Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mushrooms this Week

These first two pictures are of tiny Waxy Caps (Hygorcybe sp).  I found them at Wolsfeld Woods SNA, but almost missed them, they were so small.  I think they are really amazing.

Bleeding Mycena, Mycena haematopus.  They exude a purplish juice when cut or crushed.  Not that I go around crushing mushrooms, but I did cut the stem of one to see, which also made the identification more certain.
Inky Caps, or coprinoid mushrooms growing at Wolsfeld Woods SNA.  The most current name for this one, I think, is Coprinopsis variegata.
Mushrooms such as this one have been sprouting on a wood chipped trail at Westwood Hils Nature Center since May.  I think they are a species of Parasola, maybe P. auricoma, another coprinoid mushroom.
The previous two pictures are of Bolbitius vitellinus, the Yellow Bolbitius, or the Sunny Side Up mushroom.  I love the different common names given to mushrooms, but they vary greatly from one source to another, if given at all, and aren't much use for communicating the identity of a particular mushroom.  The little caps in the first picture were very slimy, the older ones in the second picture just sort of moist.  In the background you can see the rusty brown gills this mushrooms gets as it ages.  They were growing on a wood chipped trail at Silverwood Park.
Probably a Marasmius sp.  Many species of Marasmius have wiry stems and caps shrivel up in dry weather.  Many will revive upon wetting.  I poured the contents of my water bottle on these to see if they would revive.  The only result is that I got quite thirsty later on.
I brought one of these mushrooms home to do a spore print, but no luck.  Maybe it just needs more time.  I like the thick mycelium growing up the base of the stem.
Growing right behind the preceding mushrooms were these.  Again I brought one home for a spore print, but nothing came of it.  They look like Mycenas.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Conk Watch 2011!  I've been watching this perennial conk since March.  Presented below are pictures from last week.  For previous posts and pictures, go to "conks" in the labels at the end of the post.  See how it has changed.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chestnut-marked Pondweed Moth

Chestnut-marked Pondweed Moth - Parapoynx badiusalis
These little moths were everywhere along the lake at Westwood Hills Nature Center this past week.  For more information, visit this previous post.

Leathery-veiled Bolete

Leathery-veiled Bolete - Paragyrodon sphaerosporus
I found a few of these interesting mushrooms growing in the grass under a white oak at Silverwood Park this morning.  It's a bolete (order Boletales), which is a group of mushrooms that have the typical "toadstool" shape, cap and central stem shape, but have pores under the cap instead of gills.  Many boletes are prized edibles.

I knew I had found something unique, the thick veil covering the underside of the cap was unusual, and every part of it stained reddish brown when cut.  I figured it would be easy to identify.  But I was wrong.  I consulted three field guides and didn't find anything that matched this mushroom.  I finally identified it after a lucky search on the Mushroom Expert website.  Not only is it unique in its appearance, but it is mostly rare outside of the Great Lakes region, the only mushroom to be so that I know of (but there's still a lot for me know about mushrooms).
In the above photo, I've cut away part of the veil to show the pores under the cap, and how they stain reddish brown after I scratched them with my pocket knife.

In the next picture you'll see a reddish brown section of the cap that I cut away this moring, and right next to it, a section I cut away just before the picture was taken this evening. 
The next picture was taken a minute or two later and shows that the same cut has now turned reddish brown, like the one made in the morning.
Since I said earlier that many boletes are prized edibles, you might want to know if P. spaerosporus is good to eat.  The answer is mostly unknown.  I hope to return to Silverwood later in the week to look for more of these unique mushrooms.

If you'd like more information, please go to the excellent Mushroom Expert webiste, or to Tom Volk's also excellent website (the common name I used in the titled is taken from his site)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mushrooms this Week

We've had a lot of rain lately in the Twin Cities.  Mushrooms have been abundant.  What follows is a photographic tour of some of the mushrooms I've found.  See what you can find.
The first two pictures are of Earthstars.  I'm not sure what species, let alone what genus.  But in between the mosquito bites I had fun finding them on the sandy trails at Bunker Hills Regional Park last weekend.
I'd like to know the identity of the mushroom pictured above, but I only found one, so it didn't seem right to disturb it in order to satisfy my curiosity.

