Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Slime Molds’

 

Two or three years ago I saw my first pale beauty moth and now I’m seeing them everywhere. Their wings and body are pale greenish to grayish white and the female, which I think this example is, is said to be much larger than the male. The caterpillars are said to feed on the leaves of 65 species of trees and shrubs including alder, ash, basswood, beech, birch, blueberry, cherry, fir, elm, hemlock, maple, oak, pine, poplar, rose, spruce, larch, and willow. They’re supposed to be nocturnal but I see them in daylight. Usually in the evening though, so maybe they come out early.

There are a lot of dragonflies about this year and for some reason many of them are on lawns. I’ve walked over lawns and had hundreds of them flying around me. I can’t think of another time I’ve seen this but it must be that they’re finding plenty of food on the lawns. Or something. This example of what I think is a female widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) was near a pond on a cattail leaf, but there are lawns nearby. There were light whitish spots outside the dark spots on the wings but I think the lighting hid them.

 

A black ant was so interested in something it found on a sarsaparilla leaf (Aralia nudicaulis) it let me get the camera very close. I couldn’t see what attracted its attention and can’t tell from the photo either, but it was rapt. I think it was a common black house ant. It didn’t seem big enough to be a carpenter ant.

While I was visiting with the ant a winter dark firefly (Ellychnia corrusca) flew down and joined us on the same sarsaparilla leaf. According to Bugguide.net, these fireflies can be a pest in sap buckets in the spring because they like maple sap, and they will also drink from wounds in maple trees. They like to sun themselves on the sunny side of trees or buildings, but this one seemed happy just being on a leaf. Most fireflies live as larvae in rotting wood and forest litter near water and stay in the area they were born in, even as adults. They like it warm and humid, so they must be happy right now. They don’t seem to be afraid of people at all; I’ve gotten quite close to them several times.

On a very windy day what I believe was a male calico pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) clung to the siding of a building. The light wasn’t right for dragonfly photography but I tried anyway and though it isn’t a great shot you can see most of the wing markings. These dragonflies are used to being blown about on the tips of twigs like a pennant, and that’s where their common name comes from. A fact that I find interesting about this dragonfly is how the males are not territorial and often perch facing away from water, apparently waiting for females as they approach the water. I’m not sure why this one chose a building.

NOTE: Blogging friend Mike Powell has pointed out that this is a female calico pennant dragonfly. If you’re interested in dragonflies or any other natural wonder, you should be reading Mike’s blog. You can find a link right over in the “Favorite Links” section of this blog. Thanks Mike!

I’m lucky enough to work near a pond and as I drive to work, early in the morning on a certain day in June, the snapping turtles begin to lay their eggs. As if someone flipped a switch the sandy shoreline between the pond and the road will be lined with the big turtles, sticking half out of the sand. And they are big; snapping turtles can weigh between 10-35 pounds. Though some snappers have been found as far as a mile from water most will dig their nest closer to it. They’ve been known to nest in lawns, gardens, and even muskrat burrows. Snapping turtles reach maturity at 8 to 10 years and can live up to 40 years or more.

It is said that some turtles weep from the strain of egg laying but this one had dry eyes. In fact she looked like she was smiling. You can see her beak in this photo; it has a rough cutting edge that is used for tearing food. They have powerful jaws and the snapping beak is easily able to snap off a finger or toe, so it isn’t wise to get too close to one. They have a neck that stretches quite a distance and they can lunge at high speed, which is how they catch their food. Snapping turtles eat plants, insects, spiders, worms, fish, frogs, smaller turtles, snakes, birds, crayfish, small mammals, and carrion. Plants make up about a third of their diet.

Snapping turtles lay one clutch of eggs in May or June and unfortunately this photo shows how most of them end up. Out of a nest of 15 to 50 eggs most will be eaten by raccoons, skunks, or crows. Though I’ve looked in the sand near disturbed nests I’ve never seen a paw print, so I can’t say what animal is doing this. It doesn’t take much to harm the turtles; the eggs are very delicate and the turtle embryo can be killed if turned or jarred. As many as 90% of the nests are destroyed each year and as I think about it I wonder if that isn’t part of nature’s plan. If every egg in every nest on this small pond were to hatch it would be overrun by snapping turtles and they would quickly run out of food. It might be better for them to never be born than to slowly die of starvation, but I’m very thankful that it isn’t up to me to make that decision.

Nature has a way of ensuring the continuation of each species and I know that many snapping turtles survive because I see them in ponds and streams everywhere. Egg hatching takes about three months but it varies depending on temperature and weather conditions. If the nest isn’t disturbed the hatchlings dig their way out in August through October and head right for the water. In winter they hibernate in the mud at the pond bottom. I should say that there are laws against disturbing turtle nests in New Hampshire, so they are best left alone.

I’m guessing that this bullfrog was very happy that there were no snapping turtles nearby. Adult female bullfrogs have an eardrum (tympanic membrane) that is about the same size as the eye and on a male it is much larger than the eye, so I’d say this one was a female. Females don’t croak but there was a lot of croaking going on here on this day.

With such a rainy spring I’m surprised that mushrooms aren’t popping up out of the sidewalks, but I’m not seeing that many. I did find some little horsehair mushrooms (Marasmius rotula) growing on a log recently. These are very small things; the biggest one in this photo might be as big as a pea.

Horsehair mushrooms are also called pinwheel mushrooms. Their pleated and scalloped caps always make me think of tiny Lilliputian parachutes. The shiny, hollow black stem lightens as it reaches the cap and is very coarse like horse hair, and that’s where the common name comes from. They grow in small colonies on rotting logs, stumps, and branches. Their spore release depends on plenty of moisture so look for this one after it rains. In dry weather they dehydrate into what looks like a whitish dot at the end of a black stem, but when it rains they rehydrate to release more spores. They can do this for up to three weeks.

