Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Corals, Jellies and Brackets

Despite their significant role as recyclers and symbionts ... some estimates place the amount of biomass in a forest as consisting of 90% fungi ... fungi generally go unnoticed. The mushroom a person sees on a stroll through the woods is just the spore producing structure, most of the fungus, the mycelium, consisting of microscopic thread-like hyphae, is hidden in the soil or wood. But little things add up, and depending on one's definition of an organism it's possible that a fungus, Armillaria solidipes, is one of the world's largest life forms.

On a more modest scale, individuals such as this Golden Coral Fungus (Ramaria sp.) are often overlooked because they are nearly buried in the woodland litter. There are several species in genus Ramaria, some can only be distinguished with a microscope.

White Spindles, Worm Coral Fungus or Fairy Fingers (Clavaria vermicularis) is easy to recognize ...

... as is the Yellow Spindle Coral Fungus (Clavulinopsis fusiformis).

Many species of jelly fungi superficially resemble coral fungi. The term "jelly" might seem to imply soft and weak, but jelly fungi are tough and resilient, whereas coral fungi generally brittle, breaking and bruising easily. These Yellow Fingers (Calocera cornea) were a millimeter wide at most, yet they were quite difficult to break.

This jelly fungus goes by the confusing name of White Coral Jelly (Tremella reticulata).

With its warm mahogany color and glossy surface the Lacquered Polypore (Ganoderma lucidum) is a beautiful fungus. This specimen was about 10 cm across, yet I almost missed it because it was completely hidden in the dense brush surrounding the base of the tree.

Even more striking is the Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). There's no way one can overlook this polypore, it stands out like a beacon in the shade of the forest. That's a size 12 shoe in the first picture.

Getting a photo of the perfect specimen is often a matter of being in the right place at the right time. This is the same fungus as above ... nine days later.