June 10, 2008

Fungi and Tenebs: Collections at Wachusett and Moose Hill

A few recent fungi that I've collected and one brief story about how I collected the first one.

I'd been eying these rather magnificent specimens of Ganoderma applanatum since there was still snow on the ground. They're growing on a dead oak that stands in a pond created by a beaver damn at my field site on the south slope of Wachusett Mountain. I couldn't get to them because the water was too deep, but last week it had dropped enough for me to give it a try. It took a few fallen branches and a good sense of balance, but I finally made it out to the tree. To collect some of these, I had to wrap one arm around the tree trunk while balancing on some exposed roots and snapping off the pads with my free hand. The photo here was taken after I'd collected and was back on solid ground. This was my trickiest collection to date, but it paid off. Not only do I have a couple of excellent specimens to sequence and culture, but one of the pads contained a mated pair of Bolitotherus cornutus and a number of young larvae; they're members of one of the core tribes for my work on Tenebrionidae, the primers for which arrived today. I'll be sequencing the beetles on Thursday. As far as I can determine, nobody has ever sequenced them before. Yay data!
I had a bit of trouble keying this one out, but it conforms most closely to Mycena galericulata. The specimens were collected at Moose Hill in Paxton today. You can't tell from the photo, but it was hot and the flying insects were on the warpath. These are growing at the base of a hemlock. Not much more to say about them; I collected them for our herbarium and don't have much use for them otherwise. Maybe somebody else will someday. They're particularly pointy specimens. Pointy mushrooms can be kind of charismatic even if they're otherwise a bit on the drab side.
A couple of diminutive mushrooms I collected at Wachusett last week. They're Pholiota, but I wasn't able to determine the species.
I'm used to finding Pluteus cervinus during cooler weather, so I expected this to be an Entoloma. P. cervinus is edible; Entoloma are generally poisonous. Here in Massachusetts, deer mushrooms apparently fruit even in June (I collected this one at Wachusett on June 3). I have no doubt of my identification; P. cervinus has distinctive and graceful cystidia that are never found in Entoloma. There's a nice photo of one of these cystidia here, courtesy of Tom Volk. In Florida, I generally found these from late fall into early winter and I don't recall ever finding one at all in California. Although they're edible, I don't care for them myself. LL will eat them, but she's out of town and since I only found the one, it's now a herbarium specimen. I last found one of these last September and previously had found one in July. I forgot about the latter, but the point is that P. cervinus fruits throughout the entire summer and into early autumn here.
It was miserably hot in the field today and the winged insects were going crazy. That was the downside. The upside is that I managed to collect several tiny beetles from the fruiting bodies of some myxomycetes. I've identified the beetles to genus Pentaphyllus, which is a member of tribe Diaperini, another core tribe in my Tenebrionidae study (Bolitotherus is in Bolitophagini). When I say "tiny," I mean these little suckers are about 2 mm long. Nonetheless, they're useful to me and I'll be sequencing them as well — the first time that Pentaphyllus has been sequenced, as far as I know. Another "Yay data" moment.

Tomorrow, I head back up to Wachusett. Unlike today, when the temperature got high enough to begin melting lead, tomorrow is only supposed to get into the mid-80's, and it should be a few degrees cooler at a higher elevation. I'll still be sweaty and get attacked by bugs, but I have a hunch it's going to be a particularly good day of collecting. If all goes well, I should be able to identify whatever it is I bring back to the lab and free myself up to start doing some molecular investigation on Thursday.

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