The underside of the horsehair mushroom’s cap also looks like a parachute, with gills spaced quite far apart for such a little thing. In the center the gills join to make a collar that encircles the stem.

Swamp beacons (Mitrula elegans) are interesting fungi that grow in water and I find them in seeps where water runs year round. They are classified as “amphibious fungi” and use a process called soft rot to decompose plant material in low-oxygen areas. Since they only decompose soft tissue they aren’t found on twigs or bark and this photo shows how they are growing out of saturated leaves. I’m sorry about the strange angularity of this photo but I was kneeling in mud when I took it, trying not to drop the camera into it.

Another common name for swamp beacons is “matchstick fungus” and that’s exactly what they remind me of because they are just about the size of a wooden match. This one had an elongated head on it though and didn’t look very match like. If you want to get shots of this fungus be prepared to get your knees wet. Mine were soaked.

Hot humid weather along with a rainy day or two always makes me want to start looking for slime molds and sure enough after a recent shower, I found some. Slime molds seem to grow on just about anything; there is even a photo online of one engulfing a beer can that was left out on a rock. They almost always grow on the side away from the sun because they don’t want to dry out. A slime mold is an amoeba and that says a lot about how very small they are, but luckily they group together and that makes them easier to see. When I look for them I look for a smudge of color on the shaded sides of logs or on last season’s leaves. The one seen here is in its plasmodial stage and is on the move. I think it might be one called the tapioca slime mold (Brefeldia maxima.)

Slime molds can appear in their single celled amoeba form but when I see them they are almost always massed or massing together as these were. This plasmodial slime mold, like many others, moves using “cytoplasmic streaming,” which is basically a contracting of “muscles” by all of the separate cells until they come together in a single mass. They can reach speeds of up to 1.35 mm per second, which is the fastest rate recorded for any micro-organism. Eventually they will shift from the growth to the fruiting stage, when they will release their spores. Slime molds do not like dryness, so most of this usually occurs at night or on damp, humid days after a rain.

Here’s another look at what a slime molds can look like from a distance. This could also be yellow, orange or red. When looking for slime molds it’s important to remember that hot sunlight dries them out, so they’ll be on the shaded sides and undersides of logs, on stumps, mossy rocks, and in the leaves on the forest floor in the darkest part of the forest where the soil stays moist.

Here’s a closer look at the slime mold in the previous photo. Identifying slime molds can be tricky, but most good mushroom books will include a section on them and there are a few good online resources as well. If you want to photograph slime molds you’d better have a good macro lens because many are almost microscopic in size. What you see in this photo wouldn’t even cover a penny. A good LED light is also helpful. I think this example might be coral or white fingered slime mold (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa.)

I think all slime molds are beautiful but this one really takes the cake. At least I think it’s a slime mold. I’ve found various examples of it for about three years now and I’ve spent that long trying to identify it with no luck. I haven’t found anything even similar to it online or in a book. I think part of the problem is it starts out looking like the white, blurry, bumpy mass in the lower left corner and then opens into the tiny blue starbursts seen above. What that means is it’s hard to know whether to search for a white or blue slime mold. I’ve tried both many times with no luck, so if you know its name I’d love to hear from you.

As I was walking through the woods one day something told me to look up and when I did I saw a young porcupine sitting on the crook of a branch. It let me get close enough for a couple of quick photos but I didn’t want to disturb it, so I left and let it be. Porcupines are herbivores and eat leaves, twigs, and green plants such as clover. They often climb trees to find leaves for food, and in winter they will eat the bark of some trees. They are shy, gentle creatures but unfortunately I see many of their kind run over on the roadsides. They roam at night a lot and can be very hard to see. This one was quite small; probably smaller than a soccer ball. Many Native American tribes used porcupine quills for decoration on their clothing but women in the Lakota tribe found a way to get the quills without harming the porcupine; they would throw a blanket over it and then pick out the quills that were stuck in the blanket.

I went to the Ashuelot River one recent evening and found it raging because of strong thunder showers we’d had the day before, but a duck had found a calm spot away from the chaos of curling whitecaps. The river was high too; that small island isn’t usually an island.

But the duck didn’t seem to care one way or the other. It splashed and preened and tipped up to eat and smiled serenely while the river raged on around it. There has to be a lesson for us all in there somewhere. After all, nature is full of them.

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 stopping in. Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

We were having some “triple H” weather here last weekend, which means hazy, hot and humid, so I wanted to get to a shady forest. I chose High Blue trail in Walpole because I was fairly sure that there would be a good breeze on the summit, which faces west. The trail starts out following an old logging road.

I started seeing things of interest almost as soon as I reached the old road. False Solomon’s seal plants (Maianthemum racemosum  or Smilacina racemosa) bloomed all along it. Some grow close to three feet tall but most are less than that; about knee high. False Solomon’s seal has small white, star shaped flowers in a branching cluster (raceme) at the end of its stem. Soon the blossoms will give way to small reddish berries that provide food for many birds and other wildlife. It is said that a Native American tribe in California used crushed false Solomon’s seal roots to stun fish. Others used the plant medicinally.

Brittle cinder fungus (Kretzschmaria deusta) in this stage are stunning, in my opinion. I like the powder gray against the bright white margin. As they age they blacken and look like burnt wood and become very brittle and are easily crushed. They grow on dead hardwoods and cause soft rot, which breaks down both cellulose and lignin. In short, this is one of the fungi that help turn wood into compost.

