urbpan: (dandelion)
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I decided on a bit of a whim to do an Urban Nature Walk in Franklin Park. I took Charlie. We met one other walk participant there. I was there to find mushroom species for the Franklin Park Biodiversity Project.

many more pics )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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This summer has been unusually dry--we've had something like 2 inches of rain the entire summer (we average over 3 inches per month). As a mushroom guy, I've found it quite depressing. One day I woke up and the yard was a bit damp. I quickly moved from place to place to try to find live revived by the moisture. This may be Mycena corticola.

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The north facing side of the shingle roof of our shed is thickly decorated with British soldier lichen.

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A nearly hexagonal raft of infinitesimal bubbles on our bird bath.

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Ants in general don't seem to be suffering in the drought, at least it seems many species are doing fine.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Nature walk participant Keith pointed them out to me. "Fairy pins!" he said. I suddenly wished I had my reading glasses with me. With the naked eye I could see only the greenish white surface of the Trichaptum biforme*, a superabundant thin polypore mushroom. But through the loupe (good thing for a naturalist to carry) I could see the miniscule burnt matchsticks of Phaeocalicium polyporaeum.** These tiny mushrooms are the fruiting body of a fungus that parasitizes the Trichaptum biforme.
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*Double-formed, bound in hairs

**Dark buds of polypore
urbpan: (dandelion)
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"What are those mushrooms?" the nature walk participant asked, pointing way above our heads at some semicircular brackets. I peered up helplessly. Then I found these mushrooms. "Well, if they are the same as these here..." But who knows if they were. These are Daedalopsis confragosa*, a polypore caught in the act of evolving toward having gills. Gills, or lamellae, are apparently a very efficient way for a mushroom to maximize its spore-production surface area. Gill-like structures have evolved independently at least 4 times in mushrooms. In this species, the pores are elongated, changing what would be tubes into channels lined with spore-producing cells.

*Rough, resembling Daedalus (creator of the labyrinth)
urbpan: (dandelion)
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This lone elbiem (little brown mushroom) went unidentified during our most recent Urban Nature Walk in Waltham. I suspect it's related to either Xeromphalina or Marasmius mushrooms.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I really wish I had taken a better picture of this, my favorite Ascomycete. (Ascomycota is the smaller of the two main divisions of mushrooms; most mushrooms you can think of are Basidiomycetes; morels, cup fungi and most lichenized fungi are Ascos; the main difference is the shape of the spore-producing cells.) The green stain cup Chlorociboria aeruginascens* not only produces a blue-green fruiting body, but its mycelium stains its wooden substrate the same color. Often you might come by a chunk of dead wood stained this color, but I consider it a special occasion to come across one putting out mushrooms. It's fun to be reminded how rare shades of blue are among living things.

*Green cup becoming blue green
urbpan: (dandelion)
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The rubbery brown cauliflower-like thing you see is the fruiting body of the Tremella foliacea* fungus. I am not sure that I had seen it before encountering it multiple times last Sunday on the Urban Nature Walk. The fungus is a parasite that feeds on another fungus.

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You can see the mushroom of the parasite surrounded by the mushroom of the host. The little orangish mushrooms belong to Stereum hirsutum**, a very common wood-digesting fungus. Like VERY common--I could find it anywhere there are trees if you gave me 5 minutes. So why haven't I seen the parasite before? Dunno, but now that I'm aware of it, I bet you I'll see it all the time. Mushrooms have a way of hiding in plain sight, waiting for you to realize they were there all along.


*Trembling foliage

**Hairy and hard (Oh grow up)
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Exidia recisa* is one of those species I use to test out field guides. This gelatinous mushroom is exceedingly common, especially after windy and wet weather when the dead twigs it feeds on are blown down from the trees. Conspicuous and interesting, any decent guide to temperate mushrooms should include it. It is one of the few species that can produce spores in the winter: the mushroom can dry up and revive repeatedly, depending on how wet conditions are. This allows the fungus to attempt reproduction at a time when their are few others competing for resources.

*Exuding and cut back
urbpan: (dandelion)
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These little orange spots are spore-producing regions of a fungus that causes a canker disease of wood. The wood in this case is a root protuberance in the pathway, undoubtedly constantly stepped on and otherwise stressed. The fungus took advantage of the broken and worn wood to grow inside as a weak parasite. The fungus is known as coral spot Nectria cinnabarina*, for the colorful spore-bearing wounds it causes.

*Cinnabar-colored (orange) killer.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Most mushrooms become unrecognizable once they have released their spores and begun to rot. Bacteria and fungi invade the mushroom and reduce it to a withered husk or a pile of goo. These hemlock reishi mushrooms Ganoderma tsugae* are very durable, and still identifiable by their color and structure, and by the fact that they are growing from dead hemlock trees.
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* Shiny skin on hemlock
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Almost identical to the gem-studded puffball, but smoother and with a greater taste for wood, is the pear-shaped puffball Lycoperdon pyriforme*. It's generally found as seen here, in its hundreds on a big fallen tree. These are at peak puffability, with large open pores at the center already discharging spores.

