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.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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Eastern prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa) is a surprising sight for most people who don't expect to see a cactus in New England. This plant seemed abundant on this Cape Cod visit, but is state listed as Endangered.

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Considering the long dry period we've been experiencing this summer, the last thing I expected to see was mushrooms. Instead I was greeted with these fresh but very sturdy polypores--in fact a species I had never seen before, Cryptoporus volvatus, produced by a fungus that feeds on dead conifer wood.

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I don't have an identification for this dragonfly, but I could tell she was female, because she kept dipping the end of her abdomen into the water--a sign that she was releasing eggs.

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And on a little black cherry tree, these fingerlike projections are galls that protect minuscule Eriophyes mites.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Certain trees produce anti-fungal chemicals in their wood. Certain fungi are specialists on this kind of wood, having evolved a resistance to these chemicals. Relative immunity to phenols means that Gloeophyllum sepiarium* can invade the wood of pine and other conifers before other fungi can.

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Unfortunately for those of us who own pine picnic tables, this fungus is rapidly destructive. By the time this narrow foam of mushroom material appeared from a crack in the wood grain, the cellulose making up the cell walls of the wood was well on the way to being digested.

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It's only a matter of time before someone goes right through this picnic table. Perhaps I'll show you a little later.

*Gloeophyllum means "with glutinous or
sticky leaves"; sepiarium means "dark, sepia-colored."
urbpan: (dandelion)

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Bondarzewia berkeleyi* is a mushroom so big that photographers traditionally place hats on it for scale. The greater part of the fungus is hard at work digesting "moist, poorly protected undersurface of tree trunk's thickest part" causing a disease called "butt rot," undoubtedly named by 12 year old with a forestry degree. Despite looking for all the world like a polypore mushroom, "Big Berk" is more closely related to Russula producing fungi. Future mushroom field guides are going to have to make a choice between grouping together species that look alike or species that are actually closely related.

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* Bondarzewia is named for A.S. Bondarzew; berkeleyi is named for British mycologist M. J. Berkeley (1803-1889).

urbpan: (dandelion)
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I canceled February's walk on account of we had more snow on the ground than any other time in history, and I didn't feel like walking through it more than I already was. We had a fair amount of melt in late March, and I was feeling good about seeing what creatures were out on the last Sunday of the month. Then on the Saturday before, it snowed again. In the Blue Hills, where the walk was planned, they got about 3 more inches. A friend and once-frequent Urban Nature Walker was going to be working at a maple sugar festival at Brookwood Farm in the Blue Hills, so that's where we went.

Above you can see the grounds of Houghton's Pond Recreation Area, complete with fresh blanket of snow and incongruent obsolete technology. We parked here and took a shuttle bus to the farm.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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These mushrooms are growing from a log in front of the (indoor) tapir exhibit. They probably were there when the log was brought indoors. Most likely this is Poronidulus conchifer, a species that has strikingly banded cuplike mushrooms when fresh but quickly fades to whitish.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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This time around [livejournal.com profile] mizdarkgirl suggested that we walk in the Blakely Hoar Nature Sanctuary in Brookline. We had twice as many people participating as we did January 2014. I took about a million photos, of which I've posted 20 or so:
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urbpan: (dandelion)
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My friend [livejournal.com profile] dedhamoutside and I co-led an Urban Nature Walk in the Dedham Town Forest (previously seen here). This sign is relatively new. On the one hand, it's nice for the town to recognize the Town Forest; on the other, now it's more visible for use and abuse. We set out with the intention to find mushrooms and other living things!

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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We saw lots of mushrooms but I only brought home three photos. This one's scaly yellowish tops (not pictured), crowded brown gills, and habitat (growing from a dead hardwood) suggest Gymnopilus sp., but the lack of a distinct ring on the stem says otherwise. File as unknown.

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Colors look like Ganoderma lucidum complex, but matte finish texture is all wrong. File as unknown polypore.

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Coral mushrooms need microscopy to positively identify. Color, habitat (growing from deadwood), and degree of branching strongly suggest Artomyces pyxidatus.