This photo taken previously shows what the brittle cinder fungus will become; a black lump. Younger examples have a hard lumpy crust or skin, a piece of which can be seen in the upper left of the example in the photo. It’s hard to believe that it’s the same fungus that’s in the previous photo.

Grasses are flowering nearly everywhere I go now and I like looking at them closely. I don’t know this one’s name but I’ve learned enough about grasses to know that the yellow bits at the top are the male pollen bearing flowers and the wispy white bits on the lower half are the female flowers.

Fringed sedge (Carex crinite) grew in wet spots along the road. It’s a large sedge that grows in big, 2 foot tall clumps. I like its drooping habit and I’m not the only one, because it has become a popular garden plant. Many animals and waterfowl eat different parts of sedge plants, especially the seeds. Other names for this plant are drooping sedge and long-haired sedge.

The trail does a loop but I always take the left at the High Blue sign and walk in and out.

From here the logging road narrows down into little more than a foot path. The sunlight was dappled and my camera doesn’t do dappled well, so this isn’t the best photo I’ve ever taken.

Hay-scented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) does well up here and grows in large colonies all along the trail. I like the repeating patterns that they make. This fern likes shade but will tolerate extreme dryness well. Its common name comes from the way it smells like hay when it is bruised. This fern does well in gardens but gardeners want to make absolutely sure they want it because once they have it they’ll most likely have it for a long time. It’s very difficult to eradicate.

Last year the meadow suddenly became a cornfield and the corn attracted animals of all kinds, including bears. I’ve seen a lot of bear droppings all over this area ever since, so I carried a can of bear spray. Thankfully I didn’t have to use it.

Our brambles are coming into bloom and it looks like we might have a good blackberry harvest. Easy to pick blackberries can be found along virtually any rail trail and many woodland trails. Blackberries have been eaten by man for thousands of years. The discovery of the remains of an Iron Age woman called the Haraldskær Woman showed that she ate blackberries about 2500 years ago. The Haraldskær Woman is the body of a woman found naturally preserved in a peat bog in Jutland, Denmark in 1835. Native Americans made a strong twine from fibers found in blackberry canes, and they used piles of dead canes as barricades around villages. I’m guessing that anyone who had ever been caught on blackberry thorns wouldn’t have tried to make it through such a barricade.

Orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca) was dotted here and there in the meadow. I see thousands of examples of yellow hawkweed for every one orange hawkweed plant and I’m not sure why that is. The plant might be from Europe but it’s far from invasive in this area. Maybe their scarcity is due to the color orange being virtually invisible to bees. Orange Flowers do reflect ultraviolet light though, so that means that some insects must find them.

As I usually do when I come here, I had to stop at what’s left of the old foundation. I’m not sure who lived up here but they had plenty of courage and were strong people. All of this land would have been cleared then and sheep would probably have lived in the pastures. It was a tough life in what the Walpole Town History describes as a “vast wilderness.” But it was populated; many Native Americans lived here and they weren’t afraid to show their displeasure at losing their land.

One of the reasons I chose this place was because there is a small pond on the summit and I wanted to see if it was covered with duckweed yet. I wanted to take a close look at the tiny plants but about all I could see was pine pollen floating on the surface.

There was some duckweed but it was too far off shore to be easily reached. This pond must be spring fed because it never dries up completely, even in last year’s drought when streams were disappearing. I always wonder if it was the family’s water source.

There are an estimated 259,000 miles of stone walls in the northeastern U.S., most of which are in New England, and many are here in New Hampshire. The stones were found when the recently cleared pastures were plowed and they were either tossed into piles or used to build walls, wells, foundations and many other necessities of the day. Sometimes entire houses were built of stone but wood was plentiful and easier to work with, so we don’t have too many stone houses from that time. Most of what we see is used in stone walls like this one, which cross and crisscross the countryside in every direction.

I always take a photo of the sign when I come here, but I’m not sure why. What it means is that at 1588 feet above sea level the summit is higher than the surrounding terrain, and the view is always blue.

As I thought it would be the view was very hazy on this day, but there was a nice cool breeze blowing and that alone made the short hike worth it on such a hot humid day.

It was so hazy I couldn’t even see Stratton Mountain over in Vermont, which is just across the Connecticut River Valley seen here.

The stone pile builder has been busy. I’ve wondered why anyone would carry stones all the way up here just to build an eyesore like this, but on this day I realized that it was much more likely that these stones are being taken from the stone wall we saw 4 photos back. I wonder if this person knows that taking stones from stone walls is a crime, punishable by having to pay three times the cost of restoring the wall, plus legal costs. This is because many of these old walls mark boundary lines and are recorded as such in property deeds. I’m not sure why anyone would risk it just to put piles of stones in other people’s way, but to each their own.

We’ve had a lot of rain recently but I was still surprised to see a slime mold growing on the side of a log. The book Mushrooms of Northeast (no, not northeastern) North America-Midwest to New England by George Barron has quite a good section on slime molds and it starts off with one called Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa. I believe that the photo above shows the cylindrical white fruiting bodies of Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, variety fruticulosa. There is a second variety of this slime mold called porioides, and the fruiting bodies look like tiny white geodesic domes. The fruiting bodies shown are so small and so fragile that one swipe of a finger can destroy hundreds of them.

