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Posts Tagged ‘Pigskin Puffball’

Here are a few more of those things I’ve seen on the trail that didn’t make it into other posts.

1. Chubby Chipmunk

This chipmunk saw me but just sat on his rock, not making a sound. After I got home and saw the photo I wondered if maybe he was too chubby to be able to run away.

2. Acorn

It’s been a good year for all kinds of fruits and nuts, including acorns. Maybe that’s why the chipmunk is so chubby.

 3. Laurel Sphinx Caterpillar aka Sphinx kalmiae

This caterpillar was happily eating all the leaves from my lilac. The helpful folks over at bugguide.net  tell me that it is a laurel sphinx caterpillar (Sphinx kalmiae). It was as big as my index finger and had a wild looking horn. In this stage the caterpillar is nearly ready to stop feeding and start looking for soil to pupate in. The laurel sphinx moth is gray brown with brownish yellow wings-not nearly as colorful as the caterpillar.

4. Turkey Tails

I’m seeing many more turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) this year than I did last. They are very colorful this year. Polysaccharide-K, a compound found in these fungi, has shown to be beneficial in the treatment of gastric, esophageal, colorectal, breast and lung cancers.

 5. Toothed Fungus

Lion’s mane, bear’s head, monkey head, icicle mushroom-call it what you will, Hericium americanum is a toothed fungus that is always fun to find in the woods. This mushroom is edible but unless you can be 100% sure of your identification you should never eat a wild mushroom. Bruce Ruck, director of drug information and professional education for New Jersey Poison Control at Rutgers, says it better than I: “Eating even a few bites of certain mushrooms can cause severe illness. Unless you are a mycologist, it is difficult to tell the difference between a toxic and non-toxic mushroom”

6. Pigskin Puffball

Speaking of toxic mushrooms, here’s one now. This is the toxic pigskin puffball (Scleroderma citrinum), which isn’t really a puffball at all but an earth ball. Earth balls are always hard to the touch and never “squishy” like puffballs. If you eat them they won’t kill you, but they can make you quite sick. In the book A Northwoods Companion author John Bates says that “a single large puffball contains so many spores that if every spore germinated to an adult for two generations, the resultant mass would be 800 times the volume of the earth.” But what is considered large? The largest puffball ever found was nearly 5 feet across.

 7. Forked Blue Curl Seeds

Forked bluecurl seeds (Trichostema dichotomum) are so small that the only way I can see them is in a photo. This plant has beautiful blue flowers with long, curving, blue stamens. It is an annual, so it has to grow new from seed each year. Two or three seeds nestle in a basket shaped, open pod and sometimes I take a few seed pods home, hoping that I can get the plant to grow in my yard. So far I have had limited success, even though I’ve provided the same growing conditions.

8. New York  Fern Sori

Many of the woodland ferns have lost their chlorophyll and have gone pale now. I recently turned one of these pale fronds over and found all these tiny sori. These are clusters of even tinier sporangia which are the spore masses where the fern’s spores are produced. I think this one might be a New York fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis), but to be honest I didn’t pay close enough attention to its identifying characteristics to be certain.

9. Poison Ivy

Even poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) has to get in on the fall show. Poison ivy can grow in the form of a shrub or a vine and in this case it had twined its way up a birch tree. Beautiful to look at but you don’t want to touch it. The oils in the plant form a complex with skin proteins and interrupt the chemical signals that the skin sends to the rest of the body. The area of exposed skin is then viewed as foreign and the body attacks it, which results in a very itchy rash that can becomes sore and bleed. And if that isn’t bad enough it is also systemic, meaning you can touch the plant with your hand and end up with a rash on your leg or any other part of your body. Some internal cases of poison ivy- that can come from eating the leaves –have been fatal.

10. Poison Ivy Berries

I found another poison ivy on another tree that had lost all its leaves and had just its berries showing. Over sixty species of birds have been documented as eating these berries.  Apparently birds are immune to its toxic effects.

 11. Cranberry

The native cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) have ripened, but you’ll sure get your feet wet harvesting them. I find them growing in a bog in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. The pilgrims named this fruit “crane berry” because they thought the flowers looked like sandhill cranes. They were taught how to use the berries by Native Americans, who used them as a food, as a medicine, and as a dye.

12. Bumblebee on Purple Stemmed Aster

One cool day I found this bumblebee curled into a ball in an aster blossom and I thought it had died there but, as I watched I could see it moving very slowly. I’ve read that bumblebee queens hibernate in winter, but I can’t find out what happens to the rest of the hive.

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. ~Aristotle

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Here are a few more of those odd and unusual things that I see that won’t fit into other posts.

1. Big Bluestem Grass aka Andropogon gerardii

I like discovering grass flowers and this one is a beauty. The flowers of native big bluestem grass (Andropogon gerardii) grow in pairs of yellowish male anthers and feathery, light purple female stigmas. This grass gets its name from its blue green stems. It is the dominant grass of the tall grass prairie in the U.S.  Before Europeans arrived this grass had a quite a range; from Maine to the Rocky Mountains and from Quebec to Mexico. At one time it fed thousands of buffalo. Because of its large root system, early settlers found it was an excellent choice for the “bricks” of sod houses.

