance it looks like someone has painted the tree. These lichens can cover quite a large area and can be greenish white, silvery, or bright white. They usually grow on hardwoods but can occasionally be seen on conifers as well.

6. Small Stream

Naturalist John Burroughs once said “to find new things, take the path you took yesterday.” I’ve found that to be very true and am always surprised by what I’ve missed on my first, second and even third visits to a place, so though I’ve followed this small stream a hundred times I decided to follow it again.

7. Partridge Berries

Partridge berries (Mitchella repens) aren’t new to me but though I’ve seen them a thousand times they are always a welcome sight, especially when there is snow on the ground. I don’t know about partridges, but I do know that wild turkeys eat the berries. Though the plant creeps along the forest floor like a vine, botanically speaking it is considered a “sub-shrub,” which simply means that it is a dwarf shrub, usually woody at its base.

8. Unknown Lichen or Fungus

Here is something new. So new in fact that I’m not even sure what to call it, because I don’t know if it is a lichen or fungus. I’ve never seen a lichen with fuzzy edges like these and I’ve never seen a fungus, even a crust fungus, that was so very thin and flat. I’ve searched all of my books and online and haven’t seen anything close to it, so this one has me stumped. It was a little bigger than a quarter and was growing on the bark of a standing hardwood. If you know what it is I’d like to hear from you.

Note: Biologist and botanical consultant Arold Lavoie has identified this lichen as Lecanora thysanophora, which is also called maple dust lichen. It is supposed to be common in the northeast but I’ve never seen it. Arold is from Quebec and has a website that looks extremely interesting but unfortunately I don’t read French. If you do you can visit the site at http://aroldlavoie.com/ Thanks very much for the identification Arold!

9. Blue Purple Lichen

This bluish-lavender lichen appeared in several spots on a boulder. I’ve never seen it before and I’m not even sure if it’s a lichen but if not I don’t know what else it could be. I’ve spent quite a lot of time looking for something similar in books and online and haven’t found anything. Again, if you know what it is I’d be happy to hear from you.

10. Intermediate Wood Fern

On the same boulder as the lichen in the previous photo, growing out of a crack was a tiny evergreen fern that I think is an intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia.)  Evergreen plants send sugar into their leaves in the winter to act as antifreeze, so evergreen ferns get a jump on photosynthesizing in the spring, basking in the sunshine for a month or two and growing new leaves before being shaded by tree leaves. By the time other ferns are just poking their fiddleheads from the soil the evergreens are well on their way. The boulder probably soaks up heat from the sun all day and releases it slowly at night, making this little fern’s life much easier.

11. Amber Jelly Fungus

Something else I’ve never seen is veins running through an amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa.) Amber jellies are common at this time of year on oak and alder limbs and when I find them I like to hold them up to the light and look through them, because they often look like stained glass. They grow like little pillows or sacks of air and I wonder if, instead of veins those are wrinkles. These fungi are also called willow brain but I’ve never found one on a willow.

12. Tree Skirt Moss aka Anomodon attenuatus

I’ve seen tree skirt moss (Anomodon attenuatus) growing on thousands of trees but never on trees this small. The biggest one in this photo was hardly bigger in diameter than an average garden hose.  Tree skirt moss grows up to 3 feet high around the bases of hardwoods, especially oaks. Knowing where certain mosses prefer growing, whether on soil, stone or wood, can help with identifying them.

 13. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Beautiful smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) are one of my favorite lichens but, though I’ve walked these woods since I was a boy I’ve never seen them growing here. I noticed this one and then took a closer look at the other stones in the area and found that they all had this lichen on them! I have to admit that at that moment I didn’t feel very observant, that’s for sure. It really is amazing what we can miss in the forest, and that’s why I keep going back to the same places again and again. Just when you start thinking that you’ve seen it all nature will show you that you haven’t even scratched the surface.

14. Tiny Pine Cone

The storm we had on Thanksgiving eve brought down a lot of branches, especially those of white pine (Pinus strobus.) There are a lot of tiny pine cones on these limbs which will never grow to release their seeds. Next fall the animals that eat them might have to hope for a good acorn, beech and hazelnut crop.

15. Whittled Branch

I found that someone, probably a young boy with a brand new jackknife, had whittled a pine branch into a tent peg. He had done a good job, too-there was no blood on it. The smell of the freshly carved pine and the thought of whittling took me back to my own boyhood and I’m sure I must have had a bounce in my step when I left the forest on this day. Not only did nature show me several things that I hadn’t seen before, but I felt twelve years old again for a time. How can you ask for a better day than that?

I can’t guarantee that everyone who goes into the woods will come out feeling twelve years old again but I can guarantee that if you walk slowly, stop often, and look closely, nature will show you things that you have never even imagined-mind blowing things, as we used to say back in the day.

