Posts Tagged Fungi

Weathering August

Sign of a Soggy Season: Ringless honey mushroom, Armillaria tabescens
(NYC 08 2021)

Sunny or cloudy, dry or damp: extremes of one or the other usually mark the last weeks of the summer season. The key variable is whether or not the given hurricane season is an active one, or not.

The passing presence of Henri and now Ida has brought an impressive amount of water to the New York region this August. The flora blooming most vigorously in response have been those types that drink it up.

One variety seen in abundance now is not a flowering in the specific sense at all, but a fruiting. The fungi known as the ringless honey mushroom, Armillaria tabescens, appears in large clusters wherever lawn and wood meet. The base of trees is one such spot.

Ringless honey mushroom is often found on or near wood.
(NYC 08 31 2021)

A species of true wildflower that thrives in the wet weather of August is the orange jewelweed, Impatiens capensis. A plant of stream sides and pond borders; it’s bright, speckled blooms, each suspended on a fine succulent stem, resemble a trumpet.

Jewelweed in full bloom.
(NYC 08 31 2021)

This flower is a touch-me-not. Agile bumblebees and hummingbirds love its nectar, but in rougher hands, like those of a human, even a light brush will cause the plant’s seed pods to burst, a type of dispersal known as explosive dehiscence.

Orange jewelwood reveals exquisite coloration.
(NYC 08 2021)

August days may be muggy, but such interesting plants are worth some outdoor time spent on a wildflower walk.

— rPs 08 31 2021

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Cinnamon Sighting(s) . . .

Cinnamon Sighting(s) . . .

Cinnamon Chanterelle in the Rain
(08 2018)

Cinnamon Chanterelle (Cantharellus cinnabarinus), quite an unexpected appearance, has popped up here and there, no doubt because of the incessant rainfall on the the West Village.

Attractive, and edible, find small bright colonies around damp tree roots and other wooded areas.

Tiny Beauty
(08 2018)

— rPs 08 31 2018

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October Ghosts Are Not Green

October Ghosts Are Not Green . . .

Amanita Which One? (NYC 10 2015)

Which One?
(NYC 10 2015)

There is a brief hour or so in morning and in evening both where a walk in the park feels shadowed. Time good to run.

Darkness, the simple absence of sun, comes at a quicker pace in October. The bluebird sky with cirrus vapor trails glowing goes dim in almost a blink when our star dips rather than slides below the horizon. Branches above remain leafy, block the darkening sky, and make a roof. You find yourself feeling enclosed in the outside, feeling fun scared outdoors. Imagination takes the macabre, perhaps Gothic, trailing path within the confines of nature’s haunted house.

The space below the branches is a more quiet place. Scattered yellowed leaves grace the ground. Single crickets scrape out a weak, woody, tonal rhythm like a single string lonesome and slower in step with the cool temperature. The tremulous vibrato creates the scare soundtrack. Some wind in the tree tops helps as well. The leaves will always carry voices.

Progress forward and happen to contemplate how this year a space probe from Earth, New Horizons, encountered Pluto and Charon and revealed their faces. The Ferryman? He of Hades? Spooky times as we drift down a line through the days toward Halloween.

Ghosts along the way do appear more resolute now upon colder, damper, ground. The chilled white caps of the Amanita, the Death Angel, may appear. Perhaps that trio clustered at the base of the ivy? Huddled, it seems, around something hidden?

Jogging along now, faster of foot, find bracketing the paths (in a way that just demanded pun dropped), the shelf fungi. Bracket fungi like the Ganoderma sport high contrast stripes that act as reflectors when spotted and passed by head lamp. Trametes, known also as Turkey Tail, rippled and lined in white like the fins of the brook trout, the inner bracket concentric rings in a range of brown true to the bird. Equally; Autumnly: the match for any tale of spectres encountered along the path lit low.

