Today, I attended a “Sticker Party” at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. My friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne, volunteered too, as did “The Other Mary” (Mary Messenger). I think there were seven volunteers in all there.
The organization had something like 3500 brochures for their kids/school programs that had been accidentally printed with “2019-2020” on them so we had to put sticky labels over that with the correct “2020-2021” dates. Some of the school districts also required special liability disclaimers on them, so those brochures also got labels with the language specified by the district.
The Effie Yeaw volunteer coordinator, Rachael, had set up coffee, water and Danishes for us, and while we were working, the Executive Director, Kent, came in with a plate full of Girl Scout cookies for us, too. That was nice.
Roxanne, The Other Mary and I worked on the brochures for about three hours. Between all of us volunteers we labeled a little over 1500 of them, so we felt really good about that.
One of the other volunteers there was a gentleman named Mike who I had met earlier in the year on a fungus walk I led at the preserve. He had liked the Nikon the camera I use so much that he went out and bought one for himself. He showed me some of the photos he’d gotten with it, and they were great! I’m so glad he was as pleased with the camera as I am.
When we were done working, The Other Mary left, but Roxanne and I stopped for a little bit to take photos around the nature center. Bushtits have setup a nest in a Redbud tree there and I was able to see the mom fly back to the nest with a mouthful of what looks like bits of plant fluff and lichen. So cute! The resident Black Phoebes are also nesting under the eaves of the building and I got a few photos of them.
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
In another month or so, it should be more spectacular to look at, when the trees all have leaves on them, but right now there were mostly cultivated tulips, daffodils and other bulb-flowers… and I don’t get too excited about non-native plants. I was surprised, for example, by the amount of common ivy and periwinkle on the grounds. They’re both invasive species. From a naturalist standpoint, I would have been happier to see native plants and flowers throughout the place.
On the grounds, there’s a huge Victorian house, silo and barn that are just pristine and gorgeous, and the grounds abut agricultural land. I wanted to see the chicken coop, which is supposed to be spectacular, but I missed it.
I was walking across the lawn with the giant pecan tree in the middle of it, though, and came across a super-tall door. There were glass inserts in the top of it, but too high for me to look through, and hedges on either side. I noticed that there was a handicapped button next to the door, so I pushed it… and the door opened slowly to reveal a huge swimming pool. Very impressive. ((I was also kind of jazzed to see battery hook-ups for cars in their parking lot.)) There’s also a large fountain full of koi fish and a “carved” English garden across from it. Just lovely.
I did get to see my first Painted Lady butterfly of the season and a Common Checkered Skipper.
And I got photos of a robin, Spotted Towhee, Yellow-Billed Magpie, and Red-Breasted Nuthatch, among other birds. The Nuthatch had landed on a ball of twigs and threads that one of several hanging from the limbs of the pecan tree. At first I thought they were little hanging nests, but on closer inspection I could see that they were most likely man-made balls of excelsior, threads and fine ribbons for the birds around to use as extra nesting materials.
I walked the grounds and took photos for about 2 hours and then headed back home.
Napa Trip Day One: My friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne and I, took Highway 113, and stopped in Davis for a little breakfast (breakfast sammich and coffee) and then we stayed pretty much on Highway 128 through Winters, past the Monticello Dam and around Lake Berryessa to the city of Angwin. At a market across the street from Pacific Union College, we met with some of my other naturalist class graduates: Pam, Patty, Elaine, and Deborah (who was the one who organized the group and hosted us at her home). It was so great to see them all again and to spend the day with them out in nature.
“The forested lands of Pacific Union College were once the winter camp of the Wappo tribe of California Indians, who enjoyed a bountiful supply of acorns. In 1843 the land became part of a Mexican land grant to George Yount. After the Mexican-American war, settlers used the redwoods to build homes and make grape stakes for vineyards.
Lumber was the primary industry on Howell Mountain until Edwin Angwin built his resort hotel in 1883. PUC purchased Angwin’s resort in 1909. Since then, the forest has supported the mission of the college by providing lumber for classroom buildings and residence halls, firewood for heat, and recreation in the ‘back 40’. In the 1950s, the biology faculty began to enrich student learning by studying native trees, shrubs, and wildlife.