Maybe a species of Mycena (above).  Very attractive.
Maybe another species of Mycena.  Both fit the general description of the genus and had white spore prints.

I thought the mushrooms in the next two pictures would be fairly easy to identify.  Orange caps, yellow gills, dark brown stalks, white spore print and growth on wood.  But I couldn't quite find a match.  Except for Flammulina velutipes, the Velvet Foot or Winter Mushroom.  On paper it's a decent match, but they just don't look right for F. velutipes, and it's the wrong time of the year.
Pictured above, a confirmed LBM.
Pictured above is Ductifera pululahuana (I didn't make that up, and don't ask me how to pronounce it).  It's everywhere at Westwood Hills Nature Center in the summer after rainy spells.  It never seems to be in mushroom field guides, but it's common at Westwood.  It's so common, I think it deserves a common name.  There's a similar looking, but yellow fungus, called Witches' Butter (Tremella mesenterica) featured in most field guides, but seemingly absent from Westwood.  Based on the resemblance of the two, I'd like to give it the common name, Witches' Margarine (for health conscious witches).
I think this is Clavicorona pyxidata, the the Crown-tipped Coral, but I have yet to make a thorough investigation, even though it is abundant at Westwood after rain in the summer. 
Probably a Psathyrella spp.  For certain a LBM.
Small, but distinctive with the green dot in the middle of the cap.  The picture does not do it justice.  Maybe it's a mushroom that's not fully developed.  Hopefully I'll have time to visit it again.
Agrocybe spp.  Not overly abundant, but throughout my neighborhood in grass and wood chips this week.

Orange Mycena, Mycena leaiana.  Everywhere at Wolsfeld Woods last weekend, but tough to photograph in the dim light created by the overcast skies and thick forest canopy.
And finally, a Coprinus spp, but which one. . .

Monday, June 20, 2011

Common Ringlet

Common Ringlet - Coenonympha tullia
A new butterfly for me.  The caterpillars feed on grasses.  It's a Holarctic butterfly, which means it's native to both North America and Eurasia.  Historically it has been found in more northern climates or in  higher altitudes,  but it's range has been expanding southward, possibly taking advantage of introduced lawn grasses. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Virginian Tigar Moth

Virginian Tiger Moth - Spilosoma virginica
I found this Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica) under a leaf at Wolsfeld Woods SNA while on a walk with my family.

It's a member of the Arctiidae family of moths, or the Tiger, Lichen, and Wasp moths.  Many of the moths in this family are brightly colored and boldly patterned, probably to warn hungry bats of their unpalatability.  Many of them gather toxic compounds from plants while feeding as larva, which they are well known for.   I was recently paging through a book about Arctiidae moths; it looked more like a chemistry book with all its diagrams and tables of chemical compounds.  Many Arctiidae moths are able to emit ultrasonic sounds that confuse the echolocation sense of bats.
The caterpillars of Arctiidae moths are anywhere from soft and fuzzy to covered in stiff bristles, another protection from predators.  The most famous caterpillar of this family is the Wooly Bear (larva of the not so famous, and rather drab for a Arctiidae, Isabella Moth).  The caterpillar of the Virginian Tiger Moth is known as a Yellow Bear, even though it is very variable in color.  It's best recognized by the extra long hairs growing from each tuft of shorter hairs, usually one per tuft.  Look for one this summer or fall

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Red Bumps on a Silver Maple Leaf - Maple Bladder Galls

These red bumps on this Silver Maple Leaf are Maple Bladder Galls, caused by the minute mite Vasates quadripedes.  I won't go into much detail about galls or the mite that creates these galls in this post. If you want more information, go to this site from Penn State University or this site from Washington State University.  I looked at a number of these galls under my dissecting scope to see the Eriophyoid mites that cause them.  Below is what I found.

The picture above is a cross section of one of the galls.  They are hollow on the inside, with the inner surface being lobed or bumpy.

