Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gallery of Decay - Fallen Ash

This years assignment, follow the happenings in and about a recently fallen tree.
One of the first things that I noticed about this tree is the variety of colors, patterns, and textures the wood has taken on as a result of decay.  Especially interesting are the sheets of whitened wood found in the exposed interior of the tree.  The color indicates a decay organism that consumed lignin and left behind cellulose.  My guess is the sheeting is from the decay organism working on one layer of the tree.  I know this tree has had big fruitings of Sulfur Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus)  mushrooms in the past, which attacks the heartwood of trees.
Below: this black layer corresponds to about where the phloem layer of the tree would be.  The phloem moves sugars and stuff manufactured by the leaves down.
Parts of the tree seem to be delaminating, which sort of fits with the sheets of white, decayed would I showed above.
A close up of the previous picture.  I think the layers are color coded, starting from the outside and working in: bark, phloem, sapwood (xylem), heartwood (the cambium, or growth layer is in there to, but one cell thick I think).  But really, I've never been sure where one type of tree layer starts and ends.  Except for the bark, I kinda get that one . . .
So far, I haven't found much information about tree decay, mostly generalities.  My intention is to visit this tree throughout the year and feature it in future posts, hopefully with some more information about the decomposition of wood.

By the way, "Gallery of Decay" will also be the title of this posts first death metal album (probably mor e appropriately in the Blackened Death metal sub-genera).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Oak Bullet Galls

We found these at Theodore Wirth Park last weekish growing on some of the oaks.  They are galls caused by a tiny Cynipid Wasp.

I'm not sure if I've ever met a Cynipid in person before, but the galls of many species can be quite noticeable.  They have a interesting life cycle which I attempted to sketch out above

Friday, December 7, 2012

White Spots on Trees #3: Common vs. Glossy Buckthorn

Glossy Buckthorn, Rhamnus frangula on the left, and Common Buckthorn, R. cathartica on the right.  Both are non-native, invasive shrubs.  And both feature white spotting to one degree or another on their bark.  The smaller dots on the Glossy Buckthorn are lenticels, openings in the bark that allow for the exchange of gases.  It's a good way to distinguish these similar looking shrubs.

I'm guessing the bigger splotches are some kind of fungus or lichen.  I've spent some time in the past trying to identify white splotches on trees and shrubs, but with only limited success.  The damp conditions that day really brought them out visually, as well as all the other fungi, algae, and lichens presented below for your enjoyment.