Saturday, March 31, 2012

From blobs to blooms

The infamous xylobolus blob.
The highlight of my day might have been the moment when my colleague darted off into the woods exclaiming, "Look! A blob of xylobolus!"

And she meant it.

Xylobolus, as I'm sure you're aware (right!), grows on oak and is sometimes called ceramic parchment fungus. It looks--well, blobby. I would have walked right past it if I hadn't been tromping through woods and muddy streams with a trained botanist.

Earthstar fungus.
I would have walked right past the jelly fungus too because it looked like a wad of icky goo stuck to the side of a branch, but it's dry to the touch and feels like fine paper. In the middle of a stream my colleague suddenly stooped and pounced on a rock and crowed, "Liverwort!" And nearby she showed me a star-shaped fungus clinging to the side of a damp rock. It's called an earthstar but it looks extraterrestrial or aquatic, as if it's about to burst out singing "Under the Sea." 

The weather was cool enough for coats and hats and wet enough to thoroughly muddy up our hiking boots, but recent warm temperatures led to early blooms for some spring wildflowers. We saw twinleaf and bloodroot already past the blossom stage, and elsewhere we saw hillsides festooned with blue-eyed mary or  lovely yellow celandine poppies. Deep in the ravine we ran across rarer specimens: perfoliate bellwort and trout lilies just barely blooming,  mertensia and spring larkspur vying to produce the most abundant blue blossoms.

Squirrel corn. Note the little nodules belowground.
Everywhere we saw moss and ferns (maidenhair fern, Christmas fern, walking fern, club fern--which isn't a fern at all despite the name). I learned to distinguish dutchman's breeches from squirrel corn (darker leaves and more delicate heart-shaped flowers) and I even learned why it's called squirrel corn (because the roots produce these little corn-shaped nodules just beneath the soil's surface). We saw hepatica and rue anemone and waterleaf, foamflower and squawroot and two kinds of trilliums.

Sessile trillium.
I was the one who spotted the sessile trilliums, a discovery that me ridiculously happy. For an hour or more I'd been blindly stumbling past earthstars and liverwort and blobs of xylobolus and then feeling really blind and ignorant when my colleague pointed them out, so I got a little excited when I saw these mottled leaves and subtle violet flowers and said, "Is this some sort of trillium?"

Yes! A new type of trillium to know and love! Woo-hoo! It's not exactly a blob of xylobolus, but nevertheless it made my day.

Not jellyfish--jelly fungus.

Blue-eyed mary.

That blue-eyed mary gets around!

Club fern. (Neither a club nor a fern.)
Celandine poppies.
Squirrel corn on the left, dutchman's breeches on the right.

Fern fiddleheads unfurling.

1 comment:

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