Saturday, May 27, 2017

Panellus stipticus (Bitter Oyster)

March 8th. I hadn’t been checking the Lenzites betulina (Gilled Polypore) log each week, so I had missed the early stages of another fungus growing on the log: Panellus stipticus (Bitter Oyster) mushrooms. Typically, they may be found growing in overlapping clusters on dead wood.

These were quite beautiful, with a sculptured, cracked-scaly appearance characteristic of old specimens. The caps were semicircular, 1-to-1.5 inches wide, convex with flattened tops, and with margins slightly curved under.

A peak at their undersides to look at their gills.

Older specimens look quite different from young specimens. I found some young specimens last year, on a fallen tree limb.

The caps of young specimens were ‘boring’ compared with older ones. Caps were a bland tan-brown, and almost flat. These caps had a depressed zone near their attachment point. The cap surfaces were uneven. Descriptions say young caps may be hairy or woolly.

The undersides of the young specimens were more interesting than the caps. Gills were close and a pale yellowish brown. Descriptions say the gills may be forked. I didn’t find any forked gills, but I did fine crossveining, which is visible in the largest cap. 

Panellus stipticus mushrooms are known for another characteristic that makes up for their bland appearance; they luminesce in the dark. There are nice pictures of the bioluminescence, including a video, in the link to the Cornell Mushroom Blog. I haven’t seen their luminescence yet. I’ve only found the mushrooms on pieces of wood too large to move, so viewing their luminescence is still on my bucket list. 

Geographically, Panellus stipticus is distributed widely.

- Michael Kuo, Mushroom Expert: Panellus stipticus 
- Messiah College: Panellus stipticus 
- Cornell Mushroom Blog: Evening Glow 
- Discover Life: Panellus stipticus

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lenzites betulina (Gilled Polypore)

March 2nd. Lenzites betulina (Gilled Polypore) is another one of the Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) look-a-like fungi that is often misidentified as a Turkey Tail… unless we look on their undersides.

I’ve been following this fungus at Fort Yargo State Park since last August. It’s pale now, although it still shows concentric zones of brown and white colors. When I first found it last August, it...

had concentric zones of pinks and oranges. This particular specimen is composed of two brackets that have grown into a rosette shape because they’re growing on the top of the log. When growing on the sides of logs, they form semicircular brackets. I picked one of the smaller brackets to examine its…

underside that shows the deep, white gills typical of L. betulina. In contrast, Turkey Tails would have white undersides with small pores. Thus, it’s easy to identify these species just by looking at their undersides.

Within a week, the pink shades had faded, leaving shades of orange and brown.

A couple of weeks later, the oranges had also faded; brown tones dominated.

The fading continued during the next month in dry weather, but…

the colors brightened a little after some rain. This enhanced color was temporary, and…

these specimens continued to fade, although they didn’t disintegrate. 

This is the first time that I’ve seen Lenzites betulina with pink tones. Usually I’ve found young specimens with the orange and brown tones that I found on the second visit.

- Michael Kuo, Mushroom Expert: Lenzites betulina: The Gilled Polypore 
- Messiah College: Lenzites betulina 
- Discover Life: Lenzites betulina 
- Atlas of Living Australia: Lenzites betulina

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Vaccinium elliottii (Elliott’s Blueberry)

March 2nd – 14th. Elliott’s Blueberry is the earliest of the Vaccinium species to bloom, and fruit in Fort Yargo State Park.

Plants flower before they leaf out. I photographed these flowers on March 2nd, and returned on March 14th to photograph the plant.

This is a particularly large bush, probably 6-to-7 feet tall and 10-to-12 feet in diameter. It’s growing in a shaded location at the water’s edge in an inlet on the reservoir. (These photographs were taken when the water level had been lowered for maintenance/construction activities.)

These blueberries ripen relatively quickly and are quite tasty. The birds, however, devour them as soon as they ripen. 

Elliott’s Blueberry is distributed in the Southeastern United States, from Virginia to Texas.

- Native and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia: Vaccinium elliottii 
- US Wildflowers: Vaccinium elliottii
*USDA Plant Database is currently experiencing some difficulty in displaying distribution maps. I’ve provided a link to the page in the hope that you may be able to see the maps. Alternatively, an embedded distribution map is available at the US Wildflowers site.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa (Round-lobed Hepatica)

March 10th.  The ‘last’ wildflower I was looking for at the Oconee Heritage Park (OHP) was the Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa). 

This species, H. nobilis, which has three-lobed leaves, has two varieties: H. nobilis var obtusa, the Round-lobed Hepatica, and H. nobilis var acuta, the Acute-lobed Hepatica. The Round-lobed Hepatica occurs in our area; the Acute-lobed Hepatica does not. As the scientific and common names imply, the leaves of the Round-lobed Hepatica have rounded lobes, and the leaves of the Acute-lobed Hepatica have pointed lobes.

Leaves of the Round-lobed Hepatica persist through winter. Thus, plants can be spotted, by their characteristic leaves, before they bloom in early spring. 

Until visiting OHP, I had found plants in moist environments near creeks or seeps. In OHP, however, I’ve found plants growing high on hillsides and ridges. In each case, they were growing and at the base of a tree on its north side, whether on a north- or south-facing slope. I assume that these spots are shaded during the heat of the day, and retain moisture that supports growth of the plants.

The characteristic round-lobed leaf.

Leaf and flower.

A flower. Flowers are usually a deep, intense purple when they first open, and gradually fade to white as they age.

I finally found the distribution for the Hepatica nobilis varieties. They are widely distributed in the eastern United States and Canada. 

