Thursday, August 25, 2011

White-lined Sphinx

White-lined Sphinx Hyles lineata
This striking moth is a member of the Sphingidae, the Spinx or Hawk Moths.  Spinx moths are fun to watch as they visit flowers to obtain nectar with their long probocises; they resemble tiny hummingbirds.  In my limited experience, they are a quite charismatic group of moths.
This one was rather obliging and let me move its forewing aside to reveal the colors and pattern of its hindwing.

This website has a lot information about the Sphingidae.  There is also a book, "The Hawk Moths of North America" by James P Tuttle that seems to be the definitive source for North American Sphingidae information.  I haven't seen it, but hopefully I'll get to look at it some time in the future.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mushrooms this Week

Chicken-fat Suillus, Suilus americanus.  It's a bolete that only grows under E. White Pine trees.  I brought a few home to try.  As described in most mushroom guides, the texture was slimy, but not unpleasantly so (what's a more appetizing word than slimy, maybe moist?), Sara described it as tangy and fatty.  Naomi described them as sour but good.
Another Suillus species, the Painted Suillus, S. pictus.  In my opinion, a very attractive mushroom.  I brought a few of these home to try too.  The texture was also slimy, I mean moist and fatty, but the taste I thought was fairly bland .  Sara liked them, and Naomi is eating a bowlful as I type this.
 Scaly Tooth, Sarcodon imbricatus.
 Young specimens of Velvet-footed Pax, Paxillus atromentosus.  Naomi and I think they are cute.
These mushrooms were growing in woods (white pines, oaks, maples), and had a yellowish to buff colored spore print.  I think they are a species of Clitocybe.

All but the Velvet-footed Pax were found at William O'Brian State Park, on a trail that ran right along the St Croix river.  We found many more mushrooms than pictured here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mushrooms this Week

Waxy Caps (family Hygrophoraceae).  I found these and many more tiny, bright orange, red, and yellow Waxy Caps at Banning State Park (most of the pictures in this post were taken there or at St John's Arboretum).
Velvet-footed Pax, Paxillus atrotomentosus, growing at the base of a conifer stump.
Lactarius subserifluus, a species of Milk Cap.  I've been finding this mushroom in just about every woods I've visited since early July.  They don't produce much latex, but sometimes have a distinct, though hard to describe odor (spicy, sweet, dirt smell?).

Malodorous Lepiota, Lepiota cristata
Yellow Patches, Amanita flavoconia
Hedgehog Mushroom, Hydnum redandum.  Notice the teeth under the cap instead of gills or pores.  It's supposed to be a good edible.  I think it's a good idea to collect or observe a mushroom a few times before sampling it, just to make sure, but this seems like an easy one to recognize.
Chrome-footed Bolete, Leccinum chromapes (or Tylopilus chromapes), one of the handful of bolete species I've found recently.  Sort of dull at first glance, but quite beautiful on closer inspection.  I plan to post more pictures of this mushroom soon.
I really don't know what these minute yellow mushrooms are.  Could they be the fruiting body of one of the few lichen forming fungi that produce a mushroom fruiting body?  They were growing among lichens, as well as moss, rotten wood, and forest debris.  They resemble a species of lichenizing Omphalina.  I'll have to look more closely next time I come across these (if the mosquitoes don't carry me away like they tried to do when taking this picture).
Russula laurocerasi or R. fragrontissima.  I found a lot of these at Banning SP and St. John's Arboretum, but most were well decayed.  They had an interesting sweet-almond to gross, rotten stuff odor to them.  The two are differentiated by microscopic features (if I've narrowed it down to the correct two Russulas). 