Bracketed Path (NYC 10 2015)

Bracketed Path
(NYC 10 2015)

Turkey Tail (NYC 10 2015)

Turkey Tail
(NYC 10 2015)

That October evening run in the Manhattan green, remember it formed a loop, a circle, haunted by ghosts lost to the living, uplifted anyway by the living still. Like those white caps, which turned out to be Amanita citrina, the False Death Cap, an edible mushroom spared the table because it so closely resembles its fatal fellow.

New York City harbors paths, routes where ghosts remain to roam, and where that Earthy symbol from ghost stories, a kind of flowering not green, grows.

Ghostly Fungi Gravestone Log (NYC 2015)

Ghostly Fungi
Gravestone Log
(NYC 2015)

– rPs 10 14 2015

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More Fungi of the West Village

More Fungi of the West Village . . .

Lingzhi Mushrooms soak up the evening rain on West 13th Street. (photo taken 09 07 2011)

Hurricane Irene appears to have brought on an early beginning to the autumn season. The bright sun and steady heat of July and August switched to sustained gray skies, high humidity, and cool temperatures once the storm passed through the region. NY1 news reports that over four inches of rain have fallen on Central Park during the first week of September 2011. One result of this inundation has been has been a continued bloom of fungi species in the West Village.

A stretch of low light with damp weather is an essential element of mushroom growth. Another ingredient is abundant food, in this case organic material, and the urban environment provides a rich source of nourishment from two sources. The first is the mulch and wood chips people use to cover the bare soil of their tree pits and stoop gardens. The other is dog dung, which also usually ends up on or around the base of trees. While I do not condone the laziness of irresponsible canine managers, what gets left behind does often foment the new and sometimes unusual appearance of fungi.

One type of Agaric or gilled mushroom, which grows well on wood mulch, is the delicate little Fairy Bonnet, Coprinellus disseminatus. This variety can be identified by its ash gray cap, ribbed like a sea scallop shell, and pale thin stem that reaches only one or two inches in height. What this mushroom
lacks in stature can be made up for in numbers. Dense clumps will take over a spot where dead wood is available and when conditions are right. I found mature individuals as well as one such cluster beginning to push through wood chip mulch on Bethune Street.

A single Fairy Bonnet (Coprinellus disseminatus) grows on wood mulch along Bethune Street. (photo taken 09 07 2011)

A cluster of Fairy Bonnets beginning to emerge from the mulch along Bethune Street. (photo taken 09 07 2011)

Another group of Agarics common to urban areas is the genus Inocybe. Members of this group are somewhat larger and thicker and can be identified by the cap, which is usually fibrous and umbonate. The umbo is the raised knob at the cap’s center that gives the organism a tented appearance. I found one stand-out example soaking up the rain beside Christopher Street. I returned the next day with my camera. Although it had begun to deflate, the mushroom’s general appearance remained intact enough for a positive identification: Corn Silk Inocybe, Inocybe fastigiata (also listed as Inocybe rimosa).

A single Inocybe mushroom stands out in a tree pit along Christopher Street. (photo taken 09 07 2011)

The Lingzhi Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidem, has been thriving in the rain, too. I returned to the stump along West 13th Street where I found the example I wrote into the essay “’Conked’ on the Head.” That tree gravestone is now completely ringed by new growth. The conks, deep red edged with white, look particularly attractive when wet and shiny, reflecting the silvery light of a September evening.

Mushroom identification, as I have discovered, can be challenging at best. Many species do not even possess popular names and are known only by their Latin monikers. Determining whether or not an example is edible adds another exercise in uncertainty. I have left out the subject of edibility for safety reasons. There are comprehensive resources both in print and online that can provide more authoritative information. To start, here is a trio of websites with a connection to the city environment:

Mycologist Gary Lincoff – “NYC Mushroom Survey”

NEMF: The Northeast Mycological Federation, Inc. – “Central Park in NY”

Urban Mushrooms

– rPs 09 08 2011

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Fungi of the West Village

Fungi of the West Village . . .