If you reconnect with nature and the wilderness you will not only find the meaning of life, but you will experience what it means to be truly alive. ~Sylvia Dolson

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

1. Goose Pons

Regular readers of this blog no doubt know that we’re in the midst of a severe drought here in New Hampshire, but they might not know how the drought has affected this blog. In years past I’ve done regular mushroom posts at this time of year, but this year I haven’t found enough to do even one mushroom post. I recently had a professional mushroom hunter tell me that in thirty years of mushroom hunting he’s never seen such a lack of fungi, but I didn’t let that stop me from looking. I’ve always had good luck finding fungi at Goose Pond in Keene so on Saturday I decide to try. Surrounding the beautiful pond is a vast 500 acre tract of forest that has been left nearly untouched since the mid-1800s. It’s a wilderness area, and it’s just 2.6 miles from downtown Keene.

2. Goose Pond

Goose Pond was called Crystal Lake by some in the 1860s, and was also known as Sylvan Lake in the 1900s. Keene had a major fire in 1865 and the town well and cisterns failed to provide enough water to put it out, so dams were built to enlarge the pond to 42 acres. Wooden pipe was laid to 48 hydrants by 1869. The city stopped using the pond as a water supply in the 1930s and in 1984 designated the forest as a wilderness park. Today it is mainly used by hikers, fishermen, swimmers, mountain bikers and snowshoers. This undated photo shows Goose Pond at what I’m guessing is probably the early 1900s, judging by the clothing of the woman and child. The gazebo to the right is no longer there. What impresses me most about this photo is how many of the trees had been cut down on the distant hill. Everybody burned wood in those days and it had to come from somewhere, I suppose.

3. Spillway

There is a spillway that lets excess water out of the pond and it almost always has water running over it. Even with the drought it had a dribble of water on this day.

4. Showy Tick Trefoil

Showy tick trefoil (Desmodium canadense) grew beside the spillway. This plant gets part of its common name from the little barbed hairs that cover the seed pods and make them stick to clothing like ticks. The “showy” part of its common name comes from the way that so many of its small pink flowers bloom at once. As the plant sets seeds its erect stems bend lower to the ground so the barbed seed pods can catch in the fur of passing animals.

5. Tick Trefoil Seed Pods

Or in this case, so they can stick to the clothing of forgetful humans. I leaned close enough to the plant when I was taking its photo to get its flat, sticky, segmented seedpods stuck all over me. Luckily I had plenty of opportunities to stop and take more photos and each time I did I picked a few off. You can’t brush them off; each one has to be picked or scraped off. By the time I’d made it all the way around the pond I had gotten almost all of them.

6. Trail

Though the start of the trail is flooded with light it gets dark quickly because of the huge pines and hemlocks along the water’s edge. I wonder if the lack of direct sunlight might have a lot to do with why there are often so many mushrooms here. The trail was muddy in places, even in such a dry summer.

7. Bolete

I started seeing mushrooms almost immediately, starting with this big bolete. There were many examples of this mushroom along the trail and they were all quite big. The underside of the cap was yellow and had pores instead of gills as you would expect in a bolete and the stem was deeply furrowed. I thought it might be a painted bolete (Suillus pictus) but I can’t be 100% sure. It wasn’t at all slimy like many in the suillus family are said to be.

8. Cross Veined Troop Mushrooms

Cross veined troop mushrooms (Xeromphalina kauffmanii) are one of my favorites. They like to grow on hardwood logs or stumps in dark places so I always have to use a flash or an LED when I take their photo.  Luckily my new camera has a built in LED so I don’t have to remember to carry one anymore. This mushroom usually appears in large enough numbers to look like a fungal army, and that’s where the name troop mushroom comes from. The cross veined part of the common name comes from the way the gills have tiny buttresses between them. The stem is always quite dark and the cap is orange yellow with slightly lighter gills, and less than an inch wide. There is an identical mushroom named Xeromphalina campanella which grows on conifer logs.

9. White False Coral Fungus

I think this might be false coral mushroom (Tremellodendron pallidum.) It’s called false coral because it’s actually one of the jelly fungi. This fungus starts life resembling bird droppings and develops into the shape seen in the above photo as time goes on. As it further ages it will lose its white color and become another color that will be determined by what it grows on. I’m guessing if it grew on soil like these examples it might turn brown.

10. Bridge

There are 3 smallish streams you have to cross as you make the circuit around the pond and well-built bridges help you get across.  On this day this and another bridge weren’t needed because the streams had dried up. In fact I was standing in what would have been the stream when I took this photo.

11. Orange Slime

I didn’t think we’d had enough rain from passing thunderstorms for slime molds and didn’t expect to find any, but here they were. This orange one was about as big as a baseball, or about 3 inches across. I think it might be Trichia varia, which as far as I can tell has no common name. When slime molds run out of food-bacteria and yeasts-they literally begin to move and can often appear web or net like. They form streams of cells called pseudoplasmodium and move at about one millimeter per hour. Once they come together into a mass the cells change their shape and can form stalks that are capped by fruiting bodies. A fruiting body can look like jellybean or sphere shapes, or can sometimes resemble blackberries, hair, dripping wax, and other shapes bizarre enough to be from another planet.

The plasmodial slime mold in the above photo, like many others, moves using cytoplasmic streaming, which is basically a contracting of “muscles” by all of the separate cells until they come together in a single mass. They then shift from the growth to the fruiting stage. Slime molds die if they dry out, so most of this usually occurs at night or on damp, humid days after a rain. The bright color of this one made it easy to see.

12. Orange Slime Close

The separate amoeba-like fruiting bodies that made up this slime mold were spherical. Each one is probably about the same diameter as the head of a common pin, or even smaller. Though some people think they’re “yucky” slime molds are a very important part of the workings of a forest and I find them both fascinating and beautiful.