Today the PUC Demonstration and Experimental Forest is protected by a conservation easement in partnership with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) and the Land Trust of Napa County. As such, it will always remain forest and provide learning opportunities for PUC students as well as 35 miles of recreational trails—for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding—for students, college employees, and community members. Home to a nesting pair of Northern Spotted Owls, the rare Napa False Indigo, and some of the easternmost Coastal Redwood trees, the rich biodiversity of the PUC forest makes is especially valuable to conservationists and researchers. Our forest truly sets PUC apart and makes Angwin a unique and special place to live, learn, and grow.”
Because of the part of the trail system we were on, we didn’t see a lot of fungi, but the lichens were everywhere and we also found some insects and a tiny, beautiful California Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuates). These little guys are nearly-endemic to northern California and breathe through their skin (so we were careful not to handle it).The one we found was snuggled down into a hole under a log and wrapped around a stick. It’s hard to describe how small they are; most people mistake them for little worms…
According to Wikipedia: “…From May to October, aestivation is the norm for this species. Unlike other members of its genus, egg-laying occurs quite early, as soon as December in the southern part of its range. Oviposition is thought to occur primarily in the tunnels of other creatures, but clusters have commonly been found on moist surfaces beneath bark, rocks, or other types of forest detritus. Clutches contain approximately five to twenty individual eggs, but five to ten different females may use the exact oviposition site; in any case, hatching occurs around March or April, somewhat later in the extreme northern part of the range.”
Such neat little dudes.
As I mentioned, we saw a lot of lichen there that we don’t get to see in the valley. I’d been looking all over for some “Toy Soldier” and “Lipstick” lichen in Sacramento, and just wasn’t finding it anywhere. They’re both lichens that stand straight up and have red “lips” at the end of their stalks. There in the PUC forest, I found several specimens of both… and was surprised by how small they are. In books, you see photos of them and they look as big as your fingers, but they’re really quite tiny.
Along with those two, I also got to see live for the first time specimens of Beaded Tube Lichen, FishboneBeard Lichen, Crabseye Lichen, Speckled Greenshield, Farinose Cartilage Lichen, Mealy Pixie Cups and others.
We also found some great specimens of Woolly Birdsnest Fungus, which unlike the Common Birdsnests we see here, are taller and covered in fine hairs.
And we got to see some Candlesnuff Fungus, also called Carbon Antlers. These were very unobtrusive-looking little “antlers” that were stickling straight up from the ground around a burl. When Deb touched them, they spewed frost-looking smoky clouds of spores all around them. [[I was so busy watching Deb flick the antlers and video the spores, that I forgot to take photos myslef! D’oh! So, I hope she shares her video with everyone.]]
Here’s a little bit of a write upon it from Wikipedia: “Specimens found earlier in the season, in spring, may be covered completely in asexual spores (conidia), which manifests itself as a white to grayish powdery deposit. Later in the season, mature ascocarps are charcoal-black, and have minute pimple-like bumps called perithecia on the surface. These are minute rounded spore bearing structures with tiny holes, or ostioles, for the release of sexual spores (ascospores).”
So, what we were seeing was the release of the asexual spores. How fascinating is that?! The fungus has two ways of reproducing: asexually and sexually. Nature tries everything.
As for mushrooms, there weren’t a whole lot on the part of the trail we traveled, but we did find a few specimens of ones like Cowboy’s Handkerchief, Milky Caps and Slippery Jacks. (Who names these things? Hah!)
I figured we walked from about 9:30 am to 2:00 pm, taking a break once for snacks. I hadn’t carried any food into the woods with me (it was all sitting in the back of the car). I wasn’t really hungry at all but Elaine shared her tea with me, and Deb gave me part of her PB&J sandwich which I thought was super-sweet of them.
I liked Elaine’s idea of taking hot tea out into the forest with you. Seems very “Downton Abbey” to me…except that I’d have to carry the tea myself instead of having servants carrying it and setting it up for me – along with petit fours and cucumber sandwiches – further up the trail. How fun would THAT be! I need to organize something like that sometime… (Where’s my Publishers Clearinghouse money!?)
I’d very much like to go to the PUC forest again sometime, and maybe attack some of the other trails. There’s supposed to be an area where there are young Redwood trees, and wetter more riparian habitat. It’s just that lo-o-o-o-n-g drive back and forth. The gals said, though, that the hotel in Winters is finally finished and that’s kind of at the halfway point between here and Napa, so that might help.
