With the rainy season in full swing now, and things are starting to get busy in the forest at Roy's Redwoods.
It's not raining frequently or heavily, but the morning fog is keeping the forest wet. Droplets of moisture from the fog condense on redwood leaves and then fall to the ground; a redwood forest can gain an additional 10 inches of "rain" per year this way.
Other foliar fungi are less fussy. The unidentified species shown above is also fruiting on Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) leaves.
The mushrooms pictured above were growing along the drip line of a large Douglas-fir tree. The drip lines of conifer trees - a circle around the tree where water from the foliage drips - are a good place to find early-fruiting mushrooms.
Spaces beneath logs are another good place to find early-fruiting fungi. The Blue-Green Fairy Cup usually fruits on the underside of woody debris on the forest floor.
Tough shelf mushrooms like the False Turkey-tail can be spotted year-round, but they look especially spiffy this time of year, when the rain perks them up.
A few larger mushrooms are popping up in the darkest, wettest parts of the forest. I found the mushrooms pictured above growing in a muddy creek bed under deep shade.
The Redwood Rooter is an iconic mushroom of the redwood forest and can be seen scattered across the alluvial flat at Roy's Redwoods throughout the rainy season. This fungi only appears under redwoods, but its exact relationship with the trees is unclear; it may be parasitic.
After a storm, the forest floor is littered with fallen leaves, branches, and other debris from the canopy. A small branch might host to many different species of lichen and fungi, like the Coast Live Oak branch shown above.
Lichens growing on bark in the canopy, like the Tube Lichens above, are often knocked off of branches in violent windstorms. On the forest floor, they may be eaten by foraging animals, or they may decompose and become part of the soil.
Fallen lichens alter the structure of litter on the forest floor, creating air pockets as they're covered by fallen leaves. A large bunch of Beard Lichen, like the one pictured above, can create enough space to shelter insects or even salamanders.
Lichens grow at ground level here, too, and one of the best places to see them is on trail cuts - places along hillsides where the earth has been cut to accommodate a hiking trail. Pixie Cup Lichens like the ones pictured above have colonized trail cuts in shady places throughout the preserve.
Membranous Pelt Lichen, on the other hand, I've only found in one place in the preserve - on a west-facing trail cut under mixed evergreen forest. All lichens consist of two parts: a mycobiont (one or more fungal species) and a photobiont (a photosynthesizing organism.) In most lichens, the photobiont is algae (phycobiont,) but in some - like the Membranous Pelt Lichen - the photobiont is cyanobacteria (cyanobiont.)
Lichens with a cyanobiont are able to fix nitrogen; that is, they can take nitrogen out of the atmosphere and add it to organic compounds. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria can also be found in the root nodules of leguminous plants, like clover and peas, but few of these plants are able to survive under the dense shade of tall trees. This makes nitrogen-fixing lichens an essential component of a healthy forest here.
There's always an explosion of slime mold growth here after a good rain. The slime mold pictured above is in its feeding form, known as plasmodium - a single enormous cell with many nuclei (multinucleate.)
Most of the slime molds I see are in their reproductive form, known as sporangia. These structures bear spores to be dispersed to new areas, where the slime mold can colonize a new food source.
Most sporangia are remarkably tiny. Coral Slime Mold sporangia like those pictured above might appear to be fuzzy growths of fungal mold from a distance. Up close, you can see that what looked like hairs are actually more like tubes.
As you can see in these photos, slime molds often grow on well-rotted wood. Logs half-eaten by fungi become soft and porous - like a sponge - and hold a lot of moisture. I often find slime molds in the nooks and crannies on the undersides of these logs, where conditions are cool, dark, and damp.
Fall color on the deciduous trees is persisting into December. Some of the Bigleaf Maple leaves are just now yellowing, but most have long since turned golden.
The leaves of the Oregon Ash are a milder shade of yellow.
Millipede activity has increased in the spaces under logs. I'm seeing more of the adult Yellow-Spotted Millipedes.
Tylobolus are the chunkiest millipedes I've encountered here at Roy's Redwoods. I've only spotted them three or four times.
Parajulidae millipedes are easier to find here. This is one of the larger individuals I've seen.
Feather Millipedes are charismatic little critters. The pinwheel formation shown above is characteristic of this genus. Small, whitish individuals in the center are juveniles. Adult males brood the eggs until they hatch, keeping them safe from fungi that infiltrate and consume unprotected eggs.
This photo was taken two days after the previous photo, in the same spot on the same log. The pinwheel formation is believed to be associated with feeding, as the millipedes only exhibit this behavior in the presence of the fungi they eat (Wong, 2017.)
I rarely manage to snap a centipede photo, since they're so dang quick and panicky. This Soil Centipede had a tough time finding refuge after I flipped their log over, though, so I got one (fuzzy) shot. Like millipedes, centipedes lack a waxy cuticle - a feature present in insects and spiders - so they dry out easily and tend to stick to moist environments, like the spaces under logs.
The newts are here! Rough-skinned Newts are the only salamander species here that regularly emerges into the open during daylight hours - but only when the forest is very wet. In especially rainy years, when the seasonal streams persist for weeks at a time, they can be found lurking in the larger pools.
The newts don't lay eggs here in Roy's Redwoods; they need ponds or pools that last through the summer months for their larvae to develop to adulthood, and the nearest ponds are in the golf course across the road. When these newts are ready to breed, they'll have quite a journey ahead of them.
Slender Salamanders generally don't come out into the open in daytime, but can be found tucked away under logs and other debris. They're so tiny that they can use earthworm burrows.
Adult Arboreal Salamanders are identifiable by their super-bulgy eyes and the yellow spots on their skin. Spot patterns are unique, so they can be used to identify individuals.
Adult Ensatinas are about the same size as the Arboreals, but close examination reveals differences in shape and color.
Juvenile coloration is a bit different. At first glance, Arboreal juveniles look a lot like Ensatina juveniles, but they lack the yellow-orange upper-leg patches sported by the Yellow-eyed Ensatinas here. Arboreal eyes are also more protuberant.
Previously: November 24, 2018
Next: 02 - 08 December, 2018