Woolly aphids are just that – aphids that have special glands that produce wax-like filaments which resemble white wool. When the “wool” is brushed aside, the dark aphid bodies below are apparent. Colonies of woolly aphids often congregate in cottony masses while sucking the sap of a host plant or tree, at which time they are somewhat camouflaged in that they can easily be mistaken for mold or a fungus. When woolly aphids take flight, the wax strands catch the wind and allow them to drift , allowing them to look more like seeds than edible prey.
Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com
and click on the yellow “donate” button.
Yellow lady’s slipper, Cypripedium pubescens, is in flower in central Vermont/New Hampshire, gracing woodlands and bogs with its beauty. This plant has what is called a mycorrhizal association, a relationship with a fungus that colonizes its roots. This mutually beneficial association provides the fungus with carbohydrates from its host plant, the yellow lady’s slipper, and enables the yellow lady’s slipper to have increased mineral absorption due to the fungus’s large surface area. More than 90 percent of plant species are believed to form a symbiotic arrangement with beneficial soil fungi.
When a white pine has been infected with white pine blister rust (a fungus), cankers appear on the branches and sometimes the trunk of the tree. A large amount of sap-like ooze flows from the cankered areas, sometime drying and resembling a sugary-looking crust or film. These areas are, in fact, high in sugar content, and rodents frequently chew them. It’s likely that a red squirrel visited and sampled the infected white pine in the photograph, leaving a freshly-gnawed patch in the bark.
It is not hard to figure out how coral fungus got its name, with its branching fruiting bodies that resemble aquatic coral. These fungi come in a rainbow of colors – white, yellow, orange, red, purple and tan, depending on the species. Typically found growing on the forest floor, coral fungi bear their spores on the sides of their branches (not on or ingills or pores, like many fungi). All fungi that look like coral were originally lumped into one group, but DNA analysis has determined that while these fungi may look alike, there are many differences between them, and taxonomically they belong to many different families. While many species are edible, some species are poisonous, and distinguishing between the two can be extremely challenging.
Fungi can be divided into two groups – basidiomycetes and ascomycetes. Basidiomycetes (gilled mushrooms, coral fungus, hedgehog mushrooms, puffballs, bird’s nest fungus) produce spores on the surface of microscopic cells called basidea. Ascomycetes (morels, cup fungi, stinkhorns) produce their spores within microscopic sacs (asci). The slug in this photograph is dining on an ascomycete — eyelash cup fungus (Scutellinia scutellata), the rim of which bears many stiff, eyelash-like hairs.