After our walk, Elaine, Pam and Patty all went back to their respective abodes, but Roxanne and I did an overnight visit at Deb’s place. Her house is very cozy and lovely, filled with art and craftwork, some of it done by her and her mom. Her mother does pottery, so there were example of her work in the plates, bowls and trays used throughout the house. And Deb does really incredible work with gourds. You can see some of them here.
The first thing we did when we got to Deb’s was sit around the kitchen table with our cellphones and cameras, and piles of field guides, and tried to make a list of everything we’d see that day. It was so much fun being surrounded by people who get as excited about identifying a “new-to-me” lichen as I do, pouring through the books, comparing photos and notes. I loved it! These ladies are so “my tribe”. Hah!
I was slated to go to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve to lead a fungus walk for their docents today, so I was out the door by 7:15 am. Friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne came to the preserve and invited the Certified California Naturalist class student, Susan, to join us. Susan can use this walk as a kind of make-up for missing the Tuleyome field trip the class took on Saturday.
Weather: Cloudy to partly cloudy with a little bit of rain Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 5 hours Start Time: 7:30 am End Time: 11:30 pm Start Temperature: 46º F End Temperature: 49º F Miles Walked: 2
I didn’t know many of the docents, but Rachael the volunteer coordinator was with us for most of the walk, as was Mary Lou, one of the ladies who also works on the Media Committee that I do and writes the blog for the organization.
There were about 10 people in the group, not including me, and everyone was very attentive and excited to learn. They had their notebooks and cellphone camera at the ready, and asked a lot of intelligent questions. See? THIS is why I’d rather teach adults. Hah!
While we waited for everyone to show up, we were treated to the sight of a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks building a nest right at the head of the main trail. Dad brought twigs to the nest and mom arranged them the way she wanted them, then they both flew off to look for more materials. The tree is in a place that will be relatively visible should the birds choose to use that one to actually nest in. [[Red-Shouldered Hawks sometimes build more than one nest and then choose the one they’ll use for the season.]] The location of this nest means we might get some great family shots and photos of the chicks when they’re born.
Before we even left the sidewalk and headed for the trails, I was able to point out, with my laser pointer, some different crust fungi for them on an obliging tree, and also show them the Oyster Mushrooms Roxanne had spotted high up on another branch. Then I walked them over to another tree where I’d been (non-scientifically) monitoring the progress of a netted tooth fungus around its base and trunk. This let me show them how to use their cellphones to get close-up shots of things so their children’s groups could see structures more clearly.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos. (When I’m leading a walk, I don’t take as many photos as I normally do, so this album is pretty abbreviated.)
As we went along, the docents shared thoughts about what they were looking for in teaching opportunities for the children’s groups they might be leading. That helped me to look for things like that and to tailor some of my comments about how they might explore more with the kids.
One of the best teaching tools, of course, is to simply pick up downed sticks from the leaf-litter and look at what’s on them. On one stick we found Black Jelly Roll fungus, several kinds of lichen and Crystal Brain Fungus, Myxarium nucleatum, which I’ve seen in books before but never saw in person, so that was an exciting first for me.
Crystal Brain is a kind of jelly fungus that’s translucent (white to clear) and the spore-making mechanism inside each lobe of the fugus shows up as a white speck that can sometimes feel hard because it may also include bits of mineral. It supposed to be pretty common, but I’ve never seen one in the field before. It’s also sometimes still frequently referred to the genus Exidia, which is the genus for Black Jelly Roll fungus which has a similar shape to Crystal Brain but is pure black.
Researching more, I found that I may have been mis-identifying another species of jelly fungus, Exidia thuretiana, commonly called White Brain, as Black Jelly Roll that hadn’t colored up yet. But White Brain is usually found in Europe and Asia, so I’m still not sure. There’s also White Jelly Fungus, Ductifera pululahuana, that’s found here, so that might be it… The learning continues.
On another log we found Black Jelly Roll fungus among several different kind of colorful lichen. The docents described it as a “garden”. Another stick showed us Witches Butter jelly fungus and little White Oysterling mushrooms. And at the big downed tree near the Nature Center we found Oak-loving Gymnopus mushrooms and three different kinds of slimemold.
I told the docents that if they learned nothing else from the walk they learned that they needed to stop and really look at what was around them. There’s more to see than they ever realized. And, “the more you see, the more you see.”
