Sunday, October 23, 2016

Some October Moths

Basswood Looper - Erannis tiliaria
The Hereald - Scoliopteryx libratrix
Fall Cankerworm Moth - Alsophila pometaria

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Native Backyard Weeds: Virginia Creeper

Fall colors have been amazing the past week in the Twin Cities area. Trees usually get most of the credit. But Virginia Creeper, a vine, is just as showy. And it shows up everywhere, maybe not always invited, and maybe not always noticed, but definitely part of the fall color show.
I'm not really sure how many people intentionally plant Virginia Creeper though it frequently climbs up buildings and other man-made structures. I have three patches in my yard that volunteered themselves over the years, one of them making a very attractive afternoon sun screen on our porch. The photos in this post were taken over two days and within a few blocks of one another. Almost every color is represented, even blue once you include the berries.
Woodbine is another common name for the plant. This name is also used for other vines, especially an related honeysuckle found in Europe. Woodbine is also a brand of strong cigarettes. Sometimes it is called an ivy, but Virginia Creeper is not closely related to ivy (genus Hedera, in the ivy or ginseng family Araliaceaeis. It is in the same family as grapes (Vitaceae), and can sometimes be found climbing over one another.
They are actually two species of plants that go by the name Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia and P. inserta. There are a number of subtle differences but the one I think is the most apparent is the type of tendrils each has. The tendrils of P. quinquefolia are many branched and end in small adhesive disks. The tendrils of P. inserta have fewer branches and no adhesive disks. It climbs by hanging on to small cracks and surface irregularities or by wrapping it's tendrils around objects with a small diameter such as twigs and stems; or heavy string if you want to make a Virginia Creeper screen.
(Native Backyard Weeds is my phrase for native plants that aren't usually planted but often thrive when allowed to in a yard or other landscaped area).

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Mushroom Log - Late September 2017

Mouse Ear's - Tricholoma myomyces
There are a number of very similar mushrooms in the genus Tricholoma; small mushrooms with grayish and somewhat fiberous caps. T. myomyces seems to be one of the smallest, grayest, and fiberous of the bunch. It also has a cobweb-like covering over the gills when young (which I did not observe) and contrasting pale fibers along the cap margins (see lower right photo).
While doing a little research online, I realized that the prefix "trich" means hair-like, which helps solidify a picture of the genus Tricholoma in my head. Tricholoma has been a sort of vague genus to me something along the lines of:
"terrestrial mushrooms with white spores, notched gills maybe . . . sometimes or something . . ."
But a fair number of them feature fibers or scales on their caps, so knowing that "trich" means "hair" really helps.
And I wonder what hair-like feature the insect order name Trichoptera refers to; it translates as "hair-wing", but maybe it references the long thin antenna of caddisflies or maybe the silk the larva produce and use to bind plant bits, sand, gravel and other debris to their bodies to form their portable "homes".
Common Puffball - Lycoperdon perlatum
Unknown Pholiota - Pholiota sp.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pink Wolf Slime Mistakes

Pink Wolf Slime, Lycogala epidendrum has been brought to my attention a number of times this past week. And each time I have made the mistake of calling it a fungus, when it is in fact a slime mold.
Despite having "mold" in the name, showing up in mushroom guide books, and having a generally fungusy, slime molds are in fact classified as Protozoa and only superficially resemble fungi. Before moving on to Pink Wolf Slime, here are a few basics on slime molds in general:
  • First, I'm only describing Plasmodial Slime Molds (typically placed in the family Myxomycota). There are two other groups of slime molds that are similar in many respects, but not closely related.
  • They have a complicated life cycle, with an amoeba-like mobile stage, a larger unicellular but multinucleate stage, and an immobile, spore producing stage. The spore producing stage is often visible to the naked eye
  • The mobile stages feed by ingesting small organic particles, bacteria, spores, and other protizoans. This is in contrast to fungi which feed by absorbing nutrients from their surroundings and are imbedded in their substrate.
That's about as simple of an explanation as you'll find. Now on to Pink Wolf Slime:
  • Pink Wolf Slime is the spore producing stage. It starts out as pink balls with a darker pink goo inside. As it ages it gets browner on the outside, while the inside gets less gooey and develops a purplish hue.
  • The name "Pink Wolf Slime" sort of makes sense. Remember the scientific name is Lycosgala epidendrum. The first part of the genus name, "lycos" means wolf in Greek while "gala" means milk, so Pink Wolf Slime. But why wolves to begin with? There's a genus of puffball mushrooms called Lycoperdon, so more wolves, in this case farting wolves since "perdon" means to break wind. But again, why wolve.
  • The species name epidendrum means growing on wood, which seems sensible.
  • Despite looking like a piece of candy and occasionally being referred to as Pink Bubblegum Fungus online, it is not edible. Nor does it have any anti-cavity or teeth cleaning properties even though another common name is Toothpaste Slime. It is also referred to as Groening's Slime which probably does not refer to Matt Groening (of "Life is Hell" and a tv show or two I think). I sort of wonder if it's a name made up name for Wikipedia.
  • In my experience the pink goo usually just splurts out undramatically. But during a recent mushroom program, after mistakenly calling some Pink Wolf Slime a fungus, I poked one with a twig and it splattered all over a participant's shirt and hat. I felt bad.

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!