13. White Slime

When I saw something that looked like white powder on a log I knew it had to be another slime mold. There are a few different white coral slime molds (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa) and they come in different shapes, from finger like to geodesic dome shaped. I put the penny there to give you an idea of how small this slime mold is. The smallest ones would have fit in Abe Lincoln’s ear. I was able to simply push the penny into the log because of how rotten it was. It was also soaking wet.

14. White  Slime Close-2

The coral slime mold likes to grow on wood in dark, moist places, such as the underside of a log. If you should happen to see what looks like white dust or paint on a log there’s a good chance that it’s a slime mold. You’ll want a loupe or a macro lens to see any real detail.

15. Island

The pond has a small island in it and I was wishing I had a kayak with me so I could explore it. When I tried to take a photo of it from the other side so the sunlight wasn’t coming directly at me the island blended into the shoreline and all but disappeared, so we’re stuck with this harsh, backlit view.

16. Pine with Scar

I’m guessing that this white pine (Pinus strobus) must have been hit by lightning. The scar on it ran from about 20 feet high right down into the ground. It didn’t look man made and didn’t look like a frost crack. In my experience a tree hit by lightning explodes into splinters, but I can’t think of any other way this scar would have formed. It was also recent.

17. Pine Scar

The scar followed the trunk downwards and then followed one of the largest roots into the ground. There were long strips of bark lying around, but they weren’t burnt. I’ve never seen anything like it so I looked for something similar in Michael Wojtek’s book Bark, but apparently he’s never seen anything like it either. This is another head scratcher that will have to go into the nature’s mystery pile.

18. Yellow Slime

Before long I saw another large slime mold. This photo shows how slime molds, even though sometimes covering a large area, are actually made up of hundreds or thousands of single entities. These entities move through the forest looking for food or a suitable place to fruit and eventually come together in a mass. I think this one might be spreading yellow tooth slime (Phanerochaete chrysorhiza.)

19. Yellow Slime Closer

These are the sausage shaped “teeth” that make up the spreading yellow tooth slime mold. They are fruiting bodies that will release the thousands of spores they’ve produced on their surfaces to be dispersed by the wind. They are so small that they are rarely able to be seen with the naked eye.

20. The Forest

When you’re in a forest getting a photo of it is harder than I ever thought it would be. I tried many times to get a photo that would show you what it was like but it never worked until I found this spot a year or two ago.  A large tree fell and opened up the canopy to let in enough light to get a fair photo of what these New Hampshire woods are like. They can be dark and close like these are or sometimes more light and open. There is obviously something about this particular forest that mushrooms and slime molds like.

21. Feather

I didn’t see any geese in Goose Pond but I saw many other amazing things that made the hike an enjoyable one. If you happen to be a local nature lover, this is a hike that you really shouldn’t miss. At a normal pace it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to make it all the way around but if you like to stop and look at things it could take a bit longer. It took me about 4 hours.

The wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask. Nancy Wynne Newhall

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

1. Many Headed Slime

We haven’t had much rain here this summer but all it takes is a thundershower, a good hot day and plenty of humidity to get slime molds on the move. And they really do move; through a process called cytoplasmic streaming slime molds can reach speeds of up to 1.35 mm per second, which is the fastest rate recorded for any micro-organism. Scarcity of food is what drives them on, always searching for bacteria and yeasts to feed on. As this photo shows slime mold plasmodium is a mass of glistening vein-like material (actually a single-celled amoeba) that creeps across dead leaves, wood, or soil. I think this might be the many-headed slime (Physarum polycephalum.)

2. Many Headed  Slime

I think this might also be the many headed slime (Physarum polycephalum,) even though it looks quite different than the previous example. When slime molds run out of food and come together into a mass like that pictured above, individual cells change their shape and can form stalks that are capped by fruiting bodies. A fruiting body can look like a jellybean or sphere, or can sometimes resemble blackberries, hair, dripping wax, and just about any other shape imaginable. The fruiting bodies produce spores that are borne on the wind and which will create new slime molds.

3. Slime Mold

How big are slime molds? It varies, but tiny is usually a good description. I always carry my glasses and a loupe when I’m looking for them.

4. Slime Mold

Some slime molds can grow big enough to be seen without too much difficulty. When the weather is right I look for what appear to be white or colored smudges on logs, leaves, or even mossy stones. Slime molds seem to grow on just about anything; there is even a photo online of one engulfing a beer can that was left out on a rock. They almost always grow on the side away from the sun because they don’t want to dry out. This one was growing on the top of a well-rotted log and that tells me that this log doesn’t see much sunlight.

5. White Finger Slime

If you want to photograph slime molds you’d better have a macro lens. What is seen in this photo wouldn’t have even covered Abe Lincoln’s head on a penny. I think it might be white finger slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, variety fruticulosa.) Identifying slime molds can be tricky, but most good mushroom books will include a section on them and there are a few good online resources as well.

 6. White Slime on Rock

The secret to finding slime molds is to walk very slowly and keep your eyes to the ground, scanning right and left as you go. I almost walked right by this one growing on a mossy boulder. Comparing it to the leaves and pine needles shows how small it was.

7. White Slime on Rock Possible Didymium iridis

Looking through a macro lens shows the individual bodies of the slime mold on the stone in the previous photo. I’ve never seen this one but I think it might be Didymium iridis. If it is each tiny body grows on top of a hair thin black stalk. Calcium carbonate crystals give the fruiting bodies a light bluish, powdery appearance.

8. Unknown

This organism has me completely baffled. I first saw one last year and it reminded me of a mass of tangled fishing line. This year I stumbled onto a spot where many of them grew in the leaf litter on the forest floor. Each mass was about pear size.