Spring had begun only on the calendar the first time I set out to write an essay for Wildflowers of the West Village in March, 2010. The first subject I found and wrote about at length was not a flower at all, but a fungus. The shelf fungi, members of the genus Ganoderma, provided a pun for the title – “’Conked’ on the Head” – as the fruiting brackets are formally known as conks.

Since that time I have encountered several other varieties of fungi, which are a distinct Kingdom alongside the Animal, Plant, and Bacteria. Wet weather, like the arrival of Hurricane Irene to the New York region, often brings on the quick appearance of these fleshy, often colorful, organisms. A lawn or a bare patch of soil beneath a tree can provide the stage for another kind of wild flowering . . .

Ganoderma lucidem – Lingzhi Mushroom

Lingzhi Mushroom: Ganoderma lucidem

This is the metaphorical bloom that started it all at Wildflowers of the West Village. The fleshy brackets, called conks, grow on tree stumps and other downed wood. This example was photographed on West 13th Street.

The genus Ganoderma was named in 1881 by the Finnish mycologist Petter Adolf Karsten. The family name is Ganodermaceae. The species pictured here is Ganoderma lucidem, the Lingzhi Mushroom: an Asian immigrant, harvested for its medicinal properties, which now has a cosmopolitan (global) distribution.

Conocybe lactea – White Dunce Cap

White Dunce Cap: Conocybe lactea

A delicate, fragile, small fry of a gilled mushroom, the White Dunce Cap is the pale little lawn decoration one often finds on dewy summer mornings. The one pictured here was photographed within the grass of Hudson River Park.

Leucoagaricus americanus (also listed as Lepiota americana)

Leucoagaricus americanus (also listed as Lepiota americana)

The quintessential urban mushroom identified by its scaly cap. This species grows in waste places where sawdust, wood, or mulch is available. The trio shown above was found nestled in a quiet composted corner of a West Village apartment building’s landscaping.

Mutinus elegans – Elegant Stinkhorn

Elegant Stinkhorn: Mutinus elegans

The most phallic of fungi, the Elegant Stinkhorn lives up to its odiferous nomenclature. This photo proves that scent is an essential component of its existence, as it draws flies in droves. Often found in loose groups on damp lawns. Very colorful, its “elegant” orange appearance cultivates a bloom of sorts, although one best viewed from a distance, or with nose pinched. The singular example illustrated, which stood six inches in height, actually grew with several others beside a yew bush in Hudson River Park.

Now that Hurricane Irene has passed over Manhattan, there should be a bloom of fungi species to see, and sometimes smell, over the next few days. In fact, just after Hudson River Park was closed to prepare for a predicted storm surge, I found this lone example already rising from the soaked loam of a liittle park beside the West Side Highway . . .

A solitary mushroom sprouting near the West Side Highway as Hurricane Irene arrives. (photo taken 08 27 2011)

– rPs 08 28 2011

Postscript: Read “‘Conked’ on the Head” by following this link:

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“Conked” on the Head

“Conked” on the Head . . .

The distinctive conks of two varieties of bracket fungi (Trametes and Ganoderma) feast on a tree stump in front of a townhouse along West 13th Street. (photo taken March 28, 2010)

I begin my week days with a walk that varies somewhere within the boundaries of the West Village. This morning constitutional gets me out and about into the fresh air where I can contemplate the city’s waking and seek out nature’s flora and fauna before the bustle of daily human business become too much to bear.

When relaxed I find my walks are much more in the moment and in my present place. Bright and busy days often keep me indoors and, if I do go out, often in my mind’s eye. There I can ruminate over my current first thought and get on with little distraction or pause to where I’m going. Gray days provide a contrast, often in the form of fewer people, which gets me out and about in a much more slow and engaging way. At these times I look and listen much more carefully, a state of being which is much more open to outdoor discovery.

