Sunday, December 4, 2022

The Woods! The Waterways! At Last!

Chilly.  Gray.  Kind of breezy.  Not the most beautiful late-fall day for a walk on the lakeshore and into the woods at Moreau Lake State Park.  But oh my, it sure seemed like heaven to me!

What with happily welcoming weekend and holiday guests for the past two weeks, I'd hardly ventured forth from the kitchen or laundry room for far too long.  So what a joy it was to finally feel the scrunch of pebbly damp sand beneath my feet, smell the pine-scented air,  hear the hooting of hordes of Canada Geese resting on the water, and swing my legs along the shore as my friend Sue Pierce and I made our way to one of our favorite places for late-season wanderings, the woods surrounding a creek that bounds down the mountain that borders the western shore of the lake.

Where we entered the woods, the land here appeared remarkably flat, considering how promptly the mountain starts to climb.  At first glance, there seemed to be little of interest here to slow our steps. But that was  only before we took a closer look at what we found beneath our feet.

Although little evidence remained of the abundant and interesting wildflowers that grow here in the summer,  some of the persistent still-green plants reminded us of the richness of this soil.  Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedantum), for example, is known to thrive best in soils that contain lime, so its presence here attests to the presence of that basic mineral. We know that limestone caves exist in the mountains above, and that streams run through those caves, no doubt delivering lime-enriched water to the creek that borders this land.

Seersucker Sedge (Carex plantaginea), another calciphile, also thrives in this area.  An evergreen sedge, this plant had evidently already provided browse to some animal.  Deer or rabbit?  Can we tell by the way each leaf is bitten off?  We did find droppings close by from both of those forest dwellers.

Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana) is one of the native wildflowers that beautify this forest floor in early spring, and the leaves will persist throughout the winter, not fading until new leaves sprout as the spring-crop of flowers fades. The green leaves are lovely in their own right, but wow! do their purple undersides provide a surprising punch of color to the late-fall forest floor! Unlike the lime-loving Sharp-lobed Hepatica, this species of Hepatica thrives in either basic or neutral soils.

Thanks to heavy rains of late, the small brook that courses across this flat woodland was filled with dancing and splashing water as it made its way toward the lake.  Many times of the year, we find no water at all in this brook, so we were grateful to enjoy its lively and musical beauty today.

We followed the brook upstream to where a wooden bridge crosses its ever-more-precipitous descent from the mountain above.

Up and up the brook ascends!  We often return to this brook in the bitter cold of winter, eager to witness the crystalline beauty that splashing water and freezing temperatures create. (Click HERE to see some of the icy marvels that form here during the winter.)

We now began to ascend the steeper slopes of the mountain ourselves.

The exposed bedrock here is home to a marvelous assortment of beautiful mosses, liverworts, and lichens.

I recognize the flat scaly leaves of the liverwort Conocephalum conicum sharing this rock with a lovely trailing moss that I believe is one of the Plagiomnium species.

This lacy loveliness covering another rock is the aptly named Delicate Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatulum), one of the very few species of moss I usually can recognize.

I've asked a friend to help me ID this common moss that covers the boulders here.  I'll return to add that information when I learn it.

UPDATE: My friend Sue Pierce has used iNaturalist to assist in naming this moss as Pseudanomodon attenuatus or Tree Skirt Moss.  No wonder I couldn't think of it!  As its common name suggests, that moss is usually found skirting the base of trees (White Oak, especially), and I found this growing on rock, not wood.  I see the scientific genus name has changed, too.

When the creek banks grew too steeply precipitous for easy clambering, we wandered out to explore the more gently sloping surrounding forest floor.

This bright flash of red baby oak leaves was quite a colorful surprise amid the otherwise browns and grays of the fallen leaves.

Other splashes of color came from the many evergreen plants that thrive in this woods.  The leaves of Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) looked as fresh and green as they'd been when the flowers bloomed last summer.

Many plants of this native orchid called Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) were rendered extra beautiful by the pale web-like patterns on their curvaceous evergreen leaves.

Each fallen tree trunk proved to be a treasure trove of fascinating plants and fungi that decorated its de-barked and damp-darkened wood.

The curving fronds of this lime-green fern-like moss (Callicladium imponens) looked especially beautiful against the dark recently rain-dampened wood. I know this as Brocade Moss when I find it on rock, but it looks a bit more trailing when sprawling across de-barked wood.

And here was a mushroom we'd been looking for all fall!  From the top, there appeared few distinguishing marks, aside from the ruffly edges and rather crusty appearance of these Luminescent Panellus caps (Panellus stipticus).

But look how lovely this fungus looks from beneath, with sharp-edged gills radiating from abruptly curving off-center stalks.  And if we could find this fungus at night, we'd be startled to see it glowing green in the dark! Hence the "luminescent" part of this mushroom's vernacular name.

These itty-bitty Purple Jelly-disc fungi (Ascocoryne sarcoides) required a much closer look to discover, they were so tiny and so dark against the wet wood. (My camera's flash made them easier to see.)

I have searched and searched through my four mushroom guides and cannot find any fungus that looks exactly like this small, wrinkly, jelly-like fungus. I'm not even sure if it is a sac or a jelly fungus.

Some were individual and some were clustered tightly.  Some were yellower and others were closer to orange.  This fungus was not distinctly disc-shaped like Bisporella citrina (Lemon Drops) nor as translucent as Dacrymyses palmatus (Orange Jelly).  So I am stumped.

But that only means I have something new to learn.  Maybe someone who knows will leave a comment. Or maybe this fungus will remain a mystery to me. Either way, I was delighted to find it.  Every walk in the woods holds out the promise of new things to see!


New Hampshire Gardener said...

Your unknown fungus might be Yellow brain fungus (Tremella mesenterica). What led me to think that was the red tree brain fungus (Peniophora rufa).
There is an example here that looks much like yours:

The Furry Gnome said...

Oh for a walk in the woods!

suep said...

Hi there - my guess is still the Orange Jelly Spot (Dacrymyces chrysospermus) versus Tremella -- it was much flatter, less "flappy" & more opaque than Witch's Butter - check out the photos on iNat. for some good matches. Of course, it was just getting started, so it could be a young version of one of the other similar yellow fungi ...

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for chiming in regarding the wrinkly yellow fungus, NH Gardener and Sue Pierce. I tend to agree more with Sue's suggestion of Orange Jelly Spot (Dacrymyces chrysospermus) versus Witch's Butter (Tremella mesenterica), but I'm still not convinced, mostly because of the opacity of our find (my experience of both of those suggestions is that they are quite translucent and glossy). Also, Witch's Butter tends to occur much more frequently in regions west of the Adirondacks. But I am no fungus expert!

Furry Gnome, I understand your longing to walk in the woods. I often think of you when I post accounts of paddles and woods walks, hoping that sharing these posts with you offers more pleasure to you than hopeless longings. How wonderful that you manage to get out as much as you do and share the beauty of your surroundings with us through your blog.

Don Butler said...

Can't add anything to the fungus id except to say that I saw some exactly like it on a fallen hemlock tree while walking in our woods yesterday here in the Town of Northumberland.

Woody Meristem said...

Many fungi are beyond my ability to identify, but they're still beautiful.Here it was so dry during late summer and fall that few fungi produced fruiting bodies this year.