Readers’ wildlife photos

February 8, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos come from Rik Gern, and not an animal in the lot. This shows us again that mosses, ferns, and fungi are of both aesthetic andgreat biological interest. Rik’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here are some more pictures from the floor of Wisconsin’s Northwoods. This ecosystem seems like a very efficient recycling system; no sooner does a plant fall to the ground then it starts sprouting a carpet of green moss. Here are some moss and mushroom covered trunks and stumps.

This tree trunk and stump might be dead, but they sure are supporting a lot of life! I think the stump is covered in Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatulum).

This stump looks like it’s mostly hosting lichen, but there are some small orange spots that on closer examination turn out to be tiny little mushrooms known as Orange mycena (Mycena leaiana). That’s my best guess, anyway.

Here’s another stump sporting a velvety green vest, and also hosting two very unusual looking fungi. There are two little clusters up in front on the top of the stump, one just to the right of the center and the other to the left.

To the right are these odd fungi. They looked like pig ears to me, so I tried doing a web search for “Pig’s ear mushrooms”. I found one image that appeared to be a match, so I thought I’d identified it as Gomphus clavatus, but when I used that for an image search I got pages and pages of mushrooms that didn’t quite seem to fit the bill, so I’m not sure what these are, but I’m gonna keep calling them pig’s ears.

If you think the pig’s ears were strange, check out their neighbor to the left! This looks like molten hot lava, but it’s Witches butter, or Orange jelly spot fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus). It is said to be edible, but I’ll let my eyes do the feasting and keep my stomach out of it. There was a little bit growing on the side of the stump (last photo), but from this vantage point it looks like some rare jewel sticking out of a mountainside.

13 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Your ear fungus is a species of Auricularia; the common one on this side of the pond was known as the Jew’s Ear, Auricularia auriculis-judae; no change to the taxonomic name but I am sure the common name will now have been changed!

    1. Yes, Auricularia is my best guess. They go by many common names, including wood ears and jelly ears. And I’ve heard they are edible, but I’ve never tried one, as I know there are many look-a-likes and I tend to be risk averse on these things.

      1. I often buy a bag of dried mixed varieties of these, including “cloud ears”, from a Chinese supermarket in Glasgow. They have a subtle flavour that goes brilliantly with pork in a stir-fry.

    2. The last time I went on a “fungus foray” (pre-Pandemic, with an uncle now deceased) the Jew’s Ear was still in evidence, and still under that name.
      If I recall correctly (and this not being a fossil, I’m not entirely sure) the fungus only grows on one particular type of tree, and that is “traditionally” the tree type that Judas Iscariot hung himself from. How correct the association is (for the UK species of the genus), and what that tree species is, I can’t remember. “Elm” is bobbing around in my memory, but I’ve no great confidence in that.
      The UK species tends to have thicker “fronds” than shown – I can’t recall seeing any that were translucent – a more folded-over edge, and to grow protruding horizontally from standing wood not on the cut surfaces of stumps. So there might be some residuum of the tree’s immune system supporting that “single species” association. Which may only be a UK phenomenon.

      1. I am pretty sure no mycologist today calls it that. This is a good example of a common name change for the better. As it is, there are usually multiple common names for plants & funghi, depending on where tou live…

  2. Thanks for the wonderful photos and insights. I keep looking for the tiny elves that surely live in this ecosystem.

  3. Those are beautiful shrooms. Thanks for sharing these gorgeous photos. They show that everything organic is food for something, living or not.

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