Field Journal: 6 - 12 January 2019

The rainy season is nearing peak glory. There's so much going in in plain view - mushrooms, ferns, slugs! - that I haven't taken much time to peek under logs. Luckily, my daughter's been consistent with her salamander survey project.

Arboreal Salamander (Aneides lugubris)

Of the three species she's observed here - Arboreal, Ensatina, and California Slender Salamanders - Arboreals are the most scarce. She logs their locations, so I'm curious to see how many she photographed more than once. They're easily identified by their spot patterns.

California Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus)

I didn't notice the Blue-Green Wood Cup (Chlorociboria aeruginascens) until I edited this photo. It's not surprising. Denizens of the detritusphere flock together - mushrooms, slime molds, salamanders, slugs, snails, millipedes, centipedes, worms. Where one of these is present, you're likely to find many of the others.

Banana Slug (Genus Ariolimax)

"Banana Slugs Eating Things" is my favorite photography subject. I've got a good list going that includes mushrooms, lichens, poops of many kinds, plants including Poison Oak, and bird carcasses. The spores this Banana Slug eats will travel many meters until they're left in a moist, nutritious deposit of slug poop - far beyond where the wind could carry them. Slugs are an important vector for fungi in this forest.

Right: Membranous Pelt Lichen (Peltigera membranacea;) Left: Banana Slug (Genus Ariolimax)

I confess that the first thing I noticed was the Membranous Pelt Lichen. It took me a solid two minutes to realize that this luscious Banana Slug was resting right in front of me. In my defense, the lichen was flagrantly showing its weirdly toothsome underside.

California Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum jordanii)

California Maidenhair is tied for first in my Best Ferns List (not that it's a contest) (contender is Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis.)  Those tiny fan-shaped leaves, the wiry black stems, the curvy-jointed geometry - I melt. I don't often indulge in running my fingers down those stems, because I try my best not to stress the plants I meet along the trail, but sometimes I just can't resist. They're late emergers, as ferns go here. I think of them as a sign that the wet season's closing in on full glory.

Brittlegill (Genus Russula)

The forest is thick with red-capped Russulas right now. These are notoriously difficult to narrow down to species. There are dozens (100s?) of species of pink-to-red-capped Russulas. Sometimes they can be identified by smell or taste, but most require a look at the spores under a microscope or DNA analysis for identification.

Western Jack O'Lantern (Omphalotus olivascens)

Western Jack O'Lanterns are my favorite species to photograph. At various stages, they can display lilac, lavender, olive-greens, and a wide range of sunset red-oranges. They've also got a kicked-back-cool vibe going on with that architecture - boldly decurrent gills, casual fold along the cap margin featuring the goldenest hue that fungus can manage.

Western Jack O'Lantern (Omphalotus olivascens)

There has been some debate as to whether this species is bioluminescent. A number of field guides I've read have mentioned that some mycologists regard its bioluminescence as a myth or a practical joke. The early accounts of bioluminescence specified that young mushrooms were more luminescent, but more recent investigations indicate that this is not the case. I've personally witnessed a 30-second exposure of an older/senescent specimen that showed bright green luminescence along the gills. The working theory is that the spores themselves are bioluminescent, perhaps to attract insects that act as vectors.

Western Witch's Hat (Hygrocybe singerii)

This is the first Witch's Hat I've spotted here this rainy season. The blackening stains are the key to identifying this species. A similar-looking species that grows here, Hygrocybe acuticonica, doesn't blacken. And oh hey, what's that reddish thing poking up from the leaf litter on the right? I had to dig into the duff a bit to unearth what it was growing on...

Earpick Fungus (Auriscalpium vulgare) on Douglas-fir Cone (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

...and I pulled up exactly what I expected: a mushroom with an off-centered cap and a toothy underside, growing on a Douglas-fir cone. The Eartpick Fungus feeds and grows only on pine and fir cones. They're small and easy to miss - rarely exceeding an inch-and-a-half in height - but close observation in Douglas-fir forests will yield multiple observations. These were my first. Many more followed in close succession, once I spotted the first one. That is consistent with my experiences in finding mushrooms. It's an exercise in pattern recognition. And it is a damn good time.

Previously: 04 January 2019

Next: 13 - 19 January 2019

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