We had a doozy of a cold snap this week, at least by Marin County standards. Temperatures dipped below freezing in some places, and snow fell as low as 1200 feet (366 m,) dusting Mt. Tamalpais with 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm.) Daytime temperatures didn't climb much above 50° F (10° C.)
Still, the march of the slime molds in Roy's Redwoods continues - subdued compared to last week's burst of activity, perhaps due to the drop in temperature.
Hanging Slime Mold plasmodia are still active on dead logs (Peppernut/California Bay Laurel) in the alluvial flat. The dense cover of the Coast Redwood canopy shelters them from harsh winds and drastic changes in temperature. This is also the wettest place in the forest. Rain falling on the surrounding hills drains through the alluvial flat into Larsen Creek.
I found this lovely orange plasmodium tucked under a sheltered overhang on a well-rotted log. I don't know what causes the range in plasmodial color here; I did find an article indicating that the Many-Headed Slime Mold's color depends on pH (Seifriz, Zetzmann 1935.)
I often find mature slime mold sporangia near active plasmodia of the same species. The sporangia are often harder to see; an LED-illuminated magnifying glass is handy for spotting them. For photographing slime molds, I use a 90mm F/2.8 macro lens.
I'm kind of amazed that I'm still finding new-to-me slime mold species here on a regular basis. The little "beans" above look like mature Trichia varia sporangia. I found them on the underside of a bit of rotting wood/
Mushroom season seems to be tapering off, but there’s still plenty to see if you look close enough. When large mushrooms like this Milk Cap emerge from under wet leaf litter, they often push up a layer of leaves on top of the cap. Sometimes, all that’s visible is a bump in the litter, known as a mush-hump or shrump.
The finger-like fruiting bodies of clavaroid (club-shaped) fungi are easy to spot because they tend to emerge between leaves, snaking their way through the leaf litter rather than lifting it up. I found dozens of clumps of Fairy Fingers in Roy’s Redwoods this week, scattered across the alluvial flat and north-facing slopes.
Clavulinopsis don’t emerge in large clumps like Fairy Fingers do, but their bright color (yellow, orange, red, pink) makes them stand out against the wet forest floor. About a dozen of these lemony-yellow clubs are growing alongside Meadow Trail in the alluvial flat.
Black Witches’ Butter may not be the most photogenic of fungi, but I find them endlessly fascinating. I think the name is a misnomer. When I look at them, I see greens, blues, purples, violets - colors I can’t quite catch on camera. I think there may be some thin-film iridescence at play here. Photos don’t do this fungus justice; they’re best appreciated in-person.
I’m still seeing new species emerge, even though we’re past peak-mushroom. These Psathyrella are growing on a fallen Coast Redwood, where I’ve seen them fruiting three winters running now. They are newly-emerged, and I’ll be keeping an eye on them so I can photograph their “final form.”
Most of the Western Witch’s Hats here are past their prime and beginning to deliquesce (liquify) into a gloopy black mess, but I did find a couple of late risers near the trailhead on Nicasio Valley Road.
Here is a sure sign that spring is coming: Fetid Adderstongue, one of the earliest wildflowers to bloom in the Coast Redwood forest. This plant is a member of the Lily Family (Liliaceae. They bloom by the dozen under redwoods on north-facing slopes.
I'm the kind of person who can't resist nosing around something with a name like Fetid Adderstongue. They’re a little pungent, to be sure, but "fetid" feels like a vast overstatement to me, a person who has smelled many millipedes.
Finally, one more herald of spring: a spider’s egg sac, clinging to moss on the trunk of a Douglas-fir. Even during this week’s cold snap, life in the forest feels the days growing longer, and winter beginning to ebb away.