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280 days of Urbpandemonium #209

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Most mushrooms become unrecognizable once they have released their spores and begun to rot. Bacteria and fungi invade the mushroom and reduce it to a withered husk or a pile of goo. These hemlock reishi mushrooms Ganoderma tsugae* are very durable, and still identifiable by their color and structure, and by the fact that they are growing from dead hemlock trees.
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* Shiny skin on hemlock

280 days of Urbpandemonium #208

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Almost identical to the gem-studded puffball, but smoother and with a greater taste for wood, is the pear-shaped puffball Lycoperdon pyriforme*. It's generally found as seen here, in its hundreds on a big fallen tree. These are at peak puffability, with large open pores at the center already discharging spores.

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* Pear-shaped wolf fart.

280 days of Urbpandemonium #207

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When I was a child I loved nothing more than to find a puffball ready to be stomped on. It had to be an old one, the outer skin turned leathery, maybe with a hole already formed at the top. Now I gently poke the skin rather than stomp the mushroom. The fungus doesn't care either way--no matter which method, the spores will be spread. This fresh beauty is called the gem-studded puffball Lycoperdon perlatum.*

*Everpresent wolf fart

Musical interlude

280 days of Urbpandemonium #206

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Not all of the fall color is the leaves. The turkey tail mushroom Trametes versicolor* shows bands of fawn and bluish gray here, but others might be green, pink, purple, chocolate brown, or creamy. Each patch of turkey tails you find is distinctively banded and clustered, even as the colors vary. Miniscule pores on the bottom of the thin leathery brackets release invisibly tiny spores. If they happen to land on a freshly cut log, there's a very good chance this fungus will result--turkey tail is a good competitor among wood decay fungi, making it one of the most commonly found throughout the northeast woods. The mushroom is known to contain compounds that fight disease, and is being vigorously studied for its medicinal value.

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* Many colored thin one

280 days of Urbpandemonium #205

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These egg-like protuberances appear on freshly watered lawns and alongside paths where the soil is compressed from foot traffic. The shaggy mane Coprinus comatus* is a mushroom produced by a fungus that has benefited from human changes to the land. The "eggs" open up into more mushroom-like structures, but almost immediately turn into black liquid. If they are harvested and cooked before this happens they are a mushroom-hunter's delight (I have not tried them myself). I encountered this grouping along with my fungi field walk--when we passed back by it a few minutes later the mushrooms had been flattened by oblivious footsteps.

* Edible dung mushroom

280 days of Urbpandemonium #204

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After the first freeze, a whole suite of new mushroom species appear. These are "late fall oysters" Panellus serotinus*, distinct from true oyster mushrooms by their color--variable but never the plain gray and white of the Pleurotus fungi. These are sometimes collected as wild food, since often they may be among the only mushrooms around in November or December. (These were photographed in northern Vermont, which enjoys an earlier freeze than Boston). During one lecture I attended, the mushroom expert on hand declared it "the single worst edible mushroom I've ever tried." Maybe he didn't cook it long enough.

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*Late flowering little tumor

Where was I?

280 days of Urbpandemonium list, beginning of the second half (since the whole list is too big by lj's new standards.

Add 140 to the number.

