Tuesday, February 28, 2012

McDougall Homested

I took a trip up to Bowlus on Sunday to spend the day with my sister and brother-in-law.  We visited two cemeteries and the McDougall Homested Tract, featured in this post.  Our goal was to do some exploring, and for me, to take pictures of lichens.  We thought the old barn at the McDougall Homested had high lichen potential.  It turned out to be relatively lichen free, but it was fun to explore and the land around it proved to be interesting.  First some pictures of the barn.

Next some of the lichens we found.



White stuff on bark.

Jenny and Jan, usually a number of steps in front of me as I took pictures.
In most of my posts I try to present some information or at least identities of what I've photographed, but we spent the day admiring the features of the different locations we visited, and I hope to have captured some of that in this post.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Deadly Mushrooms in the Snow

I found these mushrooms yesterday.  I assumed they were Flammulina velutipes, the Winter Mushroom, which is an orange mushroom that grows on wood during warm spells in the winter.  Previously, I thought it was the only mushroom that grew during the winter in Minnesota.  But after taking some pictures I realized they weren't F. velutipes.
Notice the ring on the stem in the above picture.  F. velutipes does not have a ring; the mushrooms in these pictures are of Galerina marginata, the Deadly Galerina.
In a previous post about F. velutipes, I spent a little time wondering why it was (presumably) the only mushroom that grew during Minnesota's winter.  I now know that it is not the only mushroom.  I read the species account for G. marginata at Mushroom Expert and it definitely mentions that this mushroom can be found in winter months.  I wonder how many other mushrooms can be found sprouting in the snow?
I think it's an odd coincidence that the two mushrooms I have found growing in the winter look so similar.  They both grow in cluster on wood and they are both smaller orange mushrooms.  Differences include:
  • a ring on the stem for G. marginata (often dissapears in age).
  • no ring on F. velutipes, but sports a blackish velvety base.
  • G. marginata has brown spore prints.
  • F. velutipes has white spore prints.
  • G. marginata is deadly poisonous.
  • F. velutipes is edible.
I almost passed these mushrooms up, because as much as I enjoy finding mushrooms, F. velutipes has been getting to be old news (ho hum, more F. velutipes I thought to myself).  But they looked so attractive in the snow and moss despite (or maybe because of) their aged appearance.  I almost missed the ring on the stem, which is a good reminder not to be too confident in your mushroom identification (and consumption).  I had looked at them for awhile, taking pictures, before I noticed it.

Anyone know of any other mushrooms that can be found in the winter in Minnesota?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

White Spots on Trees #2

Ceramic Parchment - Xylobolus frustulatus
Actually white spots on oak logs, the Ceramic Parchment fungus, Xylobolus frustulatus. 
If you stop to look, there's a wide variety of white spots on tree bark, caused by various fungi, lichens, and sometime just features of the tree's bark
Some taxonomic information, X. frustulatus is in the phylum Basidomycota , class Agaricomycetes, order Russulales, family Stereaceae.
At first, I thought these white "spots" were a kind of lichen.  I happened to stumble upon a picture of X. frustulatus while trying to identify the fungus featured in my Conk Watch 2012 post.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mushrooms in February

Winter Mushroom - Flammulina velutipes
There aren't too many mushrooms that grow in Minnesota in February, but this is one of them, Flammulina velutipes.  Granted it's been a very warm winter, by Minnesota standards, but 30s and 40s°F is pretty cold for most mushrooms.  I read the abstract of an article (the full text was only available for a rather expensive fee) that F. velutipes produces a protein that lowers it's freezing point.
But I wonder if growing in cold weather when no other mushrooms are growing gives it some kind of advantage.  Maybe the spores have a better chance of developing and dispersing in the cooler weather when there aren't many or any slugs, bugs, bacteria, etc to eat them.  Or maybe mushroom mycelia compete for space in rotten stumps and logs and F. velutipes gets a head start by sending out spores when other mushrooms aren't out. 
My next question is:  if there is an advantage to growing in the cold, why don't more species of mushrooms do it?

I've posted about F. velutipes a couple of other times.  You can get a bit more information here and here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Conk Watch 2012

I've featured these conks in a number of previous posts (check out the labels below for more information).  They are located in a prominent place at a trail intersection at Westwood Hills Nature Center.  A lot of people that I bring on hikes notice them.  I'm still not sure what species they are.  My plan is to watch them more closely this year and photograph them from the angles in this post once a month to watch how they change over the year.  They are growing on a somewhat alive (mostly dead) basswood tree.
 Above is the biggest of the conks on this tree.
 This is one of the smaller conks growing on this tree.
Official logo of Conk Watch 2012.  By the way, does anyone have any tips for photographing white mushrooms on a dark background without the mushrooms being over exposed, or the background under exposed?

Look for the next installment of Conk Watch 2012 sometime in early March.  You can't wait, can you?