Thursday, September 27, 2012

An Autumn Morning Around Mud Pond

Today dawned bright and clear and cool,  freshly washed by yesterday's rain.  I was so glad my friend Sue was back from her seashore vacation and available to meet for a walk around Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park.  The first thing we noticed -- aside from the squawking and squabbling of dozens of Canada Geese on the pond -- was how low the water level was, so low that one normally underwater entry of the beaver lodge was exposed to the air.  It was also low enough that we could walk on the mudflats along the water's edge.

By walking out here on the mud, we could avoid the shin-clawing, pants-ripping stems of the Arrow-leaved Tearthumb that thickly covered the banks.  The flower clusters, usually a pink-tinged white,  had changed with the season to become a stunningly vibrant pink, so lovely against a lush green background of beggar-ticks and ferns.

Higher up the banks, where Pitch Pines and White Oaks grow in a sandy woods, we found numerous newly sprouted rosettes of one of New York's native orchids, the Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain.   They may or may not put forth stalks of small white blossoms next summer, but no matter.  Their beautifully patterned evergreen leaves are actually more showy than their flowers.

Sweet White Violets had also put forth new leaves that will winter under the snow, and several plants still held stalks of open three-parted seed pods.  A couple of tiny black seeds still rested within this pod.

Sue was the one who first spied these clusters of bubblegum-pink squishy balls that had sprouted along a fallen log.   Although they look like some kind of puffball, they are actually not a fungus at all, but a slime mold called Wolf's Milk (Lycogala epidendrum).

Another name for them is Toothpaste Slime.  For reasons that are obvious, if you squish one.

After exploring the pond's edge, we moved through the woods to come out on the power-line right-of-way that runs along the northern edge of the pond.   Close to the edge of the woods is a shady area  where many kinds of mosses and lichens grow.

The clubmoss called Dendrolycopodium was spectacularly in fruit, holding golden stroboli (spore stalks) straight up from plants that resemble tiny evergreen trees.

This furry black-and-white Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar was making its wriggly way across a patch of Haircap Moss.  Although it looks all soft and fuzzy, some of its hairs can inject a painful irritant into your skin, so don't try to pick it up.

We found several kinds of mushrooms sprouting out of this damp mossy area, the prettiest of which was this apricot-colored one, which resembled the choice edible,  Chanterelle (Cantharellus spp.).  So I picked a bunch to take home, where I would check my mushroom manuals to see if this one was good to eat.

Alas, what I'd picked were False Chanterelles (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca), distinguished by its deep-orange forking gills and its cap with an inrolled paler margin.  Some of my books state that this is a poisonous mushroom, others that it is edible with caution, although not particularly tasty.  Some people can eat it without consequence, others might get digestive upset. 

I decided it wasn't worth the risk, and I tossed them in my backyard.  Maybe they'll shed their spores out there and establish a population.  They may not be edible and choice, but they sure are pretty to look at.


Raining Iguanas said...

Thanks, I needed a nice walk around Mud Pond before work. You brought it right to my door as always. Beautiful photos! Don't you just love this time of year.

The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

Aw! that was a lovely post, love the pictures, it was as if i were there!
Here here! Raining Iguanas, thats why I love this sorry for talking about you as if you were not here WW.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks so much for your nice comments, Raining and Cranky. I love knowing you come along with me.