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Posts Tagged ‘Woodworking’

1. Tree Carving

As soon as I mentioned wood eaters this tree spirit started looking worried. Actually this carving doesn’t have anything to do with this post other than to show a tree’s remarkable ability to heal itself. This was carved into a tree on his property a few years ago by a local resident and it shows how quickly the bark is coming together to heal the wound. In a few more years if the tree stays healthy you won’t be able to see any sign of this carving.

2. Turkey Tails

On the other hand if you see a tree with turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) like these on it, the chance of it healing itself is slim to none. Turkey tails are sabprobic fungi, meaning they decompose dead or decaying organic material. Though they do occasionally grow on live trees, if you find them on a standing tree it is most likely dead. Turkey tails cause white rot of the sapwood. They also show great promise in cancer research.

3. Orange Crust Fungus

Crust fungi are called resupinate fungi and have flat, crust like fruiting bodies which usually appear on the undersides of fallen branches and logs. Resupinate means upside down, and that’s what many crust fungi seem to be. Their spore bearing surface can be wrinkled, smooth, warty, toothed, or porous and though they appear on the undersides of logs, the main body of the fungus is in the wood, slowly decomposing it. Some, like the white rot fungus Phanerochaete chrysorhizon pictured above have been found to be useful in degrading of various pesticides, PCBs, and other poisons.  Some will even “eat” plastics. Because some crust fungi break down lignin, which is the brown in wood, and leave the white cellulose behind they are also being studied for use in the paper industry for “biopulping.”

4. Blue Crust Fungus

It’s too bad that many crust fungi grow in hidden places like the undersides of logs because many are quite beautiful. I’ve spent quite a while trying to identify this blue-gray one but haven’t had much luck. I think it must be a variation of the cobalt crust fungus (Terana caerulea.)

The forest would be a very different place without fungi breaking down all of the twigs, branches and logs. It would probably be more like an impenetrable brush pile, just waiting for a fire to come and clean it out.

5. Cobalt Crust Fungus

Here is a cobalt crust fungus (Terana caerulea) that I showed in another post recently. I’m showing it again here to illustrate the difference between it and the example in the previous photo, and also the one that follows.

6. Bluestain

Though this appears to be close to the same color as the cobalt crust fungus I think that it might be bluestain, which is also called sapstain because of the way it stains the sapwood of logs. If this log were sawn into planks the blue color could show on the surface of one or more of the planks. Both deep and surface bluestain can be caused by fungi called Ophiostoma minus and others, which all seem to be collectively called bluestain fungi and which can eventually kill the tree. It is thought that bark beetles and mites help it spread.

7. Toothed Crust Fungus

Some crust fungi have teeth, like the toothed crust (Basidioradulum radula) in the photo above. This crust fungus starts life as round, brownish yellow patches with creamy white margins. These round patches eventually grow together to form large irregular colonies like that in the above photo. It is very tough and has a waxy coating that protects it and allows it to revive after drying out. It’s another crust fungus that feeds on dead and decaying limbs and logs.

8. Milk White Toothed Polypore

This milk white, toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) is another upside down (Resupinate) fungus with a tooth shaped pore surface. As the photo shows, it will sometimes try to grow a cap which is white and hairy, and grows curled up around the edges. This fungus feeds on the dead sapwood and occasionally the heartwood of fallen hardwood logs and causes white rot.

9. Bootstrap Fungus

Bootstrap fungus is caused by honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea), which are parasitic on live wood and send out long root like structures called rhizomorphs between the wood of a tree and its bark. When fresh these rhizomorphs are cream colored but darken to brown or black as they age. The fungus is also called armillaria root rot or shoestring root rot. It causes a white pulpy rot in the wood and kills many species of both soft and hardwood trees.

 10. Honey Mushrooms

These are the honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea) that cause the bootstrap fungus seen in the previous photo. If you see them growing on a live tree, it’s all over for that tree. These examples were well past their prime when I found them.

11. Fungal Rhizomorphs

Fungal rhizomorphs are threadlike or cordlike structures made up of branched tubular filaments called hyphae. They absorb nutrients and moisture and I think of them as a mushroom’s roots, even though that isn’t entirely accurate. They are worth looking for in leaf litter and on the undersides of logs because they can be very beautiful.

12. Pink Stain on Tree Bark

Trees and logs can be stained various colors, including black, white, brown, blue, green, yellow, red, and even pink. Discolorations can be caused by fungi, molds, bacteria, yeasts, minerals in soil, inorganic deposits, metals, enzymes, and even stress brought on by tension or compression. It takes a microscope and a trained eye to uncover what causes discolorations and since I have neither I can’t say what caused this pink stain on the bark of the tree in the photo. It looked good and healthy otherwise and I didn’t see any fungi growing on it.

13. Pink on Cut Log

Nor can I say what caused the pink stain on the wood of this cut limb. It isn’t a color that you see often in nature, though.

14. Spalting on Elm

Sometimes woods affected by fungi can become very desirable to woodworkers. Spalting is essentially any form of wood coloration caused by fungi but there are 3 major types; pigmentation, white rot and zone lines. Sometimes all 3 can be present as they are on the end grain of the elm log in the above photo. Pigmentation is the blue gray color, which is probably caused by bluestain or sapstain. The white rot can be seen in the areas that look soft or pulpy, and the zone lines are the dark, narrow lines found radiating randomly throughout the log. Zone lines often form where 2 or more types of fungi meet.

15. Spalted-Maple-Lidded-Box

A few woodworkers have learned how to recreate the natural spalting process artificially, and the worth of a log can jump from $30.00 to $3,000.00 after a few weeks of spalting. Why would a log attacked by fungi be worth so much money? Because of the beautiful things that can be made from it, like the spalted maple covered box made by Michael at Michael’s Wood craft blog. Michael knows wood and he makes some beautiful objects from it, including cutting boards, ice cream scoops, honey sticks, and just about anything else you can think of. If you haven’t seen his blog you’re missing a real treat. You can visit it by clicking here. You’ll see some of the most beautiful woods that you’ve ever laid eyes on.

I’ve found by studying wood specific fungi that I have a greater understanding of how the forest works, and a greater appreciation of the beauty of the fungi themselves. I’ve also had a lot of fun and have learned a lot by searching for various fungi and learning how they affect certain types of wood. It’s a fascinating subject!

If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks. ~Richard Feynman

I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving.  Thanks for coming by.

 

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