 2. Club Coral Fungi Clavariadelphus truncatus

Some coral fungi come to a blunt, rather than pointed end and are called club shaped corals. I thought these might be Clavariadelphus truncatus but that mushroom has wrinkles down its length and these are smooth, so I’m not sure what they are. More often than not I find these growing in the hard packed earth near trails and they have usually been stepped on. The broken one in the photo shows that these are hollow. They were no more than an inch tall.

 3. Curly Dock Seeds aka Rumex crispus

The seeds of curly dock (Rumex crispus,) when the sun is shining just right, look like tiny stained glass windows.

4. Silky Dogwood Berries aka Cornus amomum

The berries of silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) start out porcelain white and slowly change to dark blue. The birds love these berries so they don’t decorate the shrubs for long. This is a large shrub that grows in part shade near rivers and ponds. It gets its common name from the soft, silky hairs that cover the branches. Native Americans smoked the bark like tobacco. They also twisted the bark into rope and made fish traps from the branches.  I wonder if the idea for blue and white porcelain dishes first made in ancient China came from berries like these.

 5. Sumac Red Pouch Galls caused by Melaphis rhois

Red pouch galls on stag horn sumac (Rhus typhina) are caused by the sumac gall aphid (Melaphis rhois.) These galls look like some kind of fruit but they are actually hollow inside and teeming with thousands of aphids. They average about golf ball size and change from light yellow to pinkish red as they age. Scientists have paleobotanical evidence that this aphid has had a relationship with its sumac hosts for at least 48 million years. The galls can also be found on smooth sumac (Rhus glabra.) They remind me of potatoes.

 6. Wolf's Milk Slime Mold

At a glance wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum) might fool you into thinking it was just another brownish puffball but, if you try to make it “puff,” you’ll be in for a surprise. The diameter of the one in the photo is about the same as a pea.

 7. Wolf's Milk Slime Mold

This is the surprise you get when you try to make wolf’s milk slime mold’s “puff ball” puff-you find that it is a fruiting body full of plasmodial orange slime. This is also called toothpaste slime mold but on this day the liquid inside the sphere was nowhere near that consistency. It was more like chocolate syrup. This slime mold is found on rotting hardwood logs and is one of the fastest moving slime molds, clocked at 1.35 millimeters per second.

John Tyler Bonner, a slime mold expert, says slime molds are a “bag of amoebae encased in a thin slime sheath, yet they manage to have various behaviors that are equal to those of animals who possess muscles and nerves with ganglia–that is, simple brains.”

 8. Puffball

Here is a real puffball-at the size of an egg many hundreds, if not thousands of times bigger than the wolf’s milk slime mold. I think this example might be a pigskin puffball (Scleroderma,) which is poisonous.

 9. Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa Slime Mold

The honeycombed domes of the Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa variety porioides slime mold make it one of the most beautiful, in my opinion. Unfortunately it’s also one of the smallest, which makes getting a good photo of it almost impossible. After many attempts, this was the best I could do. The little black bug on one of the fruiting bodies is so very small that I didn’t see it until I saw this photo.

 10. Purple Cort Mushroom

Here in New Hampshire white and brown mushrooms can be found at almost any time, but the really colorful mushrooms usually start in about mid-July with yellows and oranges. There can also be occasional red ones but orange dominates the forest until the purples appear. Once the purple ones appear there are fewer and fewer orange ones seen.  I’ve watched this for 2 years now and it shows that mushrooms have “bloom times” just like flowers do. In the case of mushrooms, it’s actually fruiting time. I think this one is a purple cort (Cortinarius iodeoides.)

 11. False Solomon's Seal Foliage

The berries have formed on false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum ) so the leaves aren’t needed anymore. Fall begins at the forest floor.

 12. Pokeweed Berry

The rounded, five lobed, purple calyx on the back of a pokeweed berry (Phytolacca americana) reveals what the flower once looked like. The berries and all parts of this plant are toxic, but many birds and animals eat the berries. Native Americans used their red juice to decorate their horses and early colonial settlers dyed cloth with it.

 13. White Baneberry Plants

One rainy afternoon I drove by these plants that were loaded with white berries and had to turn around to see what they were. They turned out to be white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) but I’ve never seen that plant have as many berries as these did. These black and white berries are highly toxic but fortunately they also reportedly taste terrible and are said to be very acrid.

 14. White Baneberry Berries

Another name for this plant is ‘doll’s eyes” and it’s easy to see why. The black dot is what is left of the flower’s stigma. The black and white berries with pink stems are very appealing to children and it is thought that only their terrible taste prevents more poisonings than there are.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.  ~Lao Tzu

Thanks for stopping in.

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