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Posts Tagged ‘Summer Woods’

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

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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

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Last Saturday a good breeze out of the northwest blew away the heat and humidity and, since there was a fall feel to the air, I decided to climb Gap Mountain in Troy, New Hampshire.  Gap Mountain has 3 peaks; north, middle and south, and gets its name from the gap between the middle and southern summits. My GPS said that it was 1.9 miles from the south parking lot to the 1,840 foot high middle summit, but there seems to be a lot of conflicting information online about this distance. The elevation gain is about 640 feet over 1.9 miles for an average 6% grade, again according to my GPS.

1. GM Trail

In the late 1800s there was pasture and farm land all the way to the summit, but now it is heavily forested with second growth forest. This forest is dense enough and has few enough trails to make getting lost a real possibility, but the trail that I used was clearly blazed. It started out easy enough and even went downhill in places, but before too long it became a steady and steep uphill climb.

 2. Indian Tobacco

Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) grows all along the trail in sunny spots. This plant’s common name refers to the inflated calyx that is supposed to resemble tobacco pouches carried by Native Americans. Despite its common name it should never be smoked because it is very toxic.

 3. GM Plank Bridge

The trail crosses a stream but this plank bridge keeps your feet dry. This mountain and the 1,160 acre preserve that it sits on are owned and maintained by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and open to the public year round, even though there is no winter maintenance.

 4. GM Stream

As you look out at this landscape it’s hard to imagine what it looked like a century ago when it was cleared for farming. Cows or sheep probably regularly drank from this stream.

 5. Hemlock Varnish Bracket Fungus aka Ganoderma tsugae

I saw a large hemlock varnished bracket fungus (Ganoderma tsugae) growing on a huge old hemlock stump. It was about as big as a dinner plate and really did look like someone had varnished it.

 6. GM Boulder

Rocks and tree roots mark the upper part of the trail so you’ve got to watch where you step. The boulders that the farmers left in place were left for a good reason-some are as big as cars.

 7. GM Stairs

Some hiking books and websites (and people) will tell you how easy this trail is. If I was still 30 I’d agree with them but, as an ex-smoker on the downhill slide into 60 years, I looked at these stairs after climbing for close to an hour and thought you have got to be kidding me. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were easy compared to what was to follow.

8. GM Trail 2

It gets a little rocky after the stairs. Easy compared to what, I wondered, Mount Everest?

 9. GM Trail 3

Before long the rocks become boulders and bedrock ledges.  In places you have to use both your hands and feet to crawl up and over them, so if you make this climb you’ll want to make sure your hands are free. I wish I’d known this before I climbed-I was carrying a monopod.

 10. Fringed Loosestrife

Fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliate) has tucked itself in among the boulders and grows profusely near the summit.  This plant gets its common name from the fringe of hairs on its leafstalks. Sometimes the flower petals are also fringed, but not on this example. I was glad to see it because photographing it gave me a good excuse to stop and rest until I was done huffing and puffing.

 11. Apple Tree

Very near the summit is an abandoned apple orchard with quite a few trees that are still producing.  Nearly the entire summit is covered with native high bush blueberries and people climb up here regularly to pick them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many blueberry bushes growing naturally in one place before. A couple of people were filling plastic containers with them.

 12. Monadnock From GM Summit

When you reach the summit this is the view that greets you. Straight ahead to the north Mount Monadnock rises up out of the forest. At only 3 miles away it seems almost close enough to touch. Mount Monadnock is famous throughout New England and is the second most climbed mountain on earth after Mount Fuji in Japan.  At 3,166 feet it’s high enough to see from just about anywhere in the county.

13. Monadnock From GM Summit

In 1800, fires were intentionally set on Mount Monadnock’s lower slopes to clear them for use as pasture land. Unfortunately the fires burned all the way to the summit, destroying the natural spruce forest that was there. Then in 1820 farmers set fire to the upper slopes to burn out the wolves they thought were living there. That fire burned long enough and hot enough to destroy even the topsoil on the summit and the roots that kept it in place. Before too long rain had washed it all away, leaving the bare granite seen today.

14. View From Gap Mountain

There are great views of the distant hills for nearly 360 degrees from Gap Mountain’s summit.

 15. Gap Mountain Southern Peak

Off to the right (east) as you gaze at Mount Monadnock from the middle peak you see the southern peak looming up above the blueberries and interrupting the 360 degree view. The south peak is completely covered by dense forest and it is said that there are no good views from its summit. It’s a great example of what happens to land in New England that is left alone for a hundred years. This view also looks out over the gap that the mountain is named for.

