September 29, 2011

Mushrooms Galore!

Lactarius indigo in damp mixed oak/pine woods, 9/22/11
Armillaria mellea on oak roots, 9/15/11
Mushrooms have been popping up all over Concord, creating magical scenes wherever they mysteriously appear.  There's been such a buzz about the prevalence of mushrooms this year that NPR's Ira Flatow decided to do a fungi feature on his Science Friday this month.  Regular intervals of precipitation and warmth throughout this summer and fall, along with the occasional hurricane deluge, likely account for this year's magnificent displays.  And perhaps, this year's fruiting bodies are making up for time lost during last year's extreme drought when relatively few mushrooms appeared.

Here are a few of the fungi that have caught my attention along the trails around Concord's East Quarter and the Estabrook Woods.  Far from expert in this area, I've made my best guess at many identifications.  Experienced readers, please use the comment window to advise or correct me!

In a shady niche of old pine log, 9/15/11
Macrolepiota procera (?), hiding in ferns, 9/13/11

The inconspicuous:

Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces floccopus), 9/17/11

Horn of Plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides), 9/20/11
Trametes body suits:

Trametes sp. on dying birch, 9/20/11
Turkey-tail (Trametes versicolor) on hardwood roots 9/13/11

Big and Small:
Soccer-ball sized Giant Puffballs (Calvatia gigantea), 8/20/11
Thousands of Marasmius capillaris dot the leaf litter, 9/29/11
The mushrooms are even eating other mushrooms:
Asterophora lycoperdoides eating decayed Russula brevipes (my educated guess), 9/13/11
To learn more about mushrooms and identify your discoveries, visit these sites:
The Mushroom Expert, Roger's Mushrooms, and Tom Volk's Fungi.

September 18, 2011

Great Meadows Mystery Insect

Dogwood Sawfly larva (Macremphytus testaceus), final instar

On today's Great Meadows walk we encountered a swamp dogwood shrub crawling with caterpillar-like larvae - powdery white above, yellow below, with a black head.  Having first met these creatures last fall, memory failed me yesterday when trying to recall their identity.  The larvae will seek rotting wood or debris within which they can make their cocoons to overwinter.  The emerge in the spring as adult sawflies who will seek out fresh dogwood shrubs on which to lay their eggs.

Sawflies are related to bees and wasps, but their larvae look remarkably like caterpillars, with some physical and behavioral differences.  Sawfly larvae always have more than six pair of prolegs (soft, unsegmented legs) along their abdomens, while caterpillars never have more than five pair.  Sawfly larvae often appear in large numbers on a single tree or shrub and seem prone to congregate together in interesting justapositions and poses (eg., above).

September 12, 2011

Monthly Great Meadows Walk - September

American lotus pod
Saturday, September 17, 9-11 am

A continuing series of monthly walks exploring the landscape, plants
and seasonal wonders of Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord

From the crescendo of bloom in August to the symphony of colors in October, September's landscape provides a bridge of subtler vistas and silky-seeded appointments.  Walk the dike trail and river edges in search of these transitory impressions of summer's merging into fall and become familiar with the seed capsules, late bloomers, glistening seed fluff, and mushrooms along the way.

Led by Cherrie Corey, local naturalist and photographer

No pre-registration required.  A $5/person voluntary donation
will be gratefully accepted.

Co-sponsored by Musketaquid Arts and Environment
and Friends of the Assabet River NWR

Meet at Great Meadows NWR in Concord, MA
(Monsen Road, off Rte. 62, driveway on left where road curves right)

For questions, email or call 978-760-1933; for additional information and photo links, go to