During the walk we also had the opportunity to distinguish between the relevance of common names versus scientific names. Rachael kept referring to the Yellow Field Caps as Sunny mushrooms – which was fine. Common names can very a lot; no harm done. But scientists use the Latin taxonomic names to specify exact species. So “Sunny mushrooms” and “Yellow Field Cap” can be used interchangeably for the same species: Agaricus campestris.
When talking about the genus and species names, though, there can still be some confusion for those of us who are still learning about all of this stuff. For example, I found one large ‘shroom which I was sure was a Blewit (based mostly on the very pale purple tinge around the edge of the cap) but when the docents keyed it out through iNaturalist it came up as a “Brownit”, Clitocybe brunneocephala. To my eye, though, the gills of the mushroom weren’t right…and there was still that pale purple tint to deal with. I was still pretty certain I’d identified it correctly, so when I went home, I loaded it into iNaturalist as “Blewit, Clitocybe nuda”… and got a supporting confirmation right away.
Sometimes, those who load observations up into iNaturaist can get real battles over an ID. Whenever someone suggests my ID is incorrect, I double check what they’re referring to, to what I saw. If I feel their ID is more accurate, I’ll change it, but that hasn’t happened too often.
At one point, I had to stop and turn my focus to the deer along the side of the trail. In one field was a doe with her two yearlings, and across from them was a bachelor group of bucks: spikes, 3-pointers and 4-pointers, and one who was just getting his nubs.
So, as we all took photos of them, I was able to tell the group about the structure of the antlers, the pedicles, and the rut in general. Some of the big boys were sitting down, so all you could see were their antlers, while others were standing, browsing, and rubbing their scent on the surrounding trees. Two of them sparred, but it was just for a few seconds. With no ripe females around, they just weren’t into it.
Rachael and a couple of docents left around the 2-hour mark, but the rest of them stayed on and got treated to views of Destroying Angel and Jack-o-Lantern mushrooms, Dryad’s saddles and other fungi.
At one point, the docents asked me how I came by the knowledge I had, and I tried to stress to them that I’m not an “expert”; as a naturalist, I’m a “generalist”. And although I might seem to have a lot of information to them, I’ve only been accumulating it since I took the naturalist class in 2015 and then wrote my books and developed the naturalist class for Tuleyome. Taking that class in 2015 reignited my curiosity and love of nature. I learn something new every day.
As we were heading back toward the nature center it started to rain a little bit, so the group broke as some raced back to get out of the wet and Roxanne and I kept our slow pace up the trail. The rain was soft and brief and actually kind of nice. We ended up walking for about 3 ½ hours (a little over 2 miles altogether).
I was worried, before the walk, that we might not see a lot of stuff to keep the docents interested, but all in all I think we ended up seeing and identifying about 60 different species.
When I went into the office to log my volunteer hours, Rachael was there and she gave me a card and a little lapel pin as a thank you. The card read:
“…Thank you so much for guiding the EYNC docents on a fungus/slimemold adventure today! I so enjoy any time with you on the trail – I always learn so much. Our docents really enjoyed today’s learning opportunity with you, and they really appreciate access to your mushroom primer. Thank you so much for your generosity! With gratitude, Rachael…”
I thought that was so nice of her. Mary Lou also mentioned that she’ll try to do a write up on the walk for the Effie Yeaw blog. That was nice to hear, too.
I got to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve right around 7:30 am, and as I was walking in, I met Rich Howard, the gentleman who was going to lead a birding walk for us. He’s a very personable man with tons of birding knowledge, and is able to share what he knows in a very giving way. (He’s not a “know it all” snob kind of guy.)
Start Time: 7:30 am Start Temperature: 40º F End Time: 12:30 pm End Temperature: 46º F Weather: Mostly cloudy, occasional sunshine Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 6 hours Kilometers Walked: 3
While I was walking over to where Rich was setting up his birding scope, another gentleman named Eric came up to me and asked if I was Mary Hanson. I told him, yes, and he said he wanted to do a macro photography thing for the preserve’s blog on lichen but he didn’t know much about them, and he wondered if I’d be willing to join him and help him with identification. I told him sure, and gave him my calling card so he could contact me later.
My fellow naturalist and friend, Roxanne Moger, joined us and the rest of the small group, which also included Rachael Cowan the volunteer coordinator at the preserve, and we started walking. Within the first few steps we saw almost 15 bird species, including a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks, some Yellow-Billed Magpies, Mourning Doves, White-Breasted Nuthatches and Turkey Vultures.
