Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Mushroom Log - Early to Mid September

Veiled Oyster - Pleurotus dryinus
A yellowish, fuzzy mushroom on rotten wood shouldn't be hard to identify, right? Not so. Pleurotus dryinus doesn't make it into all of the field guides. If it does, it might have a completely different name. And to make matters more confusing, the name P. dryinus is used for a similar, but clearly different mushroom by some authors; a not fuzzy mushroom, that inhabits living trees.
Fused Marasmius - Marasmius cohaerens
Coprinoid Mushrooms
These mushrooms were along the boulevard in my neighborhood. I think they were growing on a spot where a tree had been cut down and the stump ground up. I think the small mushrooms could be Coprinellus disseminatus and the big mushroom a Parasola sp., though I considered the idea that the small mushrooms were just less developed versions of the big mushrooms. I went back a little later in the day, but the spot had been mowed over.
Milk-cap Mushroom - Lactarius sp.
Unknown Bolete - Boletus
The red stem and cap, white pore surface that doesn't bruise and growth under hardwoods leads me think these are Boletus seperans
Unknown Webcap - Cortinarius sp
Unknown Mushroom
I need a hat that looks exactly like the cap of this mushroom!

Monday, September 5, 2016

An Illustrated Life List: Great Blue Heron

A picture of the Great Blue Heron rookery on the Mississippi River, just before the May 2011 tornado that tore through parts of north Minneapolis hit it.
I wasn't there when it happened. We live on the other side of the river. I didn't know that the rookery had been hit until the next day when I witnessed a noisy flock of Great Blue Herons circling about as I was teaching a school group on a dock at Westwood Hills Nature Center. Great Blue Herons nest in groups, but they don't travel in groups. It was a surreal sight. I figured out pretty quickly what had happened.
Evidence of the tornado is still apparent in parts of north Minneapolis. To my eyes the lack of mature trees on certain blocks is striking. But my relationship to the affected neighborhoods is fairly superficial, mostly as I pass through bringing my kids to and from their school or friend's houses. I can really only imagine the long term impacts of those who live there.
The herons didn't return to the island, but set up a new rookery the following year on a different island just downstream from the original rookery site. I notice a juxtaposition here, in comparing how quickly the herons recovered and rebuilt versus us humans. We who have access to more resources, more capacity for organization, more advance technologies than herons who use their beaks and sticks
The herons didn't return to their island as too many of the big trees they nested in had been knocked down. But the following year they started a new rookery on a similar island just downstream from the first. I have to wonder how it is that we couldn't rebuild and recover as quickly as the herons did. We have access to more resources, more capacity for organization, and more advanced technologies. They have beaks, sticks, and instinct.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Some August Insects

Stilt-legged Fly - Rainieria antennaepes
I like flies. Yes, there are some species that are annoying, gross, and even harmful to humans, but don't write off the whole Dipteran of insects because of this. The out stretched forelegs of this Stilt-legged Fly (family Micropezidae) are thought to imitate the antennae of a wasp. The bands of color on the legs and wings add to the effect. I enjoyed reading this short piece on the Micropezidae "Ten facts about Stilt-legged Flies".
Canada Darner - Aeshna canadensis
The notched strip on the thorax distinguishes this Darner from other similar species in the genus Aeshna.
Giant Ichneumon Wasp - Megarhyssa sp
Little Nymph Underwing Moth - Catocala micronympha

Monday, August 8, 2016

Death of a Snapping Turtle

This past spring a very large Snapping Turtle died in Westwood Lake. The floated right off a frequently used dock for a few days before sinking down into the muck (and sparing anyone visiting the dock some intense odors of decay). I didn't really count, but in a matter of days most of the soft tissue was consumed by scavengers and only the turned over carapace remained visible. In the right sunlight it assumed a somewhat luminous quality. I enjoy staring down into a lake's water and letting my gaze soften a bit so that the perception of depth is lessened and the distinction between reflections on the water's surface and what lies beneath the surface is blurred.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Cultured Fungus: Canned Mushrooms

I hadn't realized such a thing existed, canned puffball mushrooms in brine. Intrigued, I bought a can, brought it home and placed it in the cupboard with the dozen or so other cans of mushrooms from oriental food markets.
Eventually they were used in a soup I made one Saturday afternoon. I called the soup "Faux Pho", a whatever was in the refrigerator and garden version of the super yummy Vietnamese soup.
The ingredients looked good, but as soon as I opened the can of puffballs I was suspicious. Brownish-grey, glistening, oddly firm. I cut one open and my suspicions deepened; when cut a black goo exuded from the interior. But I was determined to try one, I'm generally a big fan of foods in brine and all things pickled.
But one bite proved that they were even worse than expected. The puffballs were way too similar to peas, my mortal food enemy. But I persevered, and tried a few in the soup. Still disgusting, just like peas; biting through the skin produced a queasy pop and then filled the mouth with not-quite-tasteless paste.
Otherwise the soup was great and a big hit with the rest of my family. I started to think about the puffballs in brine, and wondered if they were really edible; not everything in a grocery store is.
The rind and blackish interior suggest a mushroom in the genus Scleroderma, which are inedible to poisonous, at least in North American. Maybe not elsewhere in the world. I did a tiny bit of internet research into commercially canned puffballs. Some brands pictured their mushrooms with white interiors, which would point to a species of Lycoperdon. I found one brand that confirmed this. Lycoperdon puffballs are common in parts of North America, and are edible while white inside. But as they age and the spores mature they become dark brown and are considered inedible. I found one picture where the interiors of a large handful of canned puffballs showed a gradient from white to black. Maybe some brands aren't as picky about the age of the puffball they put in cans. Or maybe we're just pickier about our puffballs than most cultures.