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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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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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
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Giant puffball Calvatia gigantea* is considered a common mushroom, but you wouldn't guess that by most people's astonished reaction to finding one. These things are dramatically huge, from grapefruit sized up to four feet across--most of the ones I've seen were mistaken for deflated volleyballs at first. It used to be assumed that giant puffballs grew from a fungus feeding on decomposing matter in the soil, but current mycology seems to be leaning toward the fungus being symbiotic with the roots of certain grasses. People who like to eat things they find outside get very excited when they find one of these. If you cut one in half, and there is no color or texture, just a white homogenous mass, then it is safe to eat. Some also claim these are delicious, but I have yet to prove it myself. So far my experiments have yielded a dish with the texture of french toast but with the unmistakeable earthiness of mushroom.

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* "Bald giant"
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!

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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"The Greeting" is the straight road that runs most of the length of Franklin Park Zoo. It was originally conceived as a path for those wished to be seen, to cruise in their carriages. I guess that was a thing at the time (late 1800s). It makes for a distinctive feature of the zoo.

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We're still an inch of rain behind this year, but this week we started to make up for it. Here are some common puffballs Lycoperdon perlatum enjoying the sudden moisture.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Wilson Mountain Reservation is a protected patch of woods on a stony hill in Dedham. The main entrance has a parking area which is almost always packed with cars full of dog owners taking their pets for a quick ramble up the path, often off-leash. My good friend [livejournal.com profile] dedhamoutdoors knows her town well, and took me to the back side of the Reservation, where we didn't see another human or canine soul. Perhaps the persistent light rain helped.

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I took Charlie on a rambling walk in the Stony Brook Reservation on Sunday. I tried to find paths that were new to me, and was happy to find some mushrooms! These swampy trees have some reddish-orange polypores on them. I had to get out feet a little damp to get closer. Luckily once I was at the right angle to take this picture, I found the same mushrooms growing out of the tree I was standing next to!

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urbpan: (Default)

I know you're all shocked that I would post about dogs and mushrooms, but that happened to be what I took pictures of yesterday. Now you're even more shocked: pictures as recent as the day before?
Anyway, Charlie here is laying in a fairy arc--not quite a ring--made of Mirasmius oreades mushrooms. They're pretty small, so maybe I need to use some fairy magic to make the arc more visible.

hey presto )
urbpan: (Default)

This group of puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum) came up just outside the service yard gate at the zoo, a few feet from a gasoline pump. This species is edible, but the possibility of contamination from the fuel makes eating these a bad idea. I mainly took these pictures to further document how profuse the mushroom fruitings have been this year:

I've never seen so many terrestrial puffballs at once! (I have seen similar troops of puffballs coming from dead wood).
urbpan: (Default)

This is a puffball which started out exactly like this one. Then a hole formed at the top, probably from slugs grazing on it, and it collected a little puddle of rainwater. A bit of black rot appeared on it, and quickly it spread over the whole mushroom.

I took this context shot (the black puffball is visible at middle right) to show the extent and location of the ringless honey mushrooms in the yard.
urbpan: (Default)

This purple-spored (Calvatia cyathiformis) or skull-shaped (C. craniformis) puffball grew in the grass next to the driveway; this photo is from August 31.

If I'd let this mushroom grow to maturity, to let the interior turn into a mass of billions of spores, then the color of those spores would let me know what species it is. But I didn't, because I ate it. To eat a puffball you have to harvest it when the flesh inside is pure white--if it isn't pure white, or if it shows a structure of any kind inside, the mushroom is not edible, and may well be deadly poisonous. But this mushroom looked like dense pure white angel food cake, and once cooked, tasted like mushroomy French toast.

Both species can grow in open areas, feeding on nutrients in the soil. Next time they pop up, I wont eat it--I want to see what color the spores are, and I wasn't too thrilled with it as food.

The top. This photo is from the morning of September 1.

Alexis took this picture after I harvested the mushroom, in the afternoon of September 2. You can see how the mushroom grew and changed shape from the first picture. The large blemish is probably from slugs grazing at the surface.
urbpan: (dandelion)

A good number of interesting mushrooms have appeared at Franklin Park Zoo this summer. This one caught a lot of people's attention. It was much lighter when it first emerged, and you can see it's starting to decay. This is Bondarzewia berkeleyi. Most notable for it's large size, it's a parasite of oak trees. This one is emerging from the ground, feeding on the hidden wood of a now gone tree.

Read more... )
urbpan: (Default)

Giant puffball Calvatia gigantea

Not everyone has encountered a giant puffball, but surely everyone who has remembers the experience. Often they are mistaken for deflated volleyballs, or soccer balls that have faded to all-white. A group of particularly large giant puffballs, dotting a meadow, might be taken to be a flock of sheep. Each mushroom ranges in size from that of a grapefruit up to a meter across. The fungus organism, hidden in the soil, is a larger creature made of millions of interlacing threads only a single cell wide. These threads exude digestive juices into the soil, breaking down chemicals into usable nutrients and reabsorbing the result.