A thin March rain was adding a shine to all the surfaces, even the street, which helped to temper the sound of passing traffic. A car or truck sounds much more pleasant on wet blacktop, like a rolling wave rather than a rattling trap, and the lighter touch of this watery sound relaxed me as I started up eastward along West 13th Street.

I was looking about, appreciating red brick and brownstone homes lining the blocks between 7th and 5th Avenues. The smooth gray branches of red maples were beginning to be lined with fresh color, revealing why this species is nicknamed redbud. The taller black locust trees remained dark and bare, colored only on the northern face of their thickly rippled trunks. Now tinted in places by a sheen of bright green, the locusts were playing host to crustose lichens, taking advantage of the perpetual damp fed by the recent persistent rain.

The crustose lichen, so named for its thin surface appearance, is an interesting character in its own right: a composite creature – half fungus, half alga, living in symbiotic balance – that in part foreshadowed my first newsworthy wild plant encounter.

This one was accompanied by the soothing call of mourning doves perched high in the branches above. Below them, and to my right side, were the townhouse front gardens – one of the best benefits of a residential block that has retained a nineteenth century character. Most of these small plots remained true to the March season, consisting of brown damp soil, evergreen yew or holly hedges in need of a shave, and the scattered pale green thumbs of eager crocus and daffodil.

One, I noticed, was bordered by a black iron fence abutted by a large stump. Usually this grave marker of a fallen tree saddens me, as it represents one less spread of shade, one less perch for birds, always a valuable commodity in a residential city. This stump, however, was not a fresh cut and through its remains the tree sustained new life of a kind normally seen only in the woods —

Bracket Fungi

Not one but two varieties of this common member of the phylum Basidiomycota clung to this stump. One consisted of a tightly layered colony of white, flaky, horizontal ridges ( Trametes ) while the other grew singularly in broad, fleshy, rust-colored brackets ( Ganoderma ), which were spaced like detached houses.

Brackets are also called shelves or conks. Both varieties I found have a cosmopolitan distribution. Despite its superficial meaning, the phrase does not mean these plants are specifically city dwellers, or sophisticates. Instead, the term is actually derived from biogeography and refers to an organism (like cats, dogs, and humanity itself) that is found – distributed –  throughout the world.

One can read the age of a fallen tree by reading its rings. Tree stumps, like the one I found on West 13th Street, give a patient counter a clear view. Ironically, the age of bracket fungi can be read in a similar way. Conks acquire a ring of new growth each year. As the shelf area expands, rings form in an expanding pattern of alternating convex and concave ripples, like a fingernail, along the surface. The Ganoderma pictured here appear to be between two and four years of age.

Almost everyone has encountered such fungi growing in the deadfall along park trails or on an old stump in a neglected corner of the backyard. Finding living examples beside the stoop of a tidy West Village townhouse is not so common, however. Considering how suddenly and unexpectedly this mycological spectacle appeared to my eye, I could say I was in a way conked on the head, in the West Village, literally as well as figuratively.

The extended bracket fungi family has several notable members. One is the Artist’s Conk ( Ganoderma applanatum ). The bracket of this variety has long been used by artists as a canvas for etching and drawing, as its pale undersurface turns dark when scratched, perfect for holding a line. One of my grandmothers has just such an example, one that depicts a country carnival scene, displayed in her China closet.

When referring to China, one cannot overlook Ganoderma lucidum, a bracket fungi also known as the Lingzhi mushroom. This variety, which strongly resembles the larger of the two West Village examples, has been a staple of Chinese medicine for several thousand years. The brackets are sliced and boiled into a tea used as an antiviral agent in immunotherapy.

I find it fitting that one of the first wild plants I encountered this season was not a flower at all, yet its presence bloomed in my eyes and opened up an entire new phyla for my urban botanical consideration.  The unique color and appearance of the bracket fungi in the city stands out, like a single dandelion in a green law, or any other wildflower in the West Village.

— rPs 03 29 2010

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