Friday, July 3, 2015

Coral Slime Mold (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa)


June 4th was the first day that I saw slime molds at Fort Yargo State Park.


I noticed a lot of white material on rotten logs. I usually think of fungal mycelium - that is all but unidentifiable without fruiting bodies - when I see this. But, having seen the Red Raspberry slime mold earlier, I took a closer look and found that this was also a slime mold that I was able to identify as Coral Slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa). I saw this slime mold on a lot of moist, rotting logs. 

Slime molds are fascinating. They have two stages; a plasmodial stage and a spore forming stage. The plasmodium is an aggregate of cells with membranes but no ‘solid’ cell walls. Like amoebas, the cells move across surfaces and engulf food. Something triggers the plasmodium to form fruiting structures which range from very simple to complex. Coral Slime forms clusters of simple, cylindrical fruiting structures. 

I took a lot of photos and pieced together a series showing the development of this slime mold.


The plasmodium is clear at first and…


the sporangia start to form from areas that have become milky in appearance.


Clusters of sporangia form. An individual sporangium is less than a millimeter in diameter and three to four millimeters in length. Sporangia are clear at first and become…


opaque with an increasingly…


powdery in appearance when they mature.


A cluster of sporangia that still has some clear and opaque areas of plasmodium that will also form sporangia.

Coral Slime was, by far, the most common slime mold on this day. It was ‘everywhere.’

References: 
- Messiah College: Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa 
- Biology Reference: Slime Molds 

Related posts:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula getula)


June 12th. I was on the final leg of the trail from the Section B parking lot to the dam at Fort Yargo State Park. This year, I’d met two snakes – Black Rat Snakes (Elaphe obsoleta) – along this section of the trail. So I’m always on the lookout for snakes along this section of the trail where there are woods to the east and the open area to the west is covered with Kudzu vines. 

I’d completed the first flat section of trail and was just starting down the hill to the final flat section of trail when I saw it…  A big snake…


Immediately recognizable as an Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula getula) or Chain Kingsnake, a black snake that has thin white bands. It was about four feet long. At first, it didn’t look like it was moving but then it became apparent that it was moving very slowly. It seem oblivious to the fact that I was standing only about two to three feet from it.


It was poking its nose into the soft surface of the gravel-clay soil as if it was looking for food.


It didn’t seem to be sensing with its tongue, but it definitely was...
 
digging its nose in the soil.


It almost looked as if it was ‘mouthing’ the soil as it went.


Finally, it had apparently exhausted its interest in this area and slithered effortlessly up the almost vertical embankment before disappearing into the woods. This encounter seemed to take forever but, according to my camera, was only three to four minutes long. 

Eastern Kingsnakes are constrictors; they eat snakes including venomous snakes such as Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix), skinks, reptile eggs, rodents, birds and their eggs, and frogs. I couldn’t find any reference to this snake eatings insects but I did find a reference to the Eastern Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra) eating insects. I’m assuming that this subspecies would also eat insects and that this snake was looking for a snack.

Related post:  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Spring Is In The Air: Fort Yargo State Park, Section B To The Dam, June 12th (Part 2)


June 12th. (Continued from…) When I visited Fort Yargo State Park in mid-February, there were few signs of Spring. The only wildflower plants that were obvious were the leaves of Cranefly Orchids (Tipularia discolor) that I found in many places.


The route… I’ve described it here, here, here, and here This walk doesn’t have the variety of wildflowers as my other walk from the Group A Shelter to the Old Fort but it does have some gems. One of the Smallflower (Asimina parviflora) had developed fruit that, unfortunately, it had lost; the Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) Orchids had bloomed, and some Green Adder’s-mouth (Malaxis unifolia) Orchids were blooming.

Before I headed down the trail from the dam, I photographed the…


Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) flowers that were blooming near the Lanceleaf Coreopsis.


A Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) dragonfly was well-camouflaged against pine needles on a fallen branch.

At the beginning of the return trail I saw another flower that was very similar in overall appearance to the Queen Anne’s Lace, but this was different, it was


Hairy Angelica (Angelica venenosa). Both Queen Anne’s Lace and Hairy Angelica belong to the family Apiaceae and have compound umbel flowers, however individual florets and the leaves of these plants differ.


A close up view of the flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace (Top) and Hairy Angelica (Bottom), and the…


Leaves of Queen Anne’s Lace (Top) and Hairy Angelica (Bottom). I’m glad I didn’t just walk past the Hairy Angelica without taking a closer look.


The mysterious, unidentified oak galls were still drying up; there was no sign of anything breaking out of the gall. 

Nearby I found a couple of…


Oak Apple Galls, one (Top) older than the other (Bottom).


A Green Arrow Arum (Peltandra virginicus) in bloom. A dusting of pollen is visible at the base of the flower.


The developing seed capsules on the Perfoliate Bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata) looked really healthy.


Nearby insects had been feasting on Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) leaves.


The Green Adder’s Mouth Orchids (Malaxis unifolia) were still blooming.


It was clear that a number of flowers had been fertilized. I’s always wondered why this was called the Green Adder’s-mouth Orchid but I could see the adder’s mouth in these images.


The Pipsissewa (Chimaphila maculata) plants by the trail just beyond the orchids were developing seed capsules. 

At the top of The Hill, I found some…


Wolf’s Milk (Lycogala epidendrum) slime mold fruiting bodies, and more…


Coral Slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa) on a rotting log.


Near the top of The Hill,


Blue-fronted Dancers (Argia apicala) were dancing in the sun on the trail.


Common Buckeyes (Junonia coenia) were soaking up the sun out on the open trail back to the parking lot. 

I thought this walk was going to be snake-free, but as I made my way down the hill to the final flat section of trail, I encountered this…


four-foot long Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula getula) just hunting along the embankment at the side of the trail. It ignored me and several other people who came by, and finally slithered its way up the embankment and off into the woods.


In the final open section on the trail, Hoary Mountainmint (Pycnanthemum incanum) was blooming.

Once again, and interesting walk that I hadn’t anticipated.

Related posts:
- Winter Walk: Fort Yargo State Park – Section B To The Dam (Part 1)