- Native and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia: Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa 
- Native and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia: Hepatica nobilis var. acuta
- Wildflowers of the United States: Anemone americana - Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa) 
- Wildflowers of the United States: Anemone acutiloba - Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. acuta)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium)

March 10th.  Last year, I found Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) plants along the same section of trail where I found the Bloodroot plants. I was early for the geraniums, and only found…

one plant in bloom.

Wild Geranium flowers are a delicate pink, and easy to identify from a distance.

Even when they aren’t in bloom, plants are recognized easily by their distinctive leaf shape. Rather than a few clusters of plants as in the case of the Bloodroot plants, a large area was covered by Wild Geranium plants. It must be quite impressive when all the plants in this area are blooming.

I was too early for the main blooming of these plants but, just the presence of one bloom, lifted the ambience of the area with its leafless trees.
- Native and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia: Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium) 
- USDA Plant Database: Geranium maculatum (Spotted Geranium)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot)

March 10th. After several encounters with fungi, I reached the section of trail in the Oconee Heritage Park where I had seen a few early spring wildflowers last year. I was a week or so earlier than last year, so I wasn’t sure if I would be too early but… 

I was in luck. I found Bloodroot (Sanguiaria Canadensis) at two locations on the same short section of trail. The name ‘sanguinaria’ comes from the fact that the sap in the stem and roots of this plant is red, and has been used as a dye.

Several flowers were at their peak.

Each flower had its characteristic leaf folded around the base of the flower stem.

A few days later and I would have missed the flowers. Some had already dropped their petals and were starting to form seed capsules.

It’s always delightful to find these plants in the woods. 

- Native and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia: Sanguinaria canadensis 
- USDA Plant Database: Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fuscoporia gilva (Mustard Yellow Polypore)

March 10th.  Still at Oconee Heritage Park (OHP). I found…

these old brackets on a tree by the trail. I knew, from experience, what they were: Fuscoporia gilva (Mustard Yellow Polypore), formerly called Phellinus gilvus. Although these brackets were old, they were quite beautiful.

A close-up of one of the brackets, and its…

pore surface. This fungus has very small pores. 

F. gilva brackets don’t always look like the above as as they age.

I found these older brackets on a fallen log at OHP on the same hike. 

I’ve only found fresh F. gilva with mustard yellow margins on one occasion, at Fort Yargo State Park, where I found them on a…

fallen tree trunk.

The tops of fresh brackets were a deep brown with a mustard yellow margin, hence, their common name, Mustard Yellow Polypore.

Their pore surface was also a deep purple-brown, with…

 very fine pores.

The mustard color faded to brown within a week.

Yet another cluster of F. gilva, growing on a tree at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia, south of Athens, Georgia.

Even very small, developing brackets lacked the mustard yellow margins. They did, however, have very small pores characteristic of this species.

In this area, F. gilva brackets are usually approximately 2 – 2.5 inches wide, but they can grow up to 6 inches wide. They may grow as single, or clusters of overlapping brackets.

- Messiah College: Phellinus gilvus (now Fuscoporia gilva) 
- Discover Life: Phellinus gilvus (now Fuscoporia gilva)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hedgehog Gall Wasp (Acraspis erinacei)

March 10th. I was sitting on the ground at the Oconee Heritage Park, photographing some fungi when something caught my eye.

Several of the leaves – White Oak (Quercus alba) leaves – had small ‘furry’ galls on them.

They were approximately 0.5 inches long, and located the central vein on the undersides of the leaves.

A little bit of research identified them as belonging to the Hedgehog Gall wasp (Acraspis erinacei). This wasp has an interesting life cycle. 

Males and females mate in the spring, and the female lays eggs on various white oak species. The hatching eggs irritate cells on the tree, which forms a gall that protects the as many as five larval cells. The larvae feed and mature in the gall, which becomes the distinctive hedgehog gall. The gall is covered with red hairs when young and ages to the brown gall that I found.

Only female wasps emerge from the galls in the fall and, without mating, lay eggs in the buds. The eggs overwinter and hatch in the spring. The larvae develop in a thin-walled ‘blister’ on the inner face of a bud scale appears when the buds open in the spring. Male and female wasps emerge from this gall, mate, and produce the eggs to complete the life cycle. 

- MO Bugs: Hedgehog Gall 
- Backyard and Beyond: Hedgehog Gall

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Trichaptum biforme (Violet-toothed Polypore)

March 10th. On a hillside above a small creek at Oconee Heritage Park, I found a hardwood tree with… 

clusters of small bracket fungi at chest height and at its base.

These brackets were similar in size to Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) brackets and had faded to be almost uniformly white.

The undersides of these brackets were dark with age, and had a maze-like appearance but lacking the radial orientation that I’d seen on the Trametes villosa brackets. These brackets were Trichaptum biforme, the Violet-toothed Polypore, yet another Turkey Tail look-alike.

It was a little surprising to find the maze pores still intact. Frequently, the pores of T. biforme break down into…

tooth-like structures. It’s not unusual to find them like this. 

If you’re lucky, you might find young Violet-toothed Polypores. I found these last December at Fort Yargo State Park.

The caps were brown with distinctly purple margins.

Their undersides were also a rich purple, from which they get their common name, Violet-toothed Polypore.

Their pores have a zig-zag appearance.

As they age, the purple margin fades from the caps, and the…

pores lose their purple color.

The key to field identification of Trichaptum biforme, and differentiation from Trametes versiolor, is the characteristic pore surface. Even better, if you find young specimens with the distinctive violet coloration. 

- Michael Kuo, Mushroom Expert: Trichaptum biforme 
- Messiah College: Trichaptum biforme