Humans who spend time in the wilderness, alone, without man-made mechanical noise around them, often discover that their brain begins to recover its ability to discern things. ~Robert Anderson

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

1. Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar

The folks over at Bug gide.net tell me that this is a brown hooded owlet moth caterpillar (Cucullia convexipennis.) They feed on asters and goldenrod and this one was perched on a slender fragrant goldenrod leaf (Euthamia tenuifolia.) I thought he was a real snappy dresser.

2. Broad Winged Wasp Moth Caterpillar-

This is another one I needed help with. I’m told that this little caterpillar will become the largest and most broad winged wasp moth (Ctenucha virginica) in North America. That’s surprising, since the small caterpillar was less than an inch long. They feed on grass, which is just what this one was doing when I found it. The bluish hairs on each end are supposed to be white and I’m not really sure why they look blue unless it was the low light. Or maybe it’s a new kind of Ctenucha virginica.

3. Cabbage White

What I think was a cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) was on the damp sand at the edge of a river. There aren’t many plants in the cabbage family there, so I’m not sure what it was looking for. Moisture maybe?

4. Golden Pholiota Mushrooms

Golden pholiota (Pholiota limonella) mushrooms grow in clusters on living or dead wood, in this case a dead but still standing birch. The caps are yellow to orange yellow and slimy and always look wet. The stems are often covered with yellow to reddish brown scales like those in the photo. These examples were small but they can get quite large. They are said to be inedible.

5. October Indian Pipes

I was really surprised to see these Indian pipes blooming in October. They were just turning their nodding flowers to the sky, which means they’ve been pollinated and are ready to set seed.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen them growing this late in the year.

6. Aspen Bolete aka Leccinum insigne

Aspen boletes (Leccinum insigne) are very similar to birch boletes (Leccinum scabrum) but the aspen bolete has an orange cap and the birch bolete’s cap is reddish brown. Both have rough looking stems which are caused by dark brown, wooly scales. Boletes have pores on the underside of their cap so if you look there it’s impossible to confuse them with any gilled mushroom. It is however easy to mistake one bolete for another and since some of them are toxic, it’s always wise to know your mushrooms well before taking even one bite. Even experts have been poisoned by them.

7. Pear Shaped Puffballs

It’s the time of year when puffballs appear and I’m starting to see quite a few. These examples are pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme). Inhaling certain puffball spores can lead to a respiratory disease known as Lycoperdonosis, where yeast like structures actually grow in lung tissue, so it shouldn’t ever be done. There are several recorded instances of children, usually teens, inhaling large amounts of spores under the false belief that they could get high, only to get very sick and end up in hospitals instead. It’s fine for children to “puff” a puffball as we all have, but they should never inhale the spores.

8. Solomon's Seal Berries

The small blue berries of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) look a lot like blueberries, with the same powdery bloom. Native Americans used the dried potato-like roots of this plant to grind into flour for breads and soups. Young shoots are also edible, but the berries are not. The plant also has many medicinal uses.

9. Green Stink Bug

The folks at bug guide.net might be getting tired of hearing from me, because I had to ask their help in identifying this insect too. They say that it’s a green stink bug nymph (Chinavia hilaris.) He looked very platy and had a dragon’s face, complete with fangs, on his back.

 10. Green Stink Bug

After I watched him for a while and took a couple of photos he turned and started doing what looked like push-ups. Of course, he could have been gearing up to release his stink from the stink glands on the underside of his thorax, I don’t know. I’ve read that it is a very foul odor so I’m glad that I didn’t have to smell it. These bugs can cause a lot of damage in gardens and orchards.

11. Grasshopper

This grasshopper appeared to have gotten himself stuck in a crack between two pieces of railing. I tried to get him out using a key but he wanted none of it and fought my help, so I let him be.  He didn’t seem to mind having his picture taken.

 12. Oak Apple Gall

I was surprised to find a fresh oak apple gall this late in the season because they usually develop in the spring. Theses galls are caused by a gall wasp known as Biorhiza pallida laying an egg inside a leaf bud. Tissue swells around the egg and a gall is formed. You can see the gall wasp larva in the center of the gall section on the right. Once they develop into an adult wasp they make a hole through the side of the gall and fly (or crawl) off to begin the cycle again. I’ve read that some gall wasps can hatch in winter but I’m not sure how that would work.

 13. Leaves on Water

The leaves are falling fast now but I might get in another foliage post or two before they’re all down.

 14. Vinca Blossom

I found a large patch of vinca (Vinca minor) in the woods and one plant seemed to think that spring was here already. I’m hoping that it knows something I don’t.  Quite often when you find this plant growing in the woods it’s a sure sign that there is an old cellar hole nearby because this was a plant that was often passed from neighbor to neighbor, even though it isn’t native. Lilacs and peonies are other plants that were shared in the same way and when found in the woods they also signal a cellar hole. I’ve found remarkable examples of all three blooming beautifully out in the middle of nowhere, as they must have been for 100 years or more.

A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life. ~Lewis Mumford

Thanks for coming by.