This is a view of the gall with the top cut off.  Inside of almost all of the galls were many tiny eggs or immature mites (I'm not really sure which) that didn't move and resembled miniature, yellowish, translucent grains of rice.  Also, in most galls there were larger, miniature, translucent grains of rice that did move and had legs or other appendages.  Some of the galls had very active mites that sort of got away from the rice resemblance, but they were still very minute and just as translucent

According to the sources that I consulted, Eriophyoid mites have two pairs of legs and in this case, are carrot shaped.  The ones that I saw moving about seemed to have more legs and weren't always what I would call carrot shaped, but they were so small that I had my dissecting scope zoomed in all of the way and it was tough to keep them in focus.  I've never looked into a gall with magnification before; it was fascinating to see this hidden space. 

I read that the mites enter the leaf through the underside, and that a small hole can be seen under the gall where the mite entered the leaf and began feeding.  I looked and the holes were not only visible under the scope, but were visible to the unaided eye.  But what really caught my eye under the scope was the venation of the leaf.  I was really surprised at how beautiful the colors and patterns of the leaf veins were with the magnification of the dissecting scope.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Silver Maple in June

I've been following the flowers of Silver Maples (Acer saccharinum) since March.  Last weekend in my neighborhood, the Silver Maple seeds were spinning down and around in a strong wind.  I thought I might be able to take some cool pictures of a bunch of Silver Maple seeds flying around (with some good luck given my novice photography skills).  But by the time I got a chance to get my camera out, the wind had died down.  Later in the week I visited a Silver Maple that I have photographed a few times earlier in the year for this blog.  I found the bare stems that had once held the flowers and then seeds.  But something new was happening with this tree.
Many of the leaves were covered with small, reddish bumps.  The bumps are Maple Bladder Galls caused by the feeding of a small mite, Vasates quadripedes.  The mites overwinter under the bark of the Silver Maple, and then move to the new leaves in the spring and begin feeding, causing the galls to form.  The mites reproduce inside of the galls and the young mites move on to other new leaves through the summer to feed, moving to shelter under the bark as the summer ends to repeat the cycle.  They generally don't cause lasting damage to the tree, despite their often abundant presence on the leaves of a Silver Maple.  It would be interesting to open up one of the galls and look inside under "my" dissecting scope (generously on indefinite loan from my father-in-law Tom).  If I take the time to do it, you'll see the results of my observations on this blog.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Inchworms are familiar to most of us.  But I'm not sure if most of us know "what" they are.  They are the caterpillars of moths in the family Geometridae.  They are characterized by the way they move, inching or looping along.  Most caterpillars have six pairs of thoracic legs just behind the legs, which corresponds to the adult moth or butterfly's six legs.  They also usually have five pairs of prolegs, found towards the back of the caterpillar.  Inchworms have the six thoracic legs, but have only two, or sometimes two and a half pairs of prolegs (in either case the prolegs are lost when the caterpillar pupates and metamorphoses into the adult).  The fewer prolegs is what accounts for the inchworm's method of movement.

Inchworms are masters of disguise.  Many of them are cryptically colored in greens and browns.  Some will hold their bodies to imitate a twig.  Others are shaped like dead leaves or other plant parts.  It's easiest to find them by first looking for the holes they have chewed into the leaves of trees.
A few species of inchworms will have outbreak years, where the population is so large that they cause significant damage to leaves of trees.  Last year we had an outbreak of Cankerworms (an inchworm); they were so numerous in some areas that their frass (droppings) falling to the ground sounded like rain.  As far as I've seen, most of affected trees recovered.  They are not nearly so numerous this year, but still pretty easy to find if you look.  The Cankerworm pictured below in Naomi's hand is one we found recently (more on Cankerworms in a future post).
The next picture is of an inchworm that I have been unable to identify using either the "Caterpillars of Eastern North America" by Davis L. Wagner or the "Moths & Caterpillars of the North Woods" by Jim Sogaard.  Pictures from these two books provided the basis for my sketches in this post.