I tried getting some photos through the birding scope, but found it difficult to do because everything was “backwards”. And it seemed like my camera had the same reach as the scope did, so, after a few tries at different locations, I decided it wasn’t worth the extra effort.
At one point, we could see two hawks circling over a tree where there was a known hawk nest that had been used for several season. One of the hawks was a Red-Tailed Hawk, but the other hawk was more difficult to ID because it kept moving and was so far away. Rachel thought it might have been a Rough-Legged Hawk, Buteo lagopus, that migrate through this area in the winter, but she wasn’t certain. If it WAS a Rough-Legged Hawk, that would have been a first for me.
The walk took us down the main path and then out toward river (where it’s very hard for me to walk because the rocky surface is so uneven). As knowledgeable and interesting as Rich was, I kept get distracted by the deer and lichen and fungi around us, and once we got to the river side, I bowed out (along with Rachael, her new volunteer and Roxanne).
Roxanne and I then spent another 4 hours walking through the preserve looking at and photographing stuff. I’ve been reading up a bit on lichen and wanted to see if I could locate and get pictures of some of the features I’d read about. Not much luck in that regard, but we did find some interesting fungi and slime molds.
While I was photographing some Red Thread Marasmius mushrooms, a group of 2nd graders and their docent came up and the docent asked me what I was doing. I told her that Roxanne and I were doing the preliminary pass-through walk in anticipation of a fungus walk I’ll be doing with the docents next week. The woman said, “Oh, the one with Mary Hanson?” And I said, “That’s me!” Hah!
She then asked if I would talk a little bit about fungi to the second graders. (Eeew, gum-chewing ferrets!) So I plucked up one of the little red mushrooms I was photographing and walked it over to the kids. It’s hard for me to “dumb things down” for children, so I tried using analogies along with the “big words” to help them along.
I told them about the big tree-like structure of mycelium under the ground to which all fungi were connected, and told them that mushrooms, like the one I was holding, were like the apples on that tree. They were the fruit that held the “seeds”, the spores. Then I showed them some of the identifying features of the Marasmius: the red cap, the red stipe, the pale cream-colored gills where the spores were. Some of the kids listened, some were distracted by shiny things, some were totally disengaged, and one said, “We saw bigger mushrooms over there.” And I guess that’s pretty much par for 2nd graders… which is why I prefer teaching adults.
When the group had moved on, Roxanne and I continued to look for stuff, and we came across the first Pure Core Bluet, Clitocybe nuda (Lepista nuda), I’d seen so far this year. They’re a medium-size mushroom that is all lavender in color, including the cap, gills and stipe. Roxanne had never seen one before, so that was a cool first for her.
We also found what I think was a Bishop’s Cap, Coprinellus micaceus. I’ll need to do more research to be sure, though. It had a bell-shaped cap like an Ink Cap mushroom, but the surface was dry and kind of tan in color, and the stipe was heavier and more solid.
Roxanne had brought along a metal ruler, so we used that in some of the pix to get a better sense of scale in them. We also found a medium-sized mushroom with a bright yellow cap, thick stipe and sort of yellow-tan colored gills which Roxanne inadvertently unearthed when she stepped on part of it. Her step brought some of the rest of the mushroom to the surface; otherwise, we would have completely missed it. It was “dry” and kind of heavy so I was thinking maybe it was a gilled bolete (Phylloporus), but I couldn’t find anything that really matched it in my field guides. Then I thought maybe it was a kind of Cortinarius, but it wasn’t at all slimy like those mushrooms are, so for the moment, I wasn’t sure what it was. A little more research and I think I found it: Yellow Knight, Man on Horseback, Tricholoma equestre.
As we were leaving the preserve, we came across another birder with his camera on a monopod, and we started talking about what we’d seen today. He asked if we’d seen the Vermilion Flycatcher in Natomas, and we told him we hadn’t. So, he told us it was in Tanzanite Community Park and he even got out his cellphone and showed us on Google Maps about where in the park it would probably be. We thought that was so nice of him! Neither of us had been to that park yet, so we’re looking forward to going there soon.
He also suggested we go to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery to see the waterfowl going after the scraps of salmon and steelhead in the water. So, we’ll probably check those out over the next few weeks.
