The Sourland Ecosystem Preserve is located on Mountain Rd in Hopewell.
Mondays are generally viewed as the most “blah” day of the week although I actually think Sunday evenings are even more “blah”. Getting up early, packing lunches, driving to school and work… I mean… I get it. However, I love Mondays because it is hike day! I know that not everyone is so fortunate as to have a job which requires them to enter the woods and lose themselves there each week.
All this rain has provoked a proliferation of fabulous mushrooms! I have seen more mushrooms this week than I think I have seen all year! Red ones, yellow ones, puffballs and corals! I have had a hard time containing my excitement! I reached out to Nina for identification help. As always, she came through for me and has provided some interesting information about these mushrooms. Thank you, Nina!
Chicken of the Wood, Laetiporus sulphureus! I have been on a hunt for one of these ever since I learned about people foraging for mushrooms. I spotted it about 50 yards away from me and I zeroed in. You can read more about Chicken of the Wood here! You can read more about other edible mushrooms here!
Here is my usual disclaimer: DO NOT EAT anything unless you are 100% sure that you have identified it correctly and especially, do not eat Mushrooms!!!! Even though I was pretty confident that this mushroom was Chicken of the Wood, I still asked an expert for confirmation of my identification.
The majestic American Chestnut, Castanea dentata! I don’t think I can tell you how much I love this tree and I have never even seen a mature one! The history of this tree is fraught with tragedy and love. American Chestnut is in the same family as Oaks and Beeches (Fagaceae). When you look at the leaves, you can see its resemblance to red oaks and beeches and the fruits of these trees hold some similarities.
I am now going to share a small excerpt from a paper I wrote during graduate school about the ecological and social significance of the American Chestnut:
“The American Chestnut was important to the ecosystem because they were not only fast growers, which provided habitat for different animals, they also produced nuts that animals could eat. The American Chestnut had made up approximately 25% of the native eastern hardwood forests, which an average diameter at breast height of 90-120cm and a height of 25-40m. Both native Americans and European settlers alike ate the fruit of the American Chestnut, and the European settlers found the wood to be a preferable source for timber. Some of the many reasons the American Chestnut was prized because the wood-grain ran straight and the wood was hard enough to be used for support but was also soft enough to be easily worked with. The tree would sprout again from the stumps of harvested trees, so foresters would not need to replant. Lastly and potentially most importantly, the wood is also rot resistant.”
Ahhh.. graduate school… It was such a dark hole but also such a wonderful opportunity to learn!
Evidence of Chestnut Blight, Cryphonectria parasitica. I am going to put in another excerpt from my paper! Here goes!
” The Chestnut Blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) is a fungus that was thought to be
introduced to the United States from imported Japanese Chestnuts, in the late 1800s. In 1904, the blight was identified in New York City at the Bronx Zoo. Within 50 years of C. parasitica’s identification, it spread through almost the entire range of C. dentata. C. parasitica spread at an approximate rate of 37km per year, and had spread from across C. dentata’s native range, killing 4 billion American Chestnuts within a 50 year timespan.
Cryphonectria parasitica affects C. dentata by entering through a wound in the trees bark, and while it grows, it destroys the cambium inside the trunk, branch or twig. This fungus is considered to be a filamentous ascomycete fungus, and colonizing the wound through geminating ascospores or conida into the cambrial zone. The fungus releases oxalic acid which decreases the pH and becomes toxic for the tree. However, it is very desirable environment for fungus. The growth of this fungus results in a canker, which in turn girdles the stem, branch or trunk, and cuts off the transportation of nutrients through the phloem to promote cambrial growth. C. parasitica cannot enter through the root system, so the tree is able to asexually reproduce through epicormic shoots erupting from the root collar. However, these shoots will become infected after they emerge.”
OK, I know that was very nerdy but honestly, this is the type of topics which propelled me through graduate school. I am so utterly fascinated by what happened to the Chestnut and what researchers at the American Chestnut Foundation are doing to bring this giant back!
On October 12, my good friend and I will be giving a talk about the American Chestnut and playing some music at a fundraiser for a American Chestnut restoration project in New Jersey. If you have any interest in coming or donating, here is a link to check out!
Exidia recisa, a jelly fungus. I have recently learned that many fungi and lichen do not have common names because, as my good friend Natalie said, “They are not commonly talked about”. You will find fungi and working hard decomposing dead wood.
Goldenrod, Solidago spp. I am not sure what species this is because I have not seen a species quite like this Goldenrod before. I was going to skip posting it because I didn’t know what it was . I asked a few botanist friends and there (they) weren’t sure either. I decided to “crowd source” an answer! If you know what species this is, please let me know!
False Turkey Tail, Stereum ostrea. This mushroom is a saprophtye, which means it lives on dead or decaying organic material.
Boogie-Woogie-Aphid, Grylloprociphilus imbricator, on an American Beech, Fagus grandifolia. Another common name for this aphid is the Beech Blight Aphid. As you can clearly see, the Boogie-Woogie-Aphid is a far superior name. I first noticed these aphids a couple of years ago while walking through Heylar woods in North Brunswick. They are the funkiest aphids I have ever seen. When they feel threatened, they wave their rear ends in the air (**singing in my head** like they just don’t care). Aphids are sap suckers and from what I have seen, these tiny dancers don’t cause significant damage to the beech trees. Sometimes, the “honeydew” (a cute name for poop) from the aphids can grow a sooty mold fungus known as Ascomycete. This fungus does not hurt the tree but it is unsightly. Here is a funny and interesting article from Scientific American about the Boogie-Woogie-Aphid.
This mushroom belongs to the genus Russula. There are many species of Russula and they can be very bright and colorful or dark like this one. You can read more about Russulas here!
Wolf-far Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum. Could there be a better common name???? Excuse me while I continue to cackle out loud while sitting at my desk! I was going to write more about this mushroom, but I can’t because I keep laughing. Read more about it here.
A marbled orb weaver, Araneus marmoreus. This little one got me by surprise! I was inspecting some flowers and then I saw it drop and for a split millisecond and I thought it was a crab! Why a crab? Well the abdomen was really round… it moved really fast… I don’t know why I thought “crab” but I did! I have never seen a spider like this before!
This fungi was too rotten to identify, but I still think it looks really cool. I love all the different textures and colors.
A brown hooded owlet moth caterpillar, Cucullia convexipennis. The caterpillars eat Asters and Solidago (seen here). I am not sure why it is called an Owlet moth, but you can see more pictures here!
This mushroom is in the genus, Lactarius. Latin names often have a wonderful way of clueing us in to something particular about the organism. In this case, mushrooms in the genus of Lactarius, lactate! These mushrooms will release a latex substance when damaged. Read more about Lactarius here!
Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica. I couldn’t capture the blue of the flower petals. There was another specimen, but it looked a little worse for wear so I went with the one pictured. This was yet another new-to-me plant. I love that no matter how many plants I learn about, there will always be more to learn!
Here is your fun fact for the day! The species name, siphilitica, is from the word “Syphilis” because it was thought to be a cure for it.