9. Unknown 2

This is a closer look at the whatever-it-is in the previous photo. I don’t know if it’s a slime mold or fungus and haven’t been able to find a photo or description of anything similar. I keep forgetting to feel it and tug on one of the many threads.

10. Wolf's Milk Slime Mold

Wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum) starts out as tiny pink globules but as they age and become more like what we see in the above photo the globules look more like small puffballs growing on a log.

I think there are actually two slime molds in this photo. The two small black-brown shiny spheres could be Trichia decipiens, which are often found mixed in with other slime molds.

11. Wolf's Milk Slime Mold

Wolf’s milk slime mold is also called toothpaste slime and that’s because there is a pinkish orange material inside each globule with the consistency of toothpaste. It can also have a more liquid consistency, which is usually the way I find it. As it ages it will turn into a mass of brown powdery spores.

12. Scrambled Egg Slime Mold

One of the most common slime molds is the scrambled egg slime (Fuligo septica.) It gets quite big and will grow in full sun on wood mulch or chips, so it is easily seen and is often people’s first introduction to slime molds. Fuligo also septica produces the largest spore-producing structure of any known slime mold.

13. Lindbladia tubulina Slime Mold

I wasn’t sure if this was a slime mold or not but I found some similar examples on line that said they were Lindbladia tubulina slime mold, which apparently has no common name. This one was somewhere between gunmetal gray and black, and about as big as a pear. It is described as cushion shaped and likes to grow on dead conifers, just as this one was doing.

14. Lindbladia tubulina Slime Mold

A close look at the surface of Lindbladia tubulina shows thousands of tiny shiny spheres. The outside was crusty but inside where the spores are produced is said to be spongy and yellow or olive green. This type of surface is said to be bullate, which means “covered with rounded swellings like blisters.”

15. Unknown

I don’t really know if this was a slime mold, fungus, or something else but since blue is my favorite color I was happy to see it. It was about as big as a penny.

Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. ~Henry David Thoreau

Thanks for stopping in.

 

Read Full Post »

1. Tachinid Fly

I saw a fly on a milkweed leaf and he was open to posing, so here he is. I think he’s a tachinid fly because of his bristly abdomen. Some of these flies can be very helpful in the garden, controlling squash bugs and stinkbugs. Others aren’t so helpful, and parasitize moths and butterflies, including monarchs. This one was a little lumpy up around the shoulders and looked like it had been parasitized too.

2. Female Red Winged Blackbird

As I seem to do every year I stumbled into a red winged blackbird nesting site recently. The female shown here flew off half way across a pond to sit on a cattail and wait for me to leave while the male hovered above my head screeching at me. The same thing happened last year so I’ve learned that male red winged blackbirds can get angry very quickly, and they don’t easily back down when you’re near a nest. I got out of there as quickly as I could after taking a couple of quick photos.

3. White Admiral Butterfly

I’m seeing more butterflies now but the only ones willing to pose are the white admirals. Even this one wasn’t that willing. It sat still for only a couple of quick shots and then flew off.

4. White Admiral Butterfly

It landed on another leaf and then turned so he could see me before settling down to give me a hard stare.

5. European Skipper Butterfly

I’m not very clever when it comes to insect identification but I think I should at least try before I bother the folks at bug guide, so I searched website after website and leafed through my insect guide before giving up on this one. It turns out the reason I couldn’t identify it is because I was looking for a moth and this is a butterfly. The good folks at bug guide.net tell me it’s a European skipper (Thymelicus lineola.) I didn’t even know that we had European butterflies here and its furry body had me convinced that it was a moth. It seemed very interested in flowering grasses.

6. Spider

The folks at bug guide tell me that this is a Tetragnatha spider, which is also known as a long jawed orb weaver. There are hundreds of species in the genus and I must have looked at more than half of them before giving up on ever being able to identify it. They are also called stretch spiders because of their long bodies. When threatened they stretch their legs out front and back and pull them close to their body so they look long and thin like a blade of grass.

7. Slime Mold

We’ve had very dry weather here this spring and are still considered in a drought but every now and then the humidity will creep up and we’ll get a thundershower, and that is perfect weather for slime molds. These pictured are the fruiting bodies of a slime mold called coral slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, var. porioides.) They are very geometric and so small I can’t think of anything to compare them to. This slime mold likes to grow on old, bark free, well-rotted logs.

8. Slime Mold 2

Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa slime mold has two varieties; the porioides we saw previously and this one called fruticulosa. The difference between the geometric shapes of porioides and the sausage like shapes of fruticulosa is remarkable.

The reason slime molds interest me is because they are very beautiful and also fascinating. Nobody really seems to know exactly how they move, but they do. When the microorganisms that they feed on become scarce, many of these single celled organisms meld together and move toward food as a single entity. Slime molds can reach speeds of up to 1.35 mm per second, which is the fastest rate recorded for any micro-organism.

9. Blue Slime Mold

I once followed a link that someone had used to link to this blog and found a discussion about a photo of a blue slime mold that I had posted. One person said that there was no such thing as blue slime molds so the photo must have been Photo Shopped, but since I don’t try to deceive people on this blog it wasn’t. There are indeed blue slime molds, but they’re rare enough so I might see one each year if I’m lucky. I found another one just the other day, and this photo of it hasn’t been Photo Shopped or enhanced in any way. Last year I saw one very similar in shape to this one and it was gray.

10. Hemlock Varnish Shelf Fungi

Mushrooms have been very scarce because of the dry weather but my daughter sent me this photo of a hemlock tree loaded with hemlock varnish shelf fungi (Ganoderma tsugae) that she saw recently. I’ve never seen so many on one tree. You can tell that they’re young because of the white stripe on their outer edges. As they age they will lose the stripe and become deep red. This mushroom has been used medicinally in China for thousands of years.