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* Pear-shaped wolf fart.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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When I was a child I loved nothing more than to find a puffball ready to be stomped on. It had to be an old one, the outer skin turned leathery, maybe with a hole already formed at the top. Now I gently poke the skin rather than stomp the mushroom. The fungus doesn't care either way--no matter which method, the spores will be spread. This fresh beauty is called the gem-studded puffball Lycoperdon perlatum.*

*Everpresent wolf fart
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Not all of the fall color is the leaves. The turkey tail mushroom Trametes versicolor* shows bands of fawn and bluish gray here, but others might be green, pink, purple, chocolate brown, or creamy. Each patch of turkey tails you find is distinctively banded and clustered, even as the colors vary. Miniscule pores on the bottom of the thin leathery brackets release invisibly tiny spores. If they happen to land on a freshly cut log, there's a very good chance this fungus will result--turkey tail is a good competitor among wood decay fungi, making it one of the most commonly found throughout the northeast woods. The mushroom is known to contain compounds that fight disease, and is being vigorously studied for its medicinal value.

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* Many colored thin one
urbpan: (dandelion)
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These egg-like protuberances appear on freshly watered lawns and alongside paths where the soil is compressed from foot traffic. The shaggy mane Coprinus comatus* is a mushroom produced by a fungus that has benefited from human changes to the land. The "eggs" open up into more mushroom-like structures, but almost immediately turn into black liquid. If they are harvested and cooked before this happens they are a mushroom-hunter's delight (I have not tried them myself). I encountered this grouping along with my fungi field walk--when we passed back by it a few minutes later the mushrooms had been flattened by oblivious footsteps.

* Edible dung mushroom
urbpan: (dandelion)
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After the first freeze, a whole suite of new mushroom species appear. These are "late fall oysters" Panellus serotinus*, distinct from true oyster mushrooms by their color--variable but never the plain gray and white of the Pleurotus fungi. These are sometimes collected as wild food, since often they may be among the only mushrooms around in November or December. (These were photographed in northern Vermont, which enjoys an earlier freeze than Boston). During one lecture I attended, the mushroom expert on hand declared it "the single worst edible mushroom I've ever tried." Maybe he didn't cook it long enough.

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*Late flowering little tumor
urbpan: (dandelion)
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All-white gilled mushrooms coming directly from dead wood? Oyster mushroom, you have to say. But not exactly--this one gets associated with the oyster group because of its similarities, but has some important differences. This mushroom with its all-white almost translucent flesh always feeds on dead conifers. (True oyster mushrooms will grow on almost anything--I grew some on my junk mail.)

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These beauties are more accurately called "angel wings" Pleurocybella porrigens. Like the oyster mushroom, these have been collected as food for ages--plus they are easy to identify and hard to confuse with much else. Unfortunately, it turns out they are toxic, containing a cytotoxic fatty acid. There have been fatalities, mostly of elderly people in Japan who happened to also have pre-existing kidney problems.

Younger people with healthy kidneys may be able to eat moderate amounts of angel wings without health problems--but modern field guides play it safe, listing this formerly "edible" species as "poisonous."

"Pleuro-" means side, and "porrigens" means extending forward, both refer to the way the mushroom emerges straight out from the side of its substrate. The -cybella part is a bit of mystery. The spelling is close to Cybele, an ancient mother/nature goddess, but the pronunciation suggested puts it closer to "sibella," a Greek word meaning "prophetess."
urbpan: (dandelion)
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We are fortunate in New England to have at least two species of attractive yellow-orange translucent mushrooms! The kind of wood the mushroom is growing from will indicate which fungus is responsible. Since this is a conifer log, the mushroom is Dacrymyces chrysospermus.*

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The whitish base to the yellow jelly is another tipoff that this is Dacrymyces and not Tremella.

* Golden-spored teardrop mushroom
urbpan: (dandelion)
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The fact that I'm unable to identify these mushrooms does nothing to take away their charm and beauty. (probably Mycena) These are in the Wiessner Woods in Stowe Vermont.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Clusters of reddish-capped mushrooms growing from dead hardwood in late fall? Sounds like "brick cap," currently known as Hypholoma lateritium* when it occurs in the eastern United States. Very similar mushrooms probably produced by related but different species of fungi occur in Europe and Asia.

*Brick-colored, woven-edged
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Four years ago I had some large puffballs appear in my yard. At the time I narrowed them down to two possible species.

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If all I cared about was whether I could eat them or not, it wouldn't have mattered. Both possibilities are edible if harvested when the flesh inside is still white. As a matter of fact I did eat some of it. I'm not much of a mushroom cook, I have to admit, and didn't care much for this mushroom.

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I left one of the mushrooms that popped up 4 years ago to go through its normal development. The inside turned into a purplish brown powdery mass of spores. After the spores blew away, a cup-like structure was left on the yard. That confirmed my mushrooms as purple-spored puffballs Calvatia cyathiformis*, a species known to occur almost exclusively in grassy yards, presumably feeding on soil nutrients and occasionally forming fairy rings. I am happy to have this creature living in my yard, although our foster puppy uprooted this one.

*Bald, cup-shaped

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