Thursday, December 26, 2013

What happened to me?

We interrupt our normal erratic posting schedule to alert our viewing audience to the fact that many, many weeks ago, when I moved all my images to an internal back-up drive because I was running out of memory, I lost the nice Picasa folder order that was so easy for me to navigate, so now almost 15,000 images are sorted in hundreds of alphabetized folders which are pretty much useless to me in terms of finding stuff.

However, I did learn some things:

  • Go through your images soon after you download them and get rid of the ones you'll never look at again. Be honest--will you ever really need that second (or third, fourth, fifth, etc.) image that's two millimeters to the left? I found I simply do not need to save probably 4/5 of them. Maybe more.
  • Change the damn file names of the keepers. The default "IMG_6323.JPG" is not very useful.

All is not least they're still in their named folders. I just have to open every alphabetically-ordered folder, check the dates, and change the names of the folders to include the date. There's only a couple hundred folders! Piece o' cake!

Yours in Fungi,

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Great Big Amanita Rubescens Post, and I caught a turtle eating a mushroom.

Amanita rubescens small under larger cap
Amanita rubescens 6-23-2013

Mid-to-late June here in central Missouri was glorious, mushroom-wise.

There was a short mini-drought several weeks earlier that lasted about two weeks and scared the heck out of me, because last summer there was a long and terrible drought. No precipitation = little to no fungi. But regular early summer rain came, and the forest floor exploded.

There were several species in great abundance that I’d only seen here and there in previous years. The handsome Amanita rubescens was one of them.

Amanita rubescens button Amanita rubescens lost scales red on cap

Above, both are Amanita rubescens. The one on the right is shop-worn and has lost a lot of its cap patches (from heavy rain, I bet). But those red dents and divots (damage from bugs and animals, most likely) give it away. “Rubescens” means “reddening” in Latin which is how it got one of its common names, “blusher.”

Amanita rubescens heavy cap scales
Not-quite-mature Amanita rubescens

The toffee sprinkles all over the cap (above) are the remains of its universal veil, which enclosed the entire mushroom before it burst out of it. They are like pieces of a torn sheet. So if you deconstructed this mushroom you could rejoin all those warts, like kids do with maps of the world.

big blusher from trail

See that tawny orange thing right in the middle of the image above?

big blusher as found

It was the biggest blusher I’ve ever seen! Even though I hadn't seen many!

big blusher with foot big blusher with hand

There it is with my foot! There it is with my hand!

I didn't see any others like this one, so flat. And huge!

Unusual also in that it was in nearly perfect condition. Every other one I saw this summer had a blushing chunk missing, or a red bruise, or both.

big blusher cap edge

big blusher entire cap
Amanita rubescens fully expanded cap. Click to view large! Click any image to view large!

Amanita rubescens (2)

The big floppy skirt on the one above is its partial veil, which used to cover the gills. As the cap expands, the veil tears free from the edge of the cap and remains attached to the stalk. That’s the “ring” the field guides mean. But sometimes the ring falls off, so don’t get crazy!

I saw another one of those things you hardly ever see! A big ol’ box turtle eating a big ol’ mushroom, right next to the trail.

turtle eating mushroom trail view

Some kind of Russula, looks like.

turtle eating mushroom birdseye view turtle eating mushroom top view close

If you spend any time at all in the woods you see turtles. I'm a little surprised when I don't see a turtle. But usually I see a turtle seeing me and pulling into its shell, not in the middle of a big meal of juicy, succulent mushroom.

Next time I see it I'll know those pointy missing chunks were from a turtle.

turtle eating mushroom side view

He was getting pretty nervous about me sticking my camera in his world so I left.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Stinkhorn Post!

***Hey, subscribers--your viewing experience will be much more pleasant if you click on your emailed version and go to the actual blog. Also, this blog looks terrible in IE.

I had to gear up for this post for many, many days (just ask my friends--I wouldn't stop talking about stinkhorns). I was so excited when I found these (still not sure why, exactly), and fussed over which images to post, read up what I could about them, etc. I really wanted to do right by them. I had to go to the library. (Went to library. Found nothing more.)

“Stinkhorn” is another word you hear and think it’s a big joke, like “slime mold.” Except these really are! They are nasty yet wonderful. I mean, come on!

Stinkhorns really pull out all the stops when it comes to wild forms. Just type “stinkhorn” into a search bar. The ones in this post are nothing compared to some of the really elaborate ones.

Pseudocolus fusiformis
Pseudocolus fusiformis, the "stinky squid"

See the fly?

Stinkhorns show up suddenly (it can be only two or three hours between when they burst out of their “egg” and are fully formed), and they enlist flies to spread their spores, and what do flies like? Nasty, filthy, rotting things, which stink.