The above tiny mushroom looked so cool in the moss and framed by the arch of decayed wood.  I spent a lot of time trying to take a picture that captured what I saw.
I think these mushrooms are more mature versions of the one pictured above.  They were all growing on mossy logs. At home, it produced a white spore print.  It dried up, but then revived after being soaked in water.  Both of these features make me think it's a Marasmius, along with its overall look, but it also resembled some pictures and descriptions of a related genus Gymnopus.  Ultimately, a microscope would probably be needed to get a decent ID.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Little Brown Mushroom #8 - Super Sized Edition

Megacollybia rodmani and Pluteus cervinus
Two mushrooms with a similar appearance, Megacollybia rodmani on the left, and Pluteus cervinus on the right.  They both have brown caps, white gills (to begin with), white stems, and grow from rotten wood (sometimes buried).  So what are the differences?

Size might seem to be a difference from the photo above, but the described sizes of these two mushrooms completely overlap; I happened to pick an unusually long stemmed M. rodmani, and a very average P. cervinus.  So size isn't the distinguishing feature.
The cap of M. rodmani is radially streaked (lines coming from the center).  The cap of P. cervinus is smooth and glossy, and little bit sticky given the right weather.  But this could be a hard difference to tell in the field without the two mushrooms together for comparison.
Both mushrooms have gills that start out white.  But P. cervinus turns pinkish.  The gills of M. rodmani stay white, but some guides mention that they develop a ragged or uneven edge (this may be hard to see in the picture).

Perhaps the key field feature is the attachment of the gills.
M. rodmani, pictured above, has gills that are attached to the stem.
P. cervinus, pictured above, has gills that are free from the stem.

At home, they can be separated with a spore print.  M. rodmani has a white spore print, while P. cervinus has a pinkish-brown spore print.

Are there other mushrooms these two could be confused with.  Certainly!  Especially if they are not growing directly on a rotten log, but on buried wood.  M. rodmani, could be confused with species of Tricholoma or Collybia, while P. cervinus could be confused with species of Entoloma (and for both, many more I imagine).

Both are edible, but I've never tried either one.  But honestly, I'm not 110 % certain of my identification, maybe 95 - 99% certain.  But I'm pretty cautious, and I really don't need to eat mushrooms to thoroughly enjoy finding, observing, and identifying them (I really enjoy bird watching too, and I hardly ever eat any warblers, etc). 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Please Don't Step On The Mushrooms

Please Don't Step On The Mushrooms
For awhile, I've had in the back of my head an idea for a "Please Don't Step On The Mushrooms" t-shirt.  I finally sketched the idea out today.  I think it would make for a pretty cool shirt for mushroom enthusiasts.  But a few questions remain as to its design.
Please Don't Step On The Mushrooms v2
First, should it be in color, or in black and white?  I'm not satisfied with this color version, and Sara immediately picked the black and white version.  But maybe it's the colors I chose.

Second, should it be a generic LBM-like mushroom?  Or should it be a more charismatic mushroom, such as an Amanita?

Finally, should the caption "Please Don't Step On The Mushrooms" be in my own sloppy hand writing (distinctive, but not entirely legible), or in a carefully chosen computer font (legible, but not really distinctive). 

Whatever I choose, I think it would be a fun, and maybe question provoking graphic for a shirt (why shouldn't I step on mushrooms?).  My experience as a naturalist has shown me that people are fascinated by mushrooms, but they often still want to step on them, get rid of them, or they just fear them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lichens on a Volleyball Net

My family and I took a trip up north this weekend.  We went to Jay Cooke State Park and Gooseberry Falls State Park.  At Jay Cooke, we had a picnic lunch at Oldenburg Point.  After lunch, we walked down the steep trail to the St Louis River below.  It was a great walk, and we were amazed at how enthusiastically Naomi (age 5 1/2) and Adele (age 3 1/2) went up and down the strenuous trail to the river.  On the way back to the car, up on the picnic grounds, we walked by an old volleyball net.  I wondered how many people made the effort to organize a volleyball game at Oldenburg Point.  My question was initially answered when Adele noticed that the net was torn.  When I looked closer, I saw that the net was covered in lichens, evidence that the net is rarely used.  It's definitely the most unusual place I've found lichens.  It was odd (at least in my limited lichen experience), and made me wonder how much of the world would be lichenized if left alone for awhile.