 

Read Full Post »

1. Pond Ice

This photo of pond ice does something to satisfy that abstract craving that I have every now and then. It seemed to want to be in black and white so I granted its wish, even though it hardly changed from the original. These shards of ice were quite long and looked like they had just started to form. The process of ice crystals beginning to form in super cooled water is called nucleation.

 2. Bracket Fungi on Bracket Fungi

There were bracket fungi growing on this tree when it fell. Bracket fungi have their top toward the sky and bottom toward the soil but when the tree they grow on falls, what was horizontal can become vertical. They solve that problem by growing young, horizontal bracket fungi from the older ones that now grow vertically. That’s determination.

 3. Bracket Fungi on Bracket Fungi

A shot from another direction shows that these bracket fungi have teeth.  I think they might be Steccherinum ochraceum, which is a tooth fungus that can form brackets and is strongly affected by gravity and sunlight.

4. White Pine Bark

This old white pine had very colorful bark. There were several other old specimens growing quite close together but this was the only one that looked like it wanted to be as colorful as a sycamore.

 5. Crumpled Rag Lichen aka Platismatia tuckermanii

Last year I did a post with this lichen in it and at the time I thought it was an example of a spotted camouflage lichen (Melanohalea olivacea), but after doing a little more research I’m now fairly certain that it’s a crumpled rag lichen (Platismatia tuckermanii .)The large greenish brown discs are apothecia or fruiting bodies, and they help identify this lichen. I usually find these on birch limbs.

6. Heather Rag Lichen

I think this is an example of a lichen called heather rags (Hypogymnia physodes), but there are so many that look almost the same that I can’t be completely certain. This lichen has gray, inflated, puffy looking lobes like heather rag lichens do, but so do many others. Heather rags gets its common name by its habit of growing on unburned heather in the United Kingdom, but it is also quite common here in the north eastern U.S.  No matter what its name, this example is a beautiful lichen.

7. Heather Rag Lichen Closeup

Lichen books say to look for soralia bursting from lobe tips when identifying heather rags lichens. Soralia are clusters of intertwined alga and fungi that form a granule-like mass, and I think I see a few of those in this close up. Soralia are a vegetative way for lichens to reproduce. Once separate from the main body of the lichen they will start new lichens, just as taking a cutting from a plant produces a new plant.

8. Small Brain Jelly Fungi

These yellow fungi looked like tiny dots, about half as big as a pencil eraser, on a fallen log. It wasn’t until I saw the photo that I realized they were very small examples of “brain” fungi, possibly Tremella mesenterica, also called witch’s butter. If so they are the smallest examples I’ve seen of that fungus.

9. Pear Shaped Puffball

I saw some pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme) on a log and noticed that the darker, outer skin had split to reveal a lighter inner surface.  I assumed that this meant that they were ready to release their spores and poked one with a stick. Sure enough it puffed out some spores, which show as light gray powder in this photo. Inhaling enough of these spores can result in lycoperdonosis, which is a respiratory disease that starts out like a cold. The disease causes symptoms similar to those found in pneumonia, and is sometimes misdiagnosed as tuberculosis or pneumonia. If left untreated it can be fatal.

10. Sweet Birch Seeds aka Betula lenta

If you see a cherry tree with this type of growth on it you have found a sweet birch (Betula lenta,) not a cherry. I’ve pointed that out because its bark looks a lot like cherry bark and they are sometimes confused. The cone like object pictured is a female catkin. These catkins begin to shatter and release their seeds in late fall. The seeds, a few of which can be seen in the photo, are called nutlets and are winged, much like an elm seed. The easiest way to identify sweet birch is by chewing a twig. If it doesn’t taste like wintergreen, it isn’t sweet birch. Native Americans boiled the sap and made it into syrup. If enough corn is added, birch beer can also be made from it. After chewing quite a few twigs it seems to me that syrup or beer made from this tree would taste a lot like oil of wintergreen, and I don’t know if I could handle wintergreen flavored flapjacks.

11. Plagiomnium cuspidatum Moss

I found a large patch of baby tooth moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum) growing on a flat boulder in the sun. This moss can be a little tricky to identify because it has two types of stems with different growth patterns. Vegetative stems trail like a vine and stems with fruiting capsules (sporophytes) stand upright as they are in the photo. Each leaf has tiny serrations from its tip down to about mid leaf, and that’s a good identifying feature.

 12. Plagiomnium cuspidatum Moss Immature Sporophytes

The sun had melted a dusting of snow from the patch of baby tooth moss just before I found it and many of the sharply pointed  immature sporophytes had tiny drops of water clinging to them. When mature the sporophytes will be more barrel shaped with flat ends, and will bend until the capsules droop just past horizontal.

Go to the winter woods: listen there; look, watch, and ‘the dead months’ will give you a subtler secret than any you have yet found in the forest. ~ Fiona Macleod

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

Read Full Post »