September 03, 2008

Fungi from Moreland Woods

We checked out Moreland Woods yesterday on behalf of the Greater Worcester Land Trust. Conditions were far from ideal for determining fungal diversity. It hasn't rained in at least a week, so there may be species there for which we had no evidence. As things were, though, there wasn't much to be found. The most common fungus appears to be a large white Lactarius species, at least judging by the number of dried-up mushroom "corpses" that we found. There were perhaps 10 species of Russula, maybe a half dozen Lactarius and a smattering of other fungi all together.

I made only three collections myself:

Climacodon septentrionalis is a pathogen of hardwood trees. The fruiting bodies in this photo were growing on what I think was a maple tree that had snapped and fallen over about four feet from the base. It was a large tree, and there's a good chance that this fungus is what killed it judging from the condition of the wood. C. septentrionalis looks like a polypore from a distance (I thought it was some kind of Oxyporus when I first saw this one), but it has teeth on the underside instead of pores. The teeth on this specimen were up to 9mm long and about 0.5mm wide. I didn't see the fruiting bodies on other trees in the vicinity, so perhaps the good news here is that only the one downed tree is infected.
I couldn't key this Cortinarius to species. It appears to be something close to C. lilacinus, but the overall spore size and ratio of spore length to width weren't quite right... close, but not exactly right. It might also be C. iodes in the process of drying out and losing its color. The flesh inside the stipe was almost solid violet, but that in the pileus was very pale and nearly white. We found little troops of this in two separate locations, but it wasn't widespread and definitely isn't the endemic C. dionysae, since the spores were broadly ellipsoid and not lemon-shaped at all.
Ramariopsis kunzei is among the most common coralloid fungi in our area, surpassed perhaps only by the ubiquitous Tremellodendron pallidum. Even so, I only saw a few individuals in one area, growing in hardwood humus. The fact that I even bothered collecting this is testament to the paucity of more unusual species found during our survey
All in all, the decision to preserve this parcel of land is unlikely to be made on the basis of fungal diversity. If it is conserved, it's going to need a lot of clean-up work. There has been quite a bit of junk thrown into the place. I saw far more rusting car parts than fungi, and the most common artifacts in the place were beer bottles and golf balls. I suspect that the place is used as a practice driving range during the day and a hideout for bored teenagers at night.

There are two brooks that cross the property, but both were reduced to little more than mud puddles when we saw them yesterday, and judging by the amount of plant overgrowth, it looks to me like that's their normal condition. The most common ground cover plant, by a substantial margin, is poison ivy. Some areas around the dried-out brooks were so overgrown with the it, and with Virginia creeper, that they were practically impassible without a machete.

While I wasn't specifically looking for them, I didn't see many animals or evidence of animal activity. I suspect that there's little more than the usual assemblage of semi-urban animals in the place: squirrels, chipmunks, rats, maybe a few raccoons and skunks.

Whatever happens to Moreland Woods, the place needs a lot of restoration work. It's too bad that the oft-mentioned "tragedy of the commons" appears to be in full effect here. It might be a nice place to have in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood itself is certainly one of the nicest in Worcester. Instead, it looks like everyone who lives in the area regards Moreland Woods as somebody else's problem.

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