Friday, June 7, 2013

Storm after drought—things knocked off trees, leaf galls and Reddening Lepiotas

crabapple sidwalk 2

In September 2012 after months of no rain and record-breaking heat, a big storm came and knocked all kinds of things down.

I don’t know how these crabapples made it as far as they did in the drought, but they did, and they were the biggest crabapples I’ve ever seen. Nearly an inch across! And such a beautiful eye-popping red/rose/blush/pink. Too bad I’m not a jelly-maker.

crabapple walk

This is not my usual photo-fare but I was struck by the abundance and great colors.

  There were also all these insect galls all over the leaves that came down. Never saw so many galls before. Other people noticed it too.

green galls
Hackberry nipple gall

I got curious about galls. They’re formed when insects or mites damage leaves in different ways (chewing, egg-laying, excreting things), and the plant responds with hyper-growth. If you want to make a gall you need to do it when plants are growing fast, like in spring, to take advantage of the surge in growth hormones.

From what I gathered, each kind of gall is specific to a particular insect/tree combo—aphids & cottonwood makes one type of gall, aphids on grape makes another, midges on hackberry, wasp on oak, etc.

Sometimes they lay eggs which makes the galls, and the larvae hatch and leave, but sometimes it’s just a way for a bug to make a handy food source, and then they just sit inside, eating. Sometimes there’s a lot more going on than just one insect inside them. The Iowa State Extension publication on galls warns “It is never safe to assume that the first insect to emerge from a gall is the one that caused the formation of the gall.” Once again we are reminded to assume nothing.

green galls again galls 2 leaves
galls underside pale galls

Above, bottom left, is a bonus shot of the underside of a leaf with galls. These are all “hackberry nipple galls”, cause by psyllids, which look like tiny leafhoppers.

maple seed and toes

The storm really knocked a lot of stuff out of the trees. Maple seeds look like tadpoles.

Below, more galls:

2 leaves oak galls orange galls on oak
buff galls on oak many galls on oak

Galls on oak leaves caused by Gall Wasps. Just about every source I read mentioned they don’t really do much damage to the trees.

orange oak galls close

Nice colors!

Then a friend stopped by and when I was whining about “no rain for months = no mushrooms” he said, “I just saw some mushrooms over at the hospital parking garage,” so we went over there and saw these:

Lepiota caps

“Reddening Lepiota,” Lepiota americana (except DNA studies recently decided they’re really Leucoagaricus americanus). These are dark because they’re sopping wet after a heavy rain. When they’re dry the cap is a nice creamy white and the scales are rusty-red.

Lepiota full length

Lots of pictures I saw showed that smear of yellow on the stem. They bruise yellow from damage, which slowly turns red.

Reddening Lepiota-004

Many mushrooms distort into wonderful shapes when they’re subject to sudden changes. They curl and wrinkle and split.

And now here’s the good part:

Reddening Lepiota-020

Ew! That’s why they’re called that!

These are edible but I passed because they were all growing right next to where cars probably idled as they waited to leave the parking garage. Too bad, because there were a lot of them. But, I see mixed reviews about their tastiness, and one person said they turn red when you cook them so it looks like a weird bloody mess. That would be fine with me, but they’re not included in any “choice edible” list I’ve seen. Maybe some other time.

Still, I hope I find more of these so I can slice them in half, for fun!

P.S. If you subscribe and get these posts in your email and want to comment, I would love it if you would click on the email link and comment directly on the blog (rather than replying in an email). The blog looks kind of naked with no comments. Plus, the blog itself looks nicer than the emailed version, I think. Looks terrible in IE, though.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The backlog logjam continues—here’s the BABY BOX TURTLE I’ve been holding out on.

gem-studded puballs and infant

But first, a pair of gem-studded puffballs, Lycoperdon perlatum, with infant in moss. Each of the little spines are made up of about five strands of surface fuzz, clumped together. As these puffballs age they get a puckered tip which eventually splits open so the spores can spew forth. The surface is very delicate and the tiny gems rub off very easily.

gem-studded puffballs

Next, a gratuitous shot of some squirrels doing something. It might have been some kind of territorial stand-off, or something friendlier.

squirrels doing something in a tree

Now for the good part.