 16. Gap Mountain from Monadnock

This view of Gap Mountain was taken from a trail on Mount Monadnock. The name of the photographer is unknown.

It wasn’t until I reached the parking lot after the climb down that I saw the notice warning that this was a very strenuous hike over steep terrain. I was glad to know that I hadn’t imagined it.

It’s always further than it looks, it’s always taller than it looks, and it’s always harder than it looks.
 ~The 3 rules of mountaineering

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This is another of those posts full of all those things that don’t seem to fit anywhere else.

1. Staghorn Sumac Fruiting

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) berries are forming. This is an extreme close up of them. The fuzziness is what gives the plant its common name.  I watched these berries closely last fall to see how long it would take for the birds to eat them. Much to my surprise, they weren’t eaten until migrating birds like red winged blackbirds returned in the spring. Birds that stay here year round don’t seem to like them.

2. Blue Bead Lily Fruit

The blue of the berries on a blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis) plant is hard to match anywhere else in nature. It’s a kind of electric, neon blue that is very easy to see in the forest.  Birds and chipmunks love these berries though, so they can be hard to find before they’re eaten.

 3. Blue Bead Lily Fruit

Native blue bead lily is also called corn lily, cow tongue, yellow bead lily, yellow blue bead lily, snake berry, dog berry, and straw lily. Native Americans used this plant treat injuries and bruises.

4. Bunchberry Berries

This bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) had a bunch of red berries.

 5. Nipple Galls or Coneheads on Hazel Leaf caused by aphid Hormaphis hamamelidis

The witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) have nipple galls, made by the witch hazel gall aphid (Hormaphis hamamelidis). These galls won’t hurt the plant, but they do look a little strange. They are also called cone heads.

 7. Indian Pipes 4

When Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) stand up straight from their usual nodding position that means the flowers have been pollinated. Soon after the plants begin to darken as they put all their energy into making seeds.  The plant gets its common name from the way its nodding flowers resemble the peace pipe used by Native Americans. Other names include corpse plant, death plant, ice plant, ghost flower, bird’s nest, fairy smoke, eyebright, fit plant, and convulsion root.

6. Indian Pipe Flower

After fertilization a single seed capsule containing thousands of tiny seeds forms. In spite of its toxicity, Native Americans used Indian pipe medicinally to treat a variety of illnesses. Colonial Americans also used the plant in the same way.

 8. Pinesap

At a quick glance pinesap plants look much like Indian pipes, but a closer look shows that pinesap is a yellow / tan /reddish color compared to the stark white of Indian pipes. Indian pipes also have a single flower and pinesap has several, the buds of which can be seen in this photo. Despite their differences the two plants are closely related.

9. Crushed Glass

I had to go to the local recycling center last week and saw this pile of crushed glass sparkling like gemstones in the bright sunlight. Naturally, I had to get a picture of it.

10.Orange Spindle Coral Fungi aka Ramariopsis laeticolor

This photo of orange spindle coral fungi (Ramariopsis laeticolor) isn’t the sharpest I’ve ever taken, but they are tiny things and it was quite dark where they grew. Soon coral mushrooms of all kinds will be seen all over the forest floor.

11. Blue Slime Mold possibly Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa

This blue slime mold was even smaller than the spindle coral mushrooms and grew in an even darker place. I don’t like to use a flash unless it is absolutely necessary but in this case, it was. Blue is a very rare color among slime molds in this area and I’m always happy to see it. Though I haven’t been able to positively identify it, I think it could be Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa.

12. Scrambled Egg Slime Mold

Scrambled egg slime mold (Fuligo septica) looks just like scrambled eggs at this stage in its development.  Tomorrow it could look entirely different or might have disappeared completely.

13. Tiny Orange Waxcap Mushrooms

Wax cap mushrooms prefer areas that have not been worked by man and I find them in the two or three old undisturbed forests that I visit. There are over 250 species of wax caps and all are very colorful. I haven’t been able to identify these except to assume that they are part of the hygrocybe group.

16. Queen Anne's Lace Purple Flower

If you give a Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) flower head (Umbel) a quick glance you might think that there was a small insect right in the middle of it. That’s not an insect though-it’s a tiny, infertile flower that’s less than half the size of a pea. Not all plants have these central florets that can be purple, pink, or sometimes blood red. From what I’ve seen in this area it seems that as many plants have it as those that do not.

15. Queen Anne's Lace Purple Flower

This is a close up of the tiny purple floret that sometimes appears on a Queen Anne’s lace flower head. I’ve heard many theories of why this floret grows the way it does but the bottom line is that botanists don’t really know why.  It seems to serve no useful purpose, but it might have at one time.

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. ~ John Muir

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