11. Pine Cones

Several years ago I found purple cones on a pine in a local park. I’ve checked every year since and never saw them again until just recently. I’m not sure what kind of pine this is but I don’t think that it’s a native tree. I love the color of its cones, native or not.

12. Timothy

Timothy grass has just started to flower. Each flower head is filled with tiny florets, each with three purple stamens and 2 wispy white stigmas. Timothy makes an excellent hay crop and gets its common name from Timothy Hanson, a farmer who began to cultivate and promote it in 1720, a few years after its introduction into colonial America in 1711. It should be cut for hay before it reaches this stage but it’s quite beautiful when it blossoms.

I am grateful for the magic, mystery and majesty of nature – my loyal friend and companion – always there, welcoming and waiting for me to come; to be healed. ~Tom North

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

1. Rye Pond Beaver Lodge

I heard we were going to get a lot of rain this week and possible flooding, so last Sunday I thought I’d see how much more water we could take. With all of the meltwater the Ashuelot River is fairly high but as this photo shows, the water level of Rye Pond is looking much like it does in June. Rye Pond lies to the north of Keene and since the boundaries of three towns run through it, it’s hard to say what town it’s in; Antrim, Nelson, or Stoddard.

 2. Rye Pond Ice

The water level might look like it does in June but there was still ice on the pond in places, so I’m sure the water temperature feels more like December. I’m anxious to put my kayak in this pond because I’ve seen photos of some beautiful orchids that grow here, but I think I’ll wait until the water warms up a bit.

3. Cranberry Plants

I’ve seen a lot of cranberry plants (Vaccinium macrocarpon) but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any as red as these that grew along the pond’s shores.

 4. Bailey Brook Falls

Since I was in the neighborhood I thought I’d stop and see Bailey Brook falls in Nelson. There was plenty of water coming over the falls but the brook didn’t seem that high. There is also an upper falls here but I wanted to save my hiking legs for another waterfall I planned to visit later in the day, so I didn’t go to see it.

5. Trail Sign

The folks in Nelson have a unique sense of humor. That’s a black fly on the trail sign along Bailey Brook.  For those of you not familiar with black flies; they are a tiny biting insect that breeds exclusively in clean running water, which is something that we have plenty of here in New Hampshire. Black fly season usually begins in early May and lasts until early June depending on the weather. Though they are a sign of a healthy environment, when the black flies disappear in June we are very thankful. Then comes mosquito season.

6. Striped Maple Buds

Striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) buds have broken. The orangey pink leaf buds will be among the most beautiful in the forest once they get just a little bigger. I’ll have to visit the plants daily now so I can catch them at their best. The colorful period doesn’t last long.

7. Trillium

Purple trilliums (Trillium erectum) are also showing buds. They seem to be blooming earlier each year. Last year I saw my first one on April 26th, and that one had bloomed earlier than those I found in 2012 and 2013.

8. Ashuelot in Gilsum

I like to stop along this stretch of the Ashuelot River between Gilsum and Surry because it always makes me think of how wild it must have been before Europeans came here. A few years ago severe flooding in this area really tore the banks up and washed away a bridge or two, and many of the scars are still visible along the banks.

9. Coltsfoot 2

I was surprised to see some coltsfoot plants blooming along the river bank.

10. Coltsfoot

I’ll have to remember where I saw them so I can come back and see them again next year. I’ve lost a few colonies of coltsfoot plants to loggers and flooding.

11. Lower 40 Foot Falls

Since I had time I thought I’d stop in at 40 foot falls in Surry. I’m not sure if the name describes the length of the falls or the height, but I think it must be the length.  The lowers falls are pictured above. There was some severe flooding here a few years ago too, and the size of some of the boulders that washed down the brook is astounding.

12. Middle 40 Foot Falls

These are what I call the middle falls. The dead tree isn’t a mistake-I liked it.

13. Upper 40 Foot Falls

My favorite thing to see here is the gorge where the upper falls are. I’d guess that the height of the ledges here must be at least 50 feet, and that light colored boulder to the right is the size of a compact car. It gets its light color from being made of pure feldspar, as are the ledges. I think it’s the most feldspar I’ve ever seen in one place and I’m surprised that it wasn’t mined years ago like so many other deposits were. If you are going to make glass you are going to need feldspar.

14. Upper 40 Foot Falls

You can just see the upper falls over to the right. Unless you want to put on waders and wade under the overhanging boulders, this is the best view you can get of them. If I could have taken the ice on the left and laid it out flat on the ground it would have been the size of a small pond.

 15. Unknown Yellow Organism

The strangest thing I saw on this outing was this organism that I haven’t been able to identify. As I walked by a fallen log I saw that pieces of bark had fallen off its underside. They weren’t just pieces of bark though; they were covered by the bright yellow growth shown in the above photo.  When I picked them up and put them on the log to take their photo, large clouds of yellow spores blew in the wind.

 16. Unknown Yellow Organism

A close up shot shows that the yellow growth was hairy like the bright orange algae called (Trentepohlia aureathat) that I find growing on certain cliff faces, but those algae don’t grow anywhere near as uniform as this growth appears in the previous photo. It’s so uniform it almost looks like a yellow lawn, and the only thing I know of that looks like that is a slime mold. I’ve never known or heard of a slime mold that lives through winter in its plasmodial stage, but this growth reminds me of the plasmodial stage of the scrambled egg slime mold (Fuligo septica.) If it is then it’s the earliest example of it that I’ve ever seen.

