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!

Monday, September 5, 2016

An Illustrated Life List: Great Blue Heron

A picture of the Great Blue Heron rookery on the Mississippi River, just before the May 2011 tornado that tore through parts of north Minneapolis hit it.
I wasn't there when it happened. We live on the other side of the river. I didn't know that the rookery had been hit until the next day when I witnessed a noisy flock of Great Blue Herons circling about as I was teaching a school group on a dock at Westwood Hills Nature Center. Great Blue Herons nest in groups, but they don't travel in groups. It was a surreal sight. I figured out pretty quickly what had happened.
Evidence of the tornado is still apparent in parts of north Minneapolis. To my eyes the lack of mature trees on certain blocks is striking. But my relationship to the affected neighborhoods is fairly superficial, mostly as I pass through bringing my kids to and from their school or friend's houses. I can really only imagine the long term impacts of those who live there.
The herons didn't return to the island, but set up a new rookery the following year on a different island just downstream from the original rookery site. I notice a juxtaposition here, in comparing how quickly the herons recovered and rebuilt versus us humans. We who have access to more resources, more capacity for organization, more advance technologies than herons who use their beaks and sticks
The herons didn't return to their island as too many of the big trees they nested in had been knocked down. But the following year they started a new rookery on a similar island just downstream from the first. I have to wonder how it is that we couldn't rebuild and recover as quickly as the herons did. We have access to more resources, more capacity for organization, and more advanced technologies. They have beaks, sticks, and instinct.