You know how when you go for a hike you almost always come upon a nice box turtle? And how you have to count the ridges on one of the scutes to see how old it is? And how they always seem to be between 12 and 16 years old?   

Well, they might be a lot older than that, but after a point, when a turtle has maxed out on size, the ridges are so close together as to be indistinguishable. The "scutes" are the vaguely hexagonal-shaped sections of their shells--little kids always draw them when they draw turtles. As the turtle grows the shell expands, and each year adds another ridge, like the growth rings of a tree. Past a certain age, though, the ridges aren't very obvious. And it's not a precise gauge, as turtles in captivity who don't hibernate can put on two ridges a year.

Various sources report that box turtles can live 25-30 years, and their life expectancy can be much longer in the wild (!).

Once I found one that was about half the size of the ones I usually find, and his scute-annuli said he was about six or seven years old.

I have said to more than one of my hiking pals, “How come you never see baby box turtles? Why do we only find these standard-sized adults?” Well, I don’t have anything interesting on that (except reading here and there that baby box turtles are seldom seen because they are small and secretive), but I finally did find a baby box turtle! I mean, REALLY a baby! Like, he had probably hatched that morning! As in, mere hours ago! Maybe ONE hour!

baby box turtle with foot for scale

Walked right past it ten minutes earlier (hopefully not this close)! Women’s size 7-1/2, for scale.

baby box turtle with fingertip for scale

baby box turtle in hand

I am not a big girl. On this day in early May, my thumbnail measured 9/16” long. That would make this baby box turtle shell about 1-1/4” long. You should look at that on a ruler now.

baby box turtle navigating grass

Imagine being so tiny a blade of grass is something to consider.

baby box turtle top view

Young box turtles don’t develop a hinge on their plastron until they’re four or five years old. Wonder why.

If I hadn't lost my mind with delight (and only had about 10 minutes because I had to be somewhere--big mistake when on a hike) I might have taken the time to look at its hind toes. Missouri only has two kinds of box turtles: Ornate and Three-toed. I could have figured it out, I just know it!

baby box turtle profile

Yep, a baby box turtle! Look at it!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Another backlog installation of Missouri spring woodland finds

Thought I was going to get this up sooner…baby birds are a lot of work, that’s all I’m saying.

Here’s one last Mayapple. Of last year, anyway. These are all from March 2012, however embarrassing that might be (as a blogger).

another mayapple

Do note, you can click on any image to view large. See detail. Marvel.

trillium from above
Trillium from above. A rare sun-shot from me.

Below, classic wild ginger.

classic ginger flower
Asarum canadense

I read they are pollinated by ants, beetles and flies—wonder if ants and beetles just stumble in, because the flower is on the ground, or if they’re really going for the pollen? And flies supposedly take shelter there.

Exidia glandulosa black jelly
Exidia glandulosa, “black jelly.” Whoo!

I don't know why I didn't slice this open to see what it looked like inside. I do it to other fungi...

In the UK this is what is what they call "witch's butter" which is much better than calling the yellow stuff "witch's butter" like in the US (Tremella mesenterica). Of course witch's butter is black! And if ye throuw it on a pyre it wille counteract malignant magick.

Schizophyllum commune

Schizophyllum commune
, “common split gill.”
Just a nice arrangement on an upright dead tree. Usually
I take pics of the underside,
which can be very beautiful
with swirly folds. I was very honored to have this image included in the excellent book, "Mushrooms of the Midwest,"
by Kuo & Methven.

yellow jelly discs

At first yellow-jelly glance (above) I tried to jump to the conclusion this was witch’s butter, Tremella mesenterica, but it’s not. I have since learned that just because it's yellow and jelly-like doesn't mean it's witch's butter! It’s Guepiniopsis alpina (also known as Heterotextus alpinus, don’t ask me why, I can’t keep up with all the taxonomic changes of fungi). Golden jelly cone, yellow cone jelly, or any other variation of those words will get you there.

Below, the hand of a bee on a bolt on a sign at the trail head.

bee on bolt

I don’t know what kind of bee (yet).