Friday, August 9, 2013

Bird’s nest fungi and cracked cap Agrocybe

Here’s a couple things we found in early June, while walking just a few blocks to a nearby park.

bird's nest Cyathus stercoreus overview 2
Cyathus stercoreus. Each cup is about 1/4" across.

bird's nest and foot

All those dots in the photo above are hundreds of bird’s nest fungi, Cyathus stercoreus. I see Crucibulum laeve and Cyathus striatus all over the place in the woods, but this was the first time I’d seen these. There’s my foot for scale.

I don’t know if they were growing in a circle in association with an old stump, or if they were working their way outward from a central starting point, or if that’s just how they all ended up.

bird's nest

Never saw the other two familiar bird’s nest fungi growing in such a dense mass like this. That was my first tip-off that something wasn’t right.

Cyathus striatus has a very obvious grooved inner surface, and Crucibulum laeve has white eggs. These had neither of those things.

bird's nest Cyathus stercoreus unopened

Above, that one right in the middle has a shaggy cap which is lifting off to reveal the next surface, smooth and white.

bird's nest Cyathus stercoreus close

I’m just going to say this fast: the eggs are called peridioles and each one has a funiculus attached to it (up to 8" long) which is a coiled cord that’s sticky on the innermost end and when a raindrop hits the nest the funiculus uncoils and shoots the peridiole up to three or four feet (funiculus attached) and if it hits something it whips around it like a tetherball so when the spores are released from the peridiole they can disperse further.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is something I’d like to see.

I also have to say I'm a little surprised at not being able to find any online imagery of a funiculum in action. Makes me think all the descriptions are just regurgitated descriptions. Kind of like what I just did.

If you find a bunch of bird's nest fungi and you look around, sometimes you can find the flung eggs a few feet away, stuck to plants and houses.

I know next time I come across any bird’s nest fungi I’m going to be poking around a little more seriously. Bringing a safety pin.

Four feet away, there was this.

cracked caps front

This is Agrocybe dura (or A. molesta, species I or III—don’t ask) common name “cracked earthscale.”
cracked caps group

The cracking is typical. Fine with me!

One of my best pals said walking with me is like walking with a dog, I have to stop and sniff everything every few feet. I was with a different best pal who was being pretty patient. I spent almost 15 minutes in this 4-foot area before he started openly hoping we could go soon.

cracked caps brown gills

The gills start out white, and darken with age. It has an evanescent ("disappearing quickly") ring, which you can see pieces of here.

The wonderful texture, below, makes it all worthwhile.

cracked caps close
Click to view large, I insist!

There is a group on Flickr called “Texture Whores.” Yes, I have participated.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Spring in the forest even though it’s August


Yup, still working the backlog. I’m in May now.

Here’s an egg I found right next to the trail.

egg in hand

Based on size and surface decoration, it’s a wild turkey egg, which I only know because I found a pile of them a couple years ago and asked somebody at the MDC what they were. This one was entire, but there was no one inside.

It was there a week later too, which surprised me.

jack pulpit leaves
Arisaema triphyllum

I caught a Jack-in-the-pulpit leaf in the act of unfurling (above).

star-shaped old mushrooms

Couldn't even guess what these mushrooms are, but I like what they’re doing.

star-shaped close-up

Found this ornate box turtle right on the trail, eating a worm with such vigor that he didn’t even notice me right off!

ornate box turtle

Tried to get some shots of his beautiful spotted front legs, but by then he was having none of me. Too bad, because he was wet with rain, and the colors were extra-vibrant.

2 puffballs

Puffballs in the setting sun.

puffball face

Monday, August 5, 2013

Slime mold time! Again!

Our friends the slime molds start showing up pretty early in spring, and seem to just keep showing up all summer, as long as they find the right situation--moist, well-rotted logs.

Stemonitis immature white chocolate tube immature
Above, immature Stemonitis. Each little ball in the glob is about a millimeter wide.

The white and the yellow globs could be two different species. I was assuming it was the same species because this log was just covered with chocolate tube slime. And it’s not really accurate to say it’s an immature phase, either, because it had a very active lifestyle before it got to this point.

As far as I understand it, the germinated spores live as independent single-cell organisms, eating bacteria and things. They fuse together (Lord knows how they get the word out and get organized), then start sliming around as a mass, called a plasmodium. One source says they “can grow to the size of a large pizza.” And it moves. One respectable site says up to an inch an hour; others say 1/25th of an inch. I don't know. Somebody else mentioned that’s why you can find the colored sheet of slime somewhere, and then it won’t be there at all later.

Haven’t witnessed that myself, yet.

They live like that for a while until things get bad, then they go nuts and start to get differentiated and form various club-shaped structures (depending on the species) with spores on (or in) them, which get dispersed by wind or rain or animals, and the whole thing starts again.

Stemonitis group on log
A log covered with chocolate tube slime, Stemonitis splendens.
No longer slimy at this stage.

Stemonitis splendens triple clump

The two bigger clumps are about an inch across. This is just before they’re fully mature and start to spread apart and spew their spores.

Below, chocolate tube slime, ready to disperse spores. If you blow on them a little cocoa cloud of spores lets go. Don’t inhale it, okay?


Everybody hears the words “slime mold” and thinks it’s a big joke. But I love slime molds!

Now here is some wolf’s-milk slime, Lycogala epidendrum.

wolf's milk 2

They start out this fabulous pink, filled with pink goo, which is why another common name is “toothpaste slime.” You can see very, very tiny ones just starting too.


They go through an orange phase. I don’t know why some of the ones above seem to be leaking tiny drops of goo. Faeries poked them with pins?

In the foreground and background are older ones (blurry dark balls). As they age they turn plum-colored, and finally steel grey, and the goo becomes chalky and pale purple. Worth knowing if you find old ones and wonder what the heck they are.

They’re common in Missouri woods, but who can resist that wild pink?

Hemitrichia clavata

Hemitrichia clavata. Common name “yellow-fuzz cone slime”! Each ball (sporangia) is on a little stalk. The blurry areas are where the tops of the sporangia have opened up and spewed out spores on a tangle of fibers.

Couldn’t get any closer on this one, no room.

Below, two examples of what might make you say, “What’s that pink stuff?” when you're walking around in the woods.

raspberry raspberry w/ foot

It’s raspberry slime mold, Tubifera ferruginosa. If you click on the one on the left to view larger you can see it. That shot was taken as I was standing on the trail. It’s pink!

Tubifera ferruginosa looking down log

A hefty crop of raspberry slime mold.

Tubifera close

Now that I think about it, I don’t know what it looks like in other stages…maybe I've seen it and didn't realize it.

Next slime mold:

Hemitrichia clavata

Above, that’s about the limit of my hand-held point-and-shoot camera! But I don’t know if it’s Hemitrichia calyculata or Trichia decipiens. They both seem to have a phase of orange balls on a whitish stalk.

If you made it this far, you’re about to see something that will make all your time reading this post worth it!

Metatrichia vesparium distant

Not yet! From a distance, just some vague rust-colored something on a fallen tree.

But holy cows! Look at this stuff!

Metatrichia vesparium

Metatrichia vesparium, “wasp-nest slime”!

I've seen this before, but not in such a dense colony!

wasp-nest slime

Here you can see where it gets its common name. The group of emptied sporangia looks like a paper wasp nest!

Slime mold: not as funny as you thought!