An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Posts tagged “Spores

Dog Vomit Slime Mold

Slime mold guessers are right! This is a slime mold — aptly-named “Dog Vomit Slime Mold” (Fuligo septica). Slime molds are not plants, animals, fungi or bacteria. This stage of a slime mold’s life cycle is called a plasmodium, which is essentially one giant cell with millions of nuclei. The plasmodium moves by slowly flowing over the ground, gradually engulfing and consuming fungi and bacteria that are present on decaying plant matter. You often find it on mulch that is regularly watered. Dog Vomit Slime Mold is harmless to people, pets and plants. In fact, it is actually edible. In some parts of Mexico people scramble it like eggs (and call it “caca de luna”).


Field Horsetail – Equisetum arvense

4-11-12  Field Horsetail – Equisetum arvense

Look for this perennial non-flowering plant by the side of the road, where its fertile stalks are starting to poke up through the soil.  A relative of ferns, horsetail reproduces by means of spores which are located in the cone-like structure at the tip of the fertile stalk.  The green, bristly vegetative stalks that give this plant its common name will soon appear. Horsetail’s use as an herbal remedy dates back to ancient Roman and Greek medicine. It was used traditionally to stop bleeding, heal ulcers and wounds, and treat tuberculosis and kidney problems. Because of the silica in this plant, horesetail is used today by organic farmers to rid soil of the effect of excess moisture that promotes the growth of fungi. Relatively recently horsetail has been suggested as a treatment for osteoporosis, also because of the silica it contains, a mineral needed for bone health. 

 


Dog-tooth Lichen

 

Dog-tooth lichen (Peltigera canina) is often found growing on lawns and rocks.  Like all lichens, it consists of an alga or cyanobacterium and a fungus living together in a symbiotic relationship.  The fungus provides a structure for taking up moisture and nutrients; the alga or cyanobacterium is capable of photosynthesizing and producing food for both itself and the fungus.  The brown structures in the photograph are the fruiting (spore-producing) bodies of this lichen, and their resemblance to dog teeth gives this lichen its common name.  In the Middle Ages, dog-tooth lichen was used to treat rabies — it was felt at the time that this lichen’s resemblance to dog teeth indicated that it could cure dog-related ailments.


Running Clubmoss, Lycopodium clavatum

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Common clubmoss (Lycopodium clavatum) is, like most clubmosses, small, evergreen and perennial. Some species of clubmosses resemble miniature pine and cedar trees, or giant mosses. Common clubmoss’s horizontal stem creeps along the forest floor, with upright stems arising from it.  This “fern ally” (related to but not a true fern) reproduces with spores, not seeds, that are found in cone-like structures called strobili located at the end of stalks, looking somewhat like a candelabra.  At this time of year, if you tap one of the strobili, you may see a yellow cloud of spores released into the air.


Netted Stinkhorn

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The way I discovered this netted stinkhorn fungus (Dictyophora duplicata) was the same way flies find it – the odor emanating from it is much like that of a decomposing body.  This odor comes from the spores of the stinkhorn – the  slimy, olive-green matter on the head, or top portion of the fungus.  When mature, the spores have a fetid odor which successfully lures insects to the stinkhorn.  They eventually depart from the fungus, and procede to disperse the spores that stuck to them far and wide.   Although it’s not too discernible in these photographs, netted stinkhorns derive their name from a fishnet-like veil, or skirt, below the head of the fungus.

 


Fungi are Flourishing

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 While the recent rains have been the bane of many humans’ existence, they have provided the perfect conditions for fungi to produce fruiting bodies. Spore-bearing mushrooms of all shapes, sizes and colors adorn the forest floor this fall. You don’t have to be a forager of edible fungi in order to enjoy the colorful array of these non-flowering plants.  Starting with the red Amanita caesarea, the following images are of Amanita muscaria, Cortinarius sp., Boletus sp., Amanita pantherina and Gomphus floccosus.


Chanterelles

The Chanterelle family of fungi includes some of the best known edible wild mushrooms.  The chanterelle pictured, Cantharellus cibarius, is considered a delicacy, but there are poisonous mushrooms that look very much like this chanterelle, so you should only consume one if someone you trust has identified it.  Most chanterelles are either convex or vase-shaped, and instead of true gills, these mushrooms often produce spores on ridges or folds.  Most chanterelles grow on the ground and appear at this time of year.