We found a group of blewits, too--but instead of the expected purple they were a faintly pink buff color. All other field markings including odor and spore print fit perfectly.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Like most of the things in this post, these mushrooms are unidentified. They are polypores--which is a bit like saying an animal is an arthropod.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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Despite the dry conditions, there was a bloom of reishi mushrooms coming from subterranean roots

Urban Nature Walk returns to the Riverway, on a quest to reach Ward's Pond, the spring that gives it water. I quickly got over doing an UNW on a Saturday (I have a mushroom class tomorrow) and met up with the group by the Longwood T stop. The first three to show up all brought gigantic cameras, so I will look forward to seeing their pictures, and linking you to them as well.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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Behold the fruiting body of the tree parasite Laetiporus cincinnatus, almost luminous in its pink orange glory. This is one of at least two (probably more) polypore mushrooms that have the common name "chicken mushroom." When people ask me if it's edible I tell them, "Oh yes, it's one of our most sought-after edibles. I made myself very sick eating it once." Polypores have sturdy cell walls and need lots of cooking to soften them up into something that weak human intestines can deal with.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Until I'm scolded to the contrary, I'm going to call these Reishi mushrooms, which used to have the scientific name Ganoderma lucidum. The species is being split into many, due to dna and geography. These are growing from a hardwood stump in the pavement behind Stone's Public House, a haunted inn, in Ashland Mass. The pub is a lovely old place, built in 1834 to take advantage of the new rail line through the little town. I'd love to return for a night visit to see if anything spooky happens.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Somehow in the midst of all the dog-related chaos, with Alexis out of town, I was able to complete a scheduled Urban Nature Walk! My idea for this year is to start at the mouth of the Charles, then follow it upriver on the North side. It's not much, but it's a theme. Here I am, as the weather app indicates, in the fair city of Cambridge. The mercury hit the Fahrenheit scale at 14, a bit colder than yesterday, but the motivation of an Urban Nature Walk is enough to get me out there to see North Point Park.
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urbpan: (dandelion)
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Here's a species that somehow didn't appear for either of the 100 species projects for my yard. It was there for most of that time, but it was invisible to me. Early on in our time at Contentment Cottage I went on Norway maple murder spree. I cut down more than a dozen of the little maples--invasive species that form monocultures when they escape, and produce thousands of winged seeds to ensure that they do--and turned them into firewood. Spores of a fungus called Trametes versicolor are always in the air, and some landed on this stump. They divided and invaded the still-living wood, for this fungus is a weak parasite that takes advantage of situations like the one I created with my little hand saw.

The fungus took the form of threads growing along the grain of the wood of the stump. As it grew it released enzymes into the wood, breaking down the lignin into smaller hydrocarbons that it reabsorbed as food for growth. Only after it had done this for more than year did it reveal itself by producing the beautiful polypore mushrooms called "turkey tails."

Turkey tails are much appreciated by foragers interested in wild-collected medicine. One such person on the Foragers Unite! facebook group sings the praises of the mushrooms as "powerful healers, [which] have clinically been shown to destroy cancer cells, fight infection, and drastically reduce inflammation in the body..." Usually they speak of brewing tea with the mushrooms, but another forager advocates plucking and chewing the fresh uncooked mushrooms. They have a leathery texture, and (apparently) no toxicity even at very high dosages. Should I try it?
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Then we went and found Six Mile Cypress Slough, not far away. It's all boardwalks through cypress swamp. This great egret was right by the gate, sort of a wildlife emissary for the place.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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We spent some time trying to "find" Fort Myers. Gertrude Stein may have lamented that "there's no there there" about her home town of Oakland, but I've heard it more accurately applied to other places. We tried in vain to find a town center, walkable village, or cohesive sense of Fort Myers that we could understand as New Englanders. One time I set the GPS for Centennial Park, in "downtown" Fort Myers. There were tall buildings and a park, but we didn't stay long. This laughing gull gave us a funny look as we looked across to the hotels of North Fort Myers where spent the night.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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There came a point in the "trail" where the palmetto crowded in providing an obstacle which I was happy to avoid. Some of the plants were sharp and pointy, and pushing through those palmetto fronds was one step more adventuresome than I wanted. My friend maintains hiking trails in Massachusetts and took a picture to share with her supervisors.
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urbpan: (dandelion)
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Gloeophyllum sepiarium growing from the picnic table in my yard. I should know better than to proclaim this species, since I misidentified it once already in a previous post. That's why this is number 59, not number 99. In any case, I'm quite confident of the Genus, and if anyone would like to tell me why it's not this species I promise not to scream.

Gloeophyllum is one of at least three polypore mushrooms which has changed its pores to be gill-like in structure, which must be a very effective strategy for packing lots of spores in a small space. It is also a fungus that likes to eat the wood of conifers, like my pine picnic tables, or these park benches at the zoo.

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The underside (spore producing) surface of these mushrooms.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Any guesses as to what the tempera paint is for?
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