All mushroom-producing fungi live this way, though many live in dead wood instead of soil, and others live within or among the roots of living trees. Secondary decomposers (or secondary saprobes in the terminology of mycologists) feed in places where other fungi and bacteria have already done some work breaking down formerly living things into smaller, more digestible parts. A microscopic puffball spore must drift to such a place, and somehow escape the predations of springtails, slime molds, earthworms and a myriad other creatures in order to grow into fungus organism, . The odds seem very bad for the spore, perhaps that's why each giant puffball produces more than a trillion spores. Surely one will reach the right spot.

Giant puffball links:

Tom Volk's page on the species: http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/aug98.html

David Fischer's page on the species and its relatives: http://americanmushrooms.com/edibles3.htm

Michael Kuo's page on the species: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/calvatia_gigantea.html

Two years ago they appeared three weeks earlier, for some reason. I ate one:

Goofballs with puffballs: http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/calvatia.html

(Thanks to Tom Volk and David Fischer for responding to my questions about this species.)
urbpan: (Default)

We went to the Breakheart Reservation in Saugus/Wakefield. We were surprised at the number of colorful mushrooms out there today!

Read more... )
urbpan: (morel)

Cooked, it had the consistency of very eggy french toast. It took on the flavor of the butter (especially the salt part of the flavor). If I did it again I'd want to browse some recipes and figure out what would taste best. Garlic is always good. There's just so damn much mushroom there!

more pictures )
urbpan: (morel)
Wow, what an unexpectedly wonderful day for urban nature!  As most of you know, I work at a zoo in a major northeastern city.  I was in an area that used to be a waterfowl exhibit that's now closed, treating the water features for mosquitoes (biological controls, insect growth regulator, and pheromone traps).  Almost immediately I encountered the garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) pictured two posts ago.  It slithered over a stick, so I was able to pick it up without it biting me, or worse, musking on me.  It struck as fiercely at me as a timber rattlesnake, despite being a pencil-sized predator of slugs.

I delved further into this jungle of concrete and weeds, and found a mallard family with four nearly grown chicks.  They were clearly shocked to see a human in their sanctuary.  It was surely safer for them in an unused part of a zoo, a hundred feet from thousands of people and cars, then it was in any of the nearby city parks.  I found one of my pheromone traps, blown by the wind into the artificial pond, and fished it out.  A plastic container the size of a large mayonnaise jar, it had an amazing array of life within it.  Four water boatmen had swam into it, hunting smaller insects.  I could make out the tiny swimming forms of water mites, and even copepods carrying double saddlebags full of eggs.  I dumped out the creatures into the pond and brought the empty trap back to storage.

On the way I walked through a landscape decorated with huge white spheroids, ranging from the size of softballs to those the size of deflated soccer balls.  These are giant puffballs, Calvatia gigantea.  If they were allowed to grow to maturity their insides would turn into billions of spores, which would puff out of tears in the mushroom's leathery hide when struck by raindrops.  I harvested two of them, for research purposes for the mushroom classes I'm teaching at Drumlin Farm in the fall.  Some of my research will include slicing up one of the mushrooms, frying it and eating it.  I must ask, [personal profile] lizblackdog and [personal profile] gwenhyffar, how do you cook and season these beasts?

Finally, as I went back to my storage area, I moved some equipment and turned up a yellow, white, and black striped caterpillar.  Such a striking and beautiful thing, but it was on a piece of metal.  "You belong here, little one," I said, as I lifted it up and placed it on a milkweed plant growing out of a crack in the asphalt.
urbpan: (Default)

(Edited to add title and tags)
urbpan: (mazegill)

Photos by [livejournal.com profile] cottonmanifesto. Location: Olmsted Park.
Urban species #298: Pear-shaped puffball Lycoperdon pyriforme

Puffballs are familiar to most people, but it may be surprising to see them erupting from wood, rather than from grassy soil. But while most fungi that produce puffballs feed on organic matter within fertile soil, the pear-shaped puffball's fungus digests wood. When the fungus is ready to reproduce, clusters of puffballs appear on the top of the dead wood. They have short stems, presumably helping to lift them out of the reach of smaller, lazier insects and slugs, and to give their spores a centimeter boost. The stem gives these mushrooms their inverted pear shape for which they are named. When the puffballs are fresh, their inner flesh is white and edible, if rather a small morsel for most bipedal foragers. Their surface is pebbly or "gem-studded"; a very similar puffball that grows on soil is called the gem-studded puffball Lycoperdon gemmatum. As the puffball's flesh matures, it yellows, then browns, becoming inedible. When the spores are ready for dispersal, an aperture forms at the top of the mushroom. Puffs of "smoke" composed of hundreds of thousands of spores blow out of the aperture when a raindrop falls on the puffball's now leathery hide. Similar results can be obtained by lightly poking or tapping the puffball. The genus name of many species of puffballs comes from an imaginative description of the reproductive discharge: Lycoperdon means "wolf fart."

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