I got up around 6:30 this morning, and headed out to Grass Valley with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne Moger to go mushroom and lichen hunting at Kenny Ranch.
On the way to the location, we’ll pulled off to the side of the highway were there were a few trees covered in lichen that were within reach of the shoulder. The ground there was still icy, especially in the shadier spots, and I was sort of glad I’d brought an extra heavier jacket with me along with my regular hoody. It was COLD; 37° F, and there was a slight breeze that added to the chill factor.
When we got to the ranch, we put on our heavier clothing, but regretted it as soon as the sun cut through the clouds and fog. It got up to about 57° while we were out there: cold in the shade, too warm in the sun. It’s hard to know how to dress for weather like that.
Tree lichens are different species from rock lichens, and we were expecting to see mostly rock lichens at Kenny Ranch, so the stop off along the way allowed us to capture photos and information on more species. There was one stick we picked up that was loaded with a variety of different species in different colors. That phenomenon always amazes me: so much life clinging to one discarded twig.
The most species we found, though, were among the rock lichen, which this particular spot (Kenny Ranch) has in abundance. There’s a large field filled with boulders, and each boulder is covered in one or more species of lichen.
CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.
I was hoping to see some rag lichen on the trees and some birds’ nest fungus, but didn’t find either of those. Whereas, the ranch did not scrimp on the number of rock lichens to see, but the fungi were few and far between. We did find the oddly-named Scurfy Twiglet, the very large Yellow Knights, and some Bleach-Scented Mycenas (also called Nitrous Bonnets) with their sharp bleach smell.
Mycena is a very large genus and includes over 500 species worldwide. Some smell like bleach, some smell like garlic, some smell like watermelon. Some species are edible while others are toxic. And over 30 of the species are bioluminescent. The ‘shrooms themselves are, for the most part, pretty unremarkable when you see them: little plain gray or tan guys with a translucent veined cap and tender stipe.
In some patches of disturbed earth among the boulders where the rock lichens were found, we found different formations of ice including “needle ice”, incredible extrusion of ice from the earth. Rox did some research on it when we got home and found:
“… One of our wonderful finds today was many patches of needle ice. Needle ice forms in saturated soils especially those high in clay. The air temperature has to be colder than the soil temperature and then the rest is capillary action. And the result is delicate pillars of ice in neat vertical stacks. Here’s an article that explains it a little better. And a few photos...”
All along the way, we saw piles of scat that we assumed were from coyotes… but most of them were deposited on rocks rather than directly onto the ground, which we thought was odd and interesting.
One of our favorite sightings at Kenny Ranch was finding some Rosy Short-Headed Millipedes. We knew where to look for them, and were hoping to find some, so it was encouraging to actually see some of them under a log. Like their name implies, they’re a pale rosy pink. Whereas most millipedes feed on leaf litter, these guys feed primarily on fungus, so we were keeping an eye out for them in the same places where we were looking for mushrooms.
We always find them in colonies, which is typical of the species. The colonies are multi-generational (closer to the spring you’ll find adults layered on top of pale whitish young), and as there is no apparent “caste system”, all adults are supposedly able to reproduce.
Another standout feature of this particular genera of millipede, is that the males care for the eggs until they hatch. The female lays the eggs in a cluster, and the male coils its body around the mass, lifts the eggs from the ground (so soil fungus doesn’t affect them), and protects them from ants and other predators. The millipedes have defense glands that secrete a chemical compound, like buzonamine, that repels ants.
According to a study published in the Biodiversity Data Journal, the males don’t differentiate between “their” clutch of eggs and other males’ eggs, and will flail around to collect eggs that seem to be “abandoned”. The study also indicated that when the scientists removed the eggs, the males would go seek them and collect them up again.
Their many-many legs are hidden from view by the paranota that extend off of each segment of their bodies giving them an almost “feathery” look. Close ups of the paranota show that, in this species, they’re decorated with tiny bumps. Such interesting little guys!
Other fun finds were some tube lichens and some turret spider holes.
We walked about halfway around the major loop trail, then turned around and went back to the car (about a 3 hour trip). We parked among the cedars and had our lunch, then looked for the other end of the trail by the NID irrigation ditch. We weren’t successful in locating that other end, so decided to head back home from there.
This was hike #2 of my #52HikeChallenge.
- Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
- Alder Tongue, Western American Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina occidentalis
- American Robin, Turdus migratorius
- Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
- Bonnet Mushrooms, Genus: Mycena
- Bracket Fungus, Family: Hymenochaetaceae
- California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
- California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
- California Turret Spider, Antrodiaetus riversi
- Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus [tracks]
- Concentric Boulder Lichen, Porpidia crustulata [circles of black spots on rock]
- Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
- Cramp Ball Fungus, Annulohypoxylon thouarsianum
- Creeping Mahonia, Creeping Barberry, Berberis repens
- Creeping Moss, Conardia compacta
- Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia [gray on rocks, brown apotheca]
- Dendroalsia Moss, Dendroalsia abietina [long, curling tendrils on trees]
- Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
- False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum
- Farinose Cartilage Lichen, Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
- Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica [blue-green dust lichen]
- French Broom Gall Mite, Aceria genistae
- French Broom, Genista monspessulana
- Gem-Studded Puffball, Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum
- Golden Dwarf Mistletoe, Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
- Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
- Grey-cushioned Grimmia Moss, Grimmia pulvinate [clumpy, on rocks]
- Hare’s Foot Inkcap Mushroom, Coprinopsis lagopus
- Hidden Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella aurella [small, scattered, yellow, on rocks]
- Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
- Hooded Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza fallax [leafy, yellow-orange, on trees]
- House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
- Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
- Liquid Ambar, American Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
- Manzanita Leaf Gall Aphid, Tamalia coweni
- Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa [fern-like leaves]
- Nitrous Bonnet, Bleach-Scented Mycena, Mycena leptocephali
- Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
- Pink Honeysuckle, California Honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula
- Plume Moss, Dendroalsia abietina
- Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
- Powderhorn Lichen, Common Powderhorn, Cladonia coniocraea
- Rock Greenshield Lichen, Flavoparmelia baltimorensis [light green to gray, crumbly center]
- Rock Tripe, Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
- Rosy Short-Head Millipede, Brachycybe rosea
- Sagebrush Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella rosulans [bright yellow, lumpy clumps on rocks]
- Scurfy Twiglet Mushroom, Tubaria furfuracea [small, tan-yellow]
- Shadow Lichen, Family: Physciaceae
- Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae
- Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
- Small Moss Oysterling, Arrhenia retiruga [tan, thin like a fingernail, tan or brownish]
- Smokey-Eyed Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens
- Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
- Star Moss, Syntrichia ruralis
- Sunken Disk Lichens, Aspicilia sp. [tan, flat, grainy-looking on rocks]
- Tree-skirt Moss, Pseudanomodon attenuatus
- Trembling Crust, Merulius tremellosus [flat, kind of like stereum, white fuzzy edges when young/growing, can have teeth/netting underneath]
- Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
- Veined Mossear, Rimbachia bryophila [small, while, fingernail like]
- Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
- Western Shield Lichen, Parmelia hygrophila [blue-gray, foliose, dull isidia on leaves]
- White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
- Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida
- Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
- Yellow Knight Mushroom, Tricholoma equestre
- Yellow Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum [bright yellow-green with dark spots]