After lunch, I finally got back to the house around 2:00 pm.
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
Bishop’s Cap, Coprinellus micaceus
Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
I got up a little after 5:00 am today and got myself ready to head out with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne a little after 6:00. Roxanne and I were going to the Mushroom Mosey in Grass Valley (about an hour east of Sacramento).
The Mushroom Mosey was taking place at Kenny Ranch which is adjacent to the Twin Cities Church at 11726 Rough and Ready Hwy, Grass Valley, California 95945 (at an elevation of about 2000 feet) and was being hosted by the California Native Plant Society and the Bear Yuba Land Trust. The trails are open t the public for free, so they’re available year round.
We got to the location about 8:30 but then had to wait for everyone else to show up and get two different waivers signed. There were maybe 20 people in the group including our guides Daniel Nicholsen and Shane Hanofee.
Start Time: 9:00 am Start Temperature: 43º F End Time: 12:00 pm End Temperature: 48º F Weather: Foggy and mostly cloudy Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 8 hours Miles Walked: 2
It was a chilly 43° when we arrived, and the foothill fog was dragging its belly across the hills, so it was very wet and felt colder than it really was. As the mosey went on, though, the fog lifted and it got up to about 48°.
The place presents a mix of habitats in a small space including mixed conifer and oak forests, some chaparral, and riparian areas. Lots of heritage Incense Cedars, Gray Pine and Black Oak trees there, along with manzanita, alders, invasive French Broom, and wild plum. This time of year is supposed to good for mushroom hunting, and in the spring, it’s supposed to be a great wildflower spot.
Overview of the “Mosey”, the Positives: Some of us were given loupes (tiny powerful magnifying glasses that you have to hold up to your eye to use) but I was satisfied with the macro attachment on my cell phone.
Shane and Daniel said the cellphones couldn’t see enough detail to do any real scientific identification work, but mine works well for my own purposes. Several people saw me using it and were so impressed by how easily and well it worked that they asked me about it and took photos of the attachment so they could buy their own.
One of my favorite things from the walk is that it showed me new places to look for things. It never occurred to me to look at the plum trees or French broom for galls; or to look at the tiny tips of a cedar tree for mushrooms. Those were called “Earth Tongues”.
“…Saprobic fungus with small, brightly colored fruit bodies produced on Incense Cedar and Yellow Cedar needles. Easily recognizable by the habitat, in combination with the gelatinous texture, and convex to round ‘heads’ and short to nearly indistinct stipe…”
I learned that fungi can have about 36,000 sexes. Split Gill, for example, has more than 23,000 different sexes or “sex types”. “More combinations of genes help protect against potential threats like droughts or parasites.”
“…The “sexes” don’t really involve physical differences either, as we might think of when the word “sex” comes to mind. The variations are all in the genome, at two separate loci, or locations, each of which has two alleles, or alternate forms. The loci are called A and B and the alleles are termed “alpha” and “beta.” That makes four possible sexes, but there’s another twist. Every A-alpha/beta and B-alpha/beta can have many different variants, called specificities. It amounts to more than 339 specificities for A and 64 for B. Putting those two together yields thousands of possible unique sexes.
The fungus can mate with any specificity as long as it’s different somewhere on both A and B. So, two prospective mates could both have the same A-beta and B-alpha, but have different A-alphas and B-betas and they’d be fine to hook up. If they shared A-alpha and A-beta, though, their pheromones wouldn’t be compatible, meaning that they couldn’t carry out the reproductive process. That leaves a ton of options for mating, though, and essentially means that anyone a fungus meets is fair game for sexy time…”
We also learned that the whole taxonomy system for mushrooms and other fungi has been turned on its head over the last decade, so a lot of the field guide are now out of date. They’ll give you a good starting point for an ID, but aren’t the end all and be all. Some of the smaller mushrooms, too, can only be sorted out on the microscopic level, which is why mycology is a difficult discipline. Shane and Daniel said they’ve logged about 1200 species between them in the region, but there were several small specimens they saw today that they felt hadn’t been added to their database yet, so they collected those.
We were shown how to catch the scent of some of the mushrooms (by crushing the cap or stipe) and how to differentiate some by how they stain. We got to see the Bleach-Scented Mycina, Mycena leptocephali, and the Garlic Mushroom, Mycetinis scorodoniu. Both of them looked very similar to me, but the smells were very distinct. That will be something I’ll be checking more from now on.