Bewildered people post pictures online asking for ID help (“What the heck are these things that appeared in my garden mulch overnight?!? They’re vulgar! They stink!”), a dozen or more in a patch, all flopped around in different directions. They look like a bunch of bizarre, aimless animals. It's on my list of things to find.

Pseudocolus fusiformis

So, the stinkhorn’s nasty slime is what stinks (the little black smears on this one), more specifically, the spores suspended in it (if I got that right), and the flies get all excited and clamber all over it getting spore-slime all over their feet, and then they go land somewhere else and spread the spores.

And they really stink! I was puttering around in the woods when I caught a whiff of something I was sure was a dead animal. It was this little stinkhorn and a few of its little friends, about 15’ away from me. I saw it from a distance and thought it was a fallen trumpet vine flower, that’s how orange and bright it was. (Later I realized I’ve never actually seen trumpet vine growing in the woods.)

Pseudocolus fusiformis egg in hand

That’s the  empty“egg” it came out of. These have a characteristic tough mycelial cord called a rhizomorph.

This species has arms that arise from a single fused point in the egg. This one conveniently fell out of its egg sac so I could see that. You may not be able to make it out clearly in these images (but I bet you could if you clicked on them to see them larger) but each one has three arms that are joined at the tip, making a sort of long narrow cage. Sometimes there’s four arms. No big deal.

There’s another orange stinkhorn species with multiple arms joined at the top but the arms are all separate from each other in the egg.

Pseudocolus fusiformis
Left to right: a mature Pseudocolus fusiformis in its prime; an egg I cut in half; a shriveling spent one; and three unopened eggs.

Pseudocolus fusiformis (5) Pseudocolus fusiformis egg cut open closeup

Above left: three unopened eggs next to a deteriorating older specimen.

Above right: the interior of an egg. The unpleasant-olive-colored junk between the two orange areas is the immature sporeslimegoostink, which will be inside the arms when this one matures.

Pseudocolus fusiformis with 2 flies

The flies were enchanted. I had a little trouble convincing them to leave. So I didn’t.

People eat the eggs of some species, pickled. If anyone ever said they were delicious, I would try them, but “you should try them at least once” doesn't really sell them, for me.

Mutinus elegans single
Hi there!

This is a different species, either Mutinus caninus, M. elegans or M. ravenelii. Even my go-to site,, mushes these three together. Whichever one it is, it has already lost the slimy smelly goo at the tip, which was a most unpleasant green-brown and covered maybe a quarter of the length. I cannot determine which one it is, because descriptions offer a color range like “orangish to pinkish” spikes and “whitish to pinkish or purplish” eggs. Nothing very definite. I was hoping it was Mutinus caninus so I could say its common name, “dog penis stinkhorn” a lot, but I really can’t tell what this one is. There was just this one, peeking around the underbrush at me.

I found more stinkhorns (below). Once again, the stalk had already lost its spore-loaded smelly smear on the tip. Same story as above, can’t really say for sure which one it is, so I still can’t say “dog penis stinkhorn” over and over.

I went back to this spot three times in a week trying to catch freshly-emerged spikes, but that was before I learned they could emerge in 2-3 hours and fall apart that same day, so I must have kept missing them. I was hoping I’d show up and find a whole bunch of them all up at once.

I did find some carrion beetles on them on one of my visits, but they are wary beetles and scattered before I could take their picture. Carrion beetles. They eat carcasses. Stinkhorns stink.

Mutinus elegans  mature, eggs and cut open egg
The whole stinkin’ family

There wasn't much odor at all here. The upright member had already lost its spore goo and was starting to deteriorate, and it looked like somebody had been eating it. I cut open one of the eggs and lots of clear, non-smelly liquid poured out. The stink isn't until the stalk has emerged, with spores ready to be dispersed by flies, which, by the way, means it depends on another organism to reproduce and doesn't that remind you of another growing thing? Flowers, perhaps?

Mutinus elegans egg cut open close

There’s one of the eggs cut in half.

Immature stinkhorn eggs.

Also, when you think about it, how often do you find a dead animal in the woods? Nobody would pass up an opportunity for a free meal for long. They go quick. So if you're ever in the woods, and hoping to find stinkhorns, and smell something nasty, go towards it.

I don’t know what else to say. Stinkhorns! Eggs! Slime!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mid-June yellow Amanita, ephemeral Coprinus comatus and other Earth items

Warning: a spider and swarms of fat red bugs below!

More blah blah catching up blah blah, while emotionally gearing up for the stinkhorn post! Just you wait!