  1. Ermine moth Yponomeuta sp.

  2. Ichneumon wasp Enicospilus sp.

  3. Large yellow underwing Noctua pronuba

  4. Leaf roller Archipini

  5. Yellow-fringed Dolichomia Hypsopygia olinalis

  6. Macaria sp. (a moth)

  7. Besma quercivoraria (a moth)

  8. Dark-spotted palthis Palthis angulalis

  9. Crab spider Thomisidae

  10. Black blister beetle Epicauta pennsylvanica

  11. Paper wasp Polistes sp.

  12. Meal moth Pyralis farinalis

  13. Spiny orbweaver Micrathena gracilis

  14. Sulphur shelf Laetiporus sulphureus

  15. Chicken mushroom Laetiporus cincinnatus

  16. Mosquito Cucilidae

  17. Jack-o-lantern mushroom Omphalotus illudens

  18. Gyponana sp. (a leafhopper)

  19. Grass spider Agelenidae

  20. Eastern parson spider Herpyllus ecclesiasticus

  21. Crambid moth Crambidae

  22. Cross orbweaver Araneus diadematus

  23. Orchard orbweaver Leucauge venusta

  24. Northern short-tailed shrew Blarina brevicauda

  25. Gloeophyllum sepiarium (a wood decay fungus)

  26. Carolina grasshopper Dissosteira carolina

  27. Fall field cricket Gryllus pennsylvanicus

  28. Sun fly Heliomyzidae

  29. Greenhouse millipede Oxidus gracilis

  30. Bicolored bolete Baorangia bicolor

  31. Water lily aphids Rhopalosiphum nymphaeae

  32. Artist’s conk Ganoderma applanatum

  33. Western conifer seed bug Leptoglossis occidentalis

  34. Common conehead Neoconocephalus sp

  35. Trametes hirsuta (a mushroom)

  36. Bronzed cutworm Nephelodes minians

  37. Leafcutter bee Litomegachile mendicus

  38. Bark mycena Mycena corticola

  39. Differential grasshopper Melanoplus differentialis

  40. European earwig Forficula auricularia

  41. Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus

  42. Red-eared slider Trachemys scripta elegans

  43. Flesh fly Sarcophagidae

  44. Woolly Bear Pyrrharctia isabella

  45. Dusky slug Arion subfuscus

  46. Hackberry nipple gall psyllid Pachypsylla celtidismamma

  47. Casebearer moth Coleophora sp.

  48. Giant leopard moth Hypercompe scribonia

  49. Planthopper Acanalonia conica

  50. Lupine bug Megalotomus quinquespinosus

  51. Yellow bear Spilosoma virginica

  52. Meadow katydid Conocephalus fasciatus

  53. Eastern comma Polygonia comma

  54. Leucoagaricus americanus (a mushroom)

  55. Bird’s nest fungi Nidulariaceae

  56. American house spider Parasteatoda tepidariorum

  57. Purple-spored puffball Calvatia cyathiformis

  58. Brick cap Hypholoma lateritium

  59. Autumn March fly Bibio slossonae

  60. The gem Orthonama obstipata

  61. Common Eupithecia Eupithecia miserulata

  62. Dacrymyces chrysospermus (a mushroom)

  63. Angel wings Pleurocybella porrigens

Laptop crash!

Hey my laptop stopped working quite suddenly a week ago!

Not to worry, I just got it back, and all it cost was the equivalent of two of the competitor's laptops. Not that I'm bitter.

Anyway, if you have missed the world of urban nature, I highly recommend you check out Your Wild City a new webcomic by Rosemary Mosco of Bird and Moon comics and Maris Wicks of Human Body Theater.

Hooray for science and nature comics!

280 days of Urbpandemonium #203

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All-white gilled mushrooms coming directly from dead wood? Oyster mushroom, you have to say. But not exactly--this one gets associated with the oyster group because of its similarities, but has some important differences. This mushroom with its all-white almost translucent flesh always feeds on dead conifers. (True oyster mushrooms will grow on almost anything--I grew some on my junk mail.)

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These beauties are more accurately called "angel wings" Pleurocybella porrigens. Like the oyster mushroom, these have been collected as food for ages--plus they are easy to identify and hard to confuse with much else. Unfortunately, it turns out they are toxic, containing a cytotoxic fatty acid. There have been fatalities, mostly of elderly people in Japan who happened to also have pre-existing kidney problems.

Younger people with healthy kidneys may be able to eat moderate amounts of angel wings without health problems--but modern field guides play it safe, listing this formerly "edible" species as "poisonous."

"Pleuro-" means side, and "porrigens" means extending forward, both refer to the way the mushroom emerges straight out from the side of its substrate. The -cybella part is a bit of mystery. The spelling is close to Cybele, an ancient mother/nature goddess, but the pronunciation suggested puts it closer to "sibella," a Greek word meaning "prophetess."


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