And I also got to see several species we don’t see in Sacramento because the habitats and elevations are different here. I saw my first Apricot Jelly Fungus which looked like a horn-shaped gummy bear, Rock Tripe which kind of looked like sheets of brown slime covered with black warts, Lung Lichen which looked like sheets of lung tissue from a smoker’s lung, and Bladder Plum Galls.
Those galls were weird. I’d never seen one before, and would have passed it by completely if our guides hadn’t pointed it out. It’s a Bladder Plum Gall caused by a fungus called Taphrina pruni, on a wild plum tree. The fungus causes the tree to “abort” the fruit (plum) and replace it with this sac-like gall which the fungus then fills with its spores. The galls feel kind of flexible and rubbery at this stage. There were several on the tree we saw.
What’s doubly cool is: this is we were seeing these galls in the winter; shriveled and about an inch long. In the spring/summer, when the galls are new, they’re bright green and about 3 inches long. ((So, now I need to get back out there in the galls season!))
We also found a few very nice specimens of Bird’s Nest Fungus, Crucibulum laeve. The nests in this species have a cap over them at first, hiding the little “eggs” inside. Once they pop their lids, though, the eggs — which carry the spores — are visible. Each egg is attached to a tether.
“…[This] cord, which is called a funiculus in Mycologese, is the egg’s mechanism for attaching itself to sticks, leaves, and other plant debris. When a raindrop falls into the nest, the eggs are projected out of the cup. As this happens, the cord is stretched to its limit–then breaks away from the nest, remaining attached to the egg. Where the cord was attached to the nest, it becomes frayed, since it was torn away. The little frayed ends are adhesive, and when they come into contact with, for example, a leaf, they attach themselves. This stops the flight of the egg, which then swings back and attaches itself to the leaf as well…”
Overview of the “Mosey”, the Negatives: The group was a large one, as I noted, but none of the guides paid attention to how the group expanded and contracted along the trail. Rather than having someone at the front and someone at the rear of the group, making sure everyone was accounted for and everyone was able to see and hear with the guide in the front was talking about, all of the guides stayed at the front of the group. That meant that if you stopped to get a photo of the first species you were shown, you then had to rush to rejoin the group and missed what was being said about the second specimen. It was VERY frustrating.
At one point, one of the guides threw away the specimen before the rest of the group even got a chance to see it. He was done talking about it, and that was that. Ridiculous. I felt like I was cheated out of half of the information I should have been getting.
The pace was also waaaaay too fast for me. It wasn’t a “mosey”, it was a “power walk”. The ground was slippery with wet clay mud, slippery leaves and rocks that rolled under your feet, and I really struggled to keep up — which meant I wasn’t able to really appreciate the landscape around me. I had to keep watching where I was stepping.
By the end of the walk, I was about a half mile behind the guides – and not one of them came back to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for. I also don’t think the guides ever did head-counts at ANY point of the walk, so there would be no way for them to tell if they lost people. To me, that’s inexcusable – and dangerous for the participants. Yes, you sign the waivers when you come it, but that doesn’t the excuse the trip leaders to IGNORE basic safety principles in the field.
That last stretch was a slippery uphill road, and by the time I got to it I was so sore and exhausted I just couldn’t make it any further. Roxanne was with me, but it’s not like she could carry me up the hill. Luckily, a woman named Rae Anne was near us. She’s a teacher at a school near the church and went on the trails often, so she knew where everything was and how to get there. She could see that I was struggling and even though she didn’t know me from Eve, she offered to (literally) run up the hill, get her car, and drive it down to where I was. She then taxied Roxanne and I up to the parking lot where we started. I was sooooooooooo grateful. I think I said Thank You about six times. Hah!
We’d “only” walked for about 3 hours, but the pace was too fast and the terrain was a little too rugged for me (at that speed). It wore me out.
All in all, although I liked seeing a new place and finding some new-to-species, I was very disappointed by how the outing was handled. Once we were back at the parking lot, Roxanne and I didn’t stay for the trash pick-up detail and instead headed back to Sacramento.
The location is easy to get to and the trail is relatively easy to walk (I’d actually call it “moderate” for me, really, not “easy”but it’s probably easy for most people), and the place holds a lot of promise. I’d very much like to go back there…but if I do, it won’t be with a group and it will be at my own pace.