Saw this handsome yellow-capped Amanita right next to the trail, a spot of lemon through some leaves. The first image is after I’d had my way with it (gently)--taken many shots, cleared away some leaves to see the base (but not enough to nail down the ID, apparently), and moved some branches so they were held out of the way around that little tree. The next person on the trail would have seen it presented like this.

yellow amanita distant

yellow amanita full

I don’t know what species it is. There are several yellow Amanitas, and this one didn't have all the identifying features of any of them. Well, maybe it did, but it was so pretty I didn't check things that would have helped me ID it because it would have damaged it. Like roughing it up to see if it changed color, or digging it up to get a better look at the base. Or cutting it in half. I just couldn't.

yellow amanita yellow amanita base

There’s a yellow species with lighter patches on the cap, there’s a yellow one with a yellow stem, and there’s a yellow one with a bulbous base. Not this one.

I swear I’ll start paying more attention, if I really want to know what’s going on out there. I keep overlooking important identity details because I'm too caught up in the visuals. I know that sounds corny but it's true.

mourning cloak
Mourning cloak butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa
I came upon a spot with many of these butterflies hanging around. The description says the wings have a bright yellow border, but this was absolutely gold. Shiny, metallic, 24-karat gold. I read the males sit around in sunny spots waiting for females. That seemed to be what was going on here, in a little clearing in the forest. They also overwinter in Missouri. Not the kind of thing I'd think a butterfly would do, but they do. They're much tougher than I realized.

It took major sneaking to get this close.

Here comes the other kinds of bugs, the kind some people might not like. Take your leave now if you need to.

I found a wolf spider carrying her babies on her back, like they do. First time I saw this in real life!

wolf spider with babies

She wouldn't slow down, so this is the best shot I have.

Next is a non-forest phenomenon I saw in a college courtyard planted with goldenrain trees.

red-shouldered bugs on logs

Swarms of red-shouldered bug nymphs. They love goldenrain trees. I think they were congregating like this because they had been displaced by recent heavy rains, and hadn't found their way back to the tree or fallen seedpods yet.

red-shouldered bugs close
Jadera haematoloma

I know what they are because I found them before and figured it out.

golden rain tree seed pod

Skeletonized goldenrain tree seedpod in rain. See golden flowers strewn about. There were red-shouldered bugs on the seedpods themselves but they scattered when I got this close.

ink caps back yard

One day I went somewhere and when I came home a couple hours later these mushrooms were right in front of where I park. Did I miss them when I left, or did they pop up while I was gone? They could have.

ink caps washed smooth
Coprinus comatus, “shaggy mane”

ink caps close up

I was going to visit them again in the morning, but it rained hard overnight, and there was not a single trace of them the next day. Not even the disturbed soil!

The Audubon guide says “Fragile as this mushroom is, it has the remarkable ability to push up through asphalt.”

What a world, what a world!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

June mushrooms of glorious shapes

Getting to the good stuff now!

I was hunkered down in some cedars taking pictures of these and a man on the trail asked me what I was doing.

puffballs tree base closer

puffballs closeup

I stared at him, wild-eyed, and snarled, “Don’t look at me! I’m hideous!!!"

puffballs closeup side

But these Lycoperdon perlatum are not hideous. They are wonderful.
For the record, these "gem-studded puffballs" grow from the ground, in case you're confusing them with the similar Lycoperdon pyriforme, which always grow from wood.

Below, the biggest wood ear I've ever found!

wood ear huge

wood ear tree

And here’s a tree with the most wood ears I've ever seen. This is only half of them—there was this much more further up the tree, too.
And here are some of the most beautiful wood ears I've ever seen.

wood ears on tree

wood ear huge

Now you know why I prefer overcast days for photos.

Below, some of that crazy ozonium of Coprinellus domesticus (C. radians is similar, but apparently does not come with ozonium). The orange fuzz is the mycelium erupting out onto the surface, instead of staying below things like it usually does (underground, under bark, etc.). I can’t find much info about it at all. What the heck does “form genus of imperfect fungi” mean? One site refers to it as “air mycelium.” The domain name is available. There is a player on Lolking named Ozonium. That is all I could find online.

The Latin name of this mushroom sticks in my mind because on the ozonium is described as “orange shag carpeting”, which is in houses, which is domestic.

ozonium and mushrooms
Coprinus domesticus-001

Here’s a pic on my Flickr account of the first time I encountered it. The first comment under it is funny.

beetle galleries
Beetle galleries

Next is a gorgeous Laetiporus cincinnatus I found, visible from the trail (doesn’t anybody hike on these trails?).

Laetiporus view from trail

There it is, and suddenly there’s my foot and you can see how big it is.

chicken Laetiporus from above with foot

Laetiporus close

Absolutely prime and pristine.


The conversation went like this: “Oh! How beautiful! Thank you so much! What’s the occasion?” And the forest replied, “Oh, no occasion at all, we just thought you’d like this.”