The waters of the stream played the part of the orchestra, and the sunlight provided the dancers. Every now and then a crescendo of wind highlighted the symphony in the clearing by the creek.
~Edward Mooney Jr.

Thanks for coming by.

 

Read Full Post »

1. Trail

No, this post isn’t about a large caviomorpha rodent taking a spill. It’s about a new waterfall in Gilsum New Hampshire, which is north of Keene, called porcupine falls. By “new” I of course mean new to me. There is little about these woods that could be considered new. In fact very old is more like it. The route I took was an old dirt road that climbed gently through the surprisingly snowy woods. I say surprisingly because down in the low country our snow is gone.

2. Stone Wall

Stone walls line the old road, showing that parts of these woods were once farmland.  Some of this land seems like it would be awfully hard to farm though, with large outcroppings of stone and boulders everywhere you look, but maybe a sheep farmer could have scraped by. Sheep farming was big business in this area at one time and many of these hills were cleared nearly to their summits.

3. Deer Print

There were more deer tracks on this old road than I’ve ever seen anywhere. I don’t know what the attraction is for them but they obviously love it up here.

4. Stream

White brook is the name of the brook that porcupine falls is on and though the water giggles and chuckles over and around stones for much of its length it does have an occasional calm stretch like this one. Apparently this is a great spot for animals to come and drink because I saw many tracks leading here. I found it a good place to just sit and drink in nature’s serenity, so maybe the animals come here for a little of that too.

 5. Blushing Bracket Fungus

Blushing bracket (Daedaleopsis confragosa) fungi get their common name from the way their white, maze like pore surface turns reddish when it’s touched. This one can be difficult to identify because of the variability in the shape of its pores and by the zones of color on its cap. This example wasn’t very zonal and was quite old and well beyond the blushing stage. This is another fungus that shows medicinal promise and many countries are testing its antiviral compounds, especially in relation to influenza. It is also called the thin walled maze polypore.

6. Tinder Polypore

Tinder polypores (Fomes fomentarius,) also quite old, grew on a birch stump. The iceman was found to be carrying dried pieces of this fungus when he was found in the Ötztal Alps 5,000 years after his death, so it has been used to start fires for a very long time.

7. First Glimpse of Falls

After a short hike off the old road through the woods you get your first glimpse of porcupine falls. In this photo they’re shooting out of the large rock outcrop in the upper right corner with a roar. I tried to find out how they got their unusual name but haven’t had any luck.

8. Stone Steps

Someone built a nice solid set of stone steps near the falls. There is a lot of work in these, and finding the right stones for the treads wasn’t the least of it.

9. Bench

Someone also built a viewing bench. I didn’t sit on it but it told me that this spot was probably best for viewing the falls, and that turned out to be true.

10. Porcupine Falls

I don’t know why I didn’t notice it when I was actually there taking the photos, but what an odd angle for a waterfall to have.  It must be a good 20 degrees off vertical. There is nothing mysterious about it; it was simply following the gap in the stone outcrop, but I’ve never seen a tilted waterfall. It actually falls into another brook that enters the shot from the left. We’ve had a lot of rain and it was quite forceful but photographically speaking, I think this is one waterfall where less water would have made for a far better shot. I’m going to have to go back once it dries out a bit.

11. Rock Outcrop

If you stand where I was when I was viewing the waterfall and turn around, you find a massive rock outcrop covered with lichens, mosses and evergreen ferns. It might as well have been a nature nut magnet and of course I had to look it over.

12. Coral Lichen aka Sphaerophorus tuckermanii

I found a large patch of what I think is coral lichen (Sphaerophorus tuckermanii) growing on a mossy boulder. It was very stiff and prickly, much like a porcupine, but I’m having a hard time finding any reliable information about it.  I have high hopes that the often frustrating lack of information on lichens will change in the near future because thanks to the generosity of Santa I was finally able to order the book Lichens of North America by Irwin M. Brodo, Sylvia Duran Sharnoff, and Stephen Sharnoff.  I’m hoping it will shed some light on these fascinating organisms.

13. Mica in Feldspar

Gilsum is well known for the abundance of beautiful mineral specimens that are found there and it draws rock hounds from all over the world each July when the town holds its annual rock swap. There are a lot of old mines in the area and minerals like beryl, tourmaline, garnet and quartz can be found in and around them. I saw a lot of examples of feldspar that had me wishing I’d brought my rock hammer. The piece of feldspar in the photo was full of mica and splitting it open might have revealed a beautiful crystal that had formed millions of years ago, but I think my days of breaking rocks open with a sledge hammer are probably over. Even when I was young I could only take about half a day of it.

14. Bone

There was an old bone near the trail, or part of one anyhow. It had teeth marks on it and I’m assuming it is from a deer leg. At least I hope so. I see deer skeletons and carcasses in the woods fairly regularly but I’ve never stopped to actually study one so I’m not up on my deer anatomy.

 15. Slime Mold

The last thing I expected to find here was a slime mold but there it was, growing all over a rotting log. Not only is it odd to see a slime mold in winter but this one was growing in full sun. That’s doubly strange since slime molds dry up quickly in sunlight. I think this one was scrambled egg slime (Fuligo septica.) Whatever it was it was breaking all the rules and had me shaking my head in surprise as I set off down the trail. It was a good reminder that in nature study the words “always” and “never” don’t apply.

If you live in the Keene / Gilsum area and enjoy the outdoors this is a nice easy hike through an area with lots to see. Unless you stop to look at everything along the trail like I do the trip to the falls and back probably wouldn’t take more than half an hour.  With me along it might take 3 or 4.

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 stopping in. Happy New Year!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »