Plasmodial slime molds are single-celled organisms, masses of protoplasm without cell walls and with thousands of nuclei. Like animals, they move and violently eject unwanted inorganic materials. Like amoeba, they feed by engulfing particles of food. Like fungi, they reproduce by producing fruit bodies containing spores that are distributed by wind. Formerly classified as fungi, plasmodial slime molds are now known to be unrelated.
Dog vomit slime mold (Fuligo septica) is a plasmodial slime mold. It has a worldwide distribution, occurring on every continent except Greenland and Antarctica. It is often found in urban areas from May to October. It grows on the rotten wood of stumps, logs, and wood mulches; on garden soil enriched with manure; and also on living plants. It may migrate one meter or more to nearby food sources. It feeds on bacteria, spores of fungi and non-flowering plants, protozoa, and nonliving organic matter. Its common name accurately describes its appearance. It is not edible.
Dog vomit slime mold may appear as a cushion-like mass, a slimy sheet, or a crust-like sheet. When it first appears it is white to yellow and slimy. At some point it transforms into a large, cushion-like, white or yellowish fruiting body covered by a brittle crust. Breaking the crust away reveals a dull black spore mass.
Canada darner (Aeshna canadensis) is a large mosaic darner. It occurs across the northern United States and southern Canada. It is the most common blue darner in Minnesota, where it occurs throughout the state except for the western prairie counties. It is a late-season dragonfly, not appearing until late June and flying to the end of September.
Adults are about 2¾″ long. The body is dark brown with blue, green, or yellow markings that darken in cool temperatures. Males always have mostly blue markings. Females have three color forms; blue, green, and yellow. Most females are green form. Blue form females are rare.
There are at least ten blue darner dragonfly species found in Minnesota and they are difficult to tell apart. Canada darner is most easily distinguished by the lateral stripes on the thorax. The front stripe is deeply notched, is narrowed toward the top, and has a narrow rearward extension (flag) at the top. The rear lateral stripe is not notched. Like all mosaic dragonflies, there is a black T-shaped spot on the upper part of the face just below where the eyes meet. This is best seen when viewed from above. There is no bold black horizontal stripe across the middle of the face.
Reddish-brown stag beetle (Lucanus capreolus) is relatively large beetle. It occurs in the United States east of the Great Plains and in adjacent Canadian provinces. It is found around decaying logs and stumps in deciduous forests, parks, and neighborhoods with trees. Larvae feed on decaying wood, adults feed on tree sap. The name “stag beetle” refers to the oversized mandibles on some males that resemble deer antlers. Another common name for this beetle is pinching bug. The mandibles look fierce and are used to fight other males over a female. When confronted, it will rear back threateningly with its mandibles open. However, when handled by humans, it can give no more than a mild pinch.
Adults are reddish-brown and up to 1½″ long, not including the mandibles. The antennae have 10 segments, are abruptly bent, and are expanded (clubbed) at the tip. The body appears smooth but is densely covered with very fine punctures. The third and largest segment of each leg is distinctly pale.
Many-headed slime (Physarum polycephalum) is a plasmodial slime mold. It has been reported in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, North America, and South America. Most reports are from the eastern United States. All but a few plasmodial slime molds are invisible to the naked eye, are usually overlooked, and are little studied. Many-headed slime is an exception in all respects. It is most often found on a growth medium (agar) in laboratories, where it is frequently used in researching cell development, protoplasmic streaming, and nuclear behavior. In one interesting study it was “shown” that it “solved” a maze. In nature it is found on shaded rotting wood in forests, in woodlands, and even in treed suburbs. It is short lived, appearing after a soaking rain and disintegrating in just a few days.
Many-headed slime lives in rotting wood feeding on fungi and bacteria. In late summer and fall, after a soaking rain, it creeps to the surface of the substrate. It appears as a bright yellow, many-branched network of veins that creep along the surface. Protoplasm can be seen streaming within the veins. When exposed to light it produces spore-bearing structures (sporangia). The sporangia differ from other slime molds in having multiple heads, hence the common name many-headed slime.
Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina) is a small perching bird but a medium-sized New World Warbler. Its breeds in Canada from Nova Scotia to the Northwest Territories, and in the United States in northern New England and the Upper Midwest. It builds its nest in a mature forest near the top of a tall spruce or balsam fir tree usually near the trunk. In Minnesota it breeds in Arrowhead region. It winters in the West Indies. It is an uncommon migrant in most of the state in May and from early August through October. It is rare in the west. It feeds on insects, especially spruce budworm, and on flower nectar and fruit juices.
Cape May Warbler adult is about 5″ in length and has a wingspan of about 8″. On the breeding male, the upper parts are dark olive green, the chin, sides of the neck (“collar”), and rump are yellow. There is a large chestnut-brown ear patch and a dark eye line. The bill is thin, dark, and slightly curved downward. The breast and flanks are yellow with dark stripes that converge on the throat. The undertail coverts are white. On each wing there is a distinct white patch. The tail is short. The female is paler overall and has two thin white wing patches. The crown is olive-gray and there is a grayish cheek patch.
Coppery leafhopper (Jikradia olitoria) is a common, medium-sized, slender leafhopper. It occurs throughout the eastern half of the United States and in adjacent Canadian provinces. In Minnesota it has been recorded only in the southeast quarter of the state. Little is known of the biology of leafhoppers in the subfamily Coelidiinae. Coppery leafhopper is said to feed on woody species. In 1975 it was suggested that the subspecies Jikradia olitoria floridana was a vector of strawberry pallidosis. This was later rejected when in 2006 the greenhouse whitefly Trialeurodes vaporariorum was discovered to be the true vector of the disease.
Coppery leafhopper adults are about ¼″ long and variable in color. They are usually light brownish-gray to medium brownish-black, sometimes dark and bluish, sometimes entirely light brownish-yellow. Females always have pale wing bands. Males are always dark brown or rusty brown and have no pale bands.
Least chipmunk (Neotamias minimus) is the most widespread and also the smallest of the North American chipmunks. In Canada it occurs from Ontario to Yukon Territory. In the United States it occurs west of the Great Plains and in the upper Great Lakes region. In Minnesota it occurs in the Arrowhead and north-central regions. It is found at the edges and in the openings, clearcuts, and disturbed areas of coniferous and mixed forests. It eats seeds, nuts, fruits, acorns, snails, insect eggs and larvae, and small birds and mammals. It nests under stumps, logs, and rocks. It winters in a burrow it digs that reaches up to one meter underground. When running it holds its tail erect.
The adult is 7¼″ to 8¾″ long. It weighs about half as much as an eastern chipmunk. The coat (pelage) on the sides is reddish-brown in the front, grayish brown in the rear. The rump is grayish-brown. There are five dark brown or black stripes on the back separated by white or cream-colored stripes. The middle stripe stretches from the nape of the neck to the base of the tail. On each side of the face there are three dark brown stripes separated by two white or cream-colored stripes. The facial stripes are well defined and highly visible. The tail is orangish-brown, and bushy.
Japanese hedge parsley (Torilis japonica) is native to Europe, Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. It was introduced in North America in 1917 and is now naturalized. In the United States it is widespread but sporadic in the east and in the Pacific Northwest. It is found in natural areas, including open woodlands, woodland edges, savannas, and thickets; and in disturbed sites, including pastures, roadsides, and railroads. It grows under partial sun to full shade, sometimes under full sun, in dry to moderately moist soil. It is considered an aggressively invasive weed here, where it can out-compete native species. Wisconsin lists it as Prohibited/Restricted Invasive – Eradicate! (their emphasis). In Minnesota it is not listed but there is a program to eradicate it in Dakota County parks.
Japanese hedge parsley can be 8″ to 48″ tall, but in Minnesota flowering plants are usually no more than 24″ in height. In Minnesota it is a biennial, taking two years to complete its life cycle. In more southerly regions it is an annual. The stems are erect, grooved, and hairy, The leaves are fern-like, divided into three or five sections then divided again. They are covered with hairs both above and below. Tiny white flowers appear in a loose umbrella-like cluster at the end of the stem and the branches. The fruit is a small brown seed covered with hooked hairs that will stubbornly cling to any fabric.
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) is a medium-sized sandpiper. It nests in meadows and open woodlands from Alaska to Quebec, and winters mostly in South America. It is a common to locally abundant migrant throughout Minnesota from late March to early June and from July to October. In Minnesota it is found in marshes, wet meadows, mudflats, and flooded agricultural fields, and on the shores of lakes and ponds. It eats mostly flies, beetles, and other insects, but also spiders, small fish, snails, crustaceans, worms, and seeds.
The population of Lesser Yellowlegs is declining due to habitat loss in part the result of climate change. However, the species range is extremely large and the species is not considered vulnerable.
A Lesser Yellowlegs looks similar to a Greater Yellowlegs but is smaller. The adult is 10″ to 11″ in length and has a wingspan of 24″. It is a slender shorebird with a small head, a thin bill, and long, bright yellow legs. The nonbreeding plumage is uniformly gray on the upper side with fine, dark streaking. The underparts are white with small gray spots. There is a dark line from the bill to the eye. The bill is straight, thin, entirely black, and about the same length as the head.
Inland serviceberry (Amelanchier interior) is usually a large deciduous shrub, sometimes a small tree. It occurs only in a narrow range in eastern North America, from Nova Scotia and Maine, east to southern Ontario and Minnesota, and south to northern Illinois and Ohio. It is found in dry forests, fields, and thickets, and on hillsides, bluffs, and stream banks. It is sometimes also found in bogs. It grows under full or partial sun in moist to dry, sandy or sandy-loamy soil.
Inland serviceberry is somewhat variable in appearance, having characteristics intermediate between other serviceberries, and having a large range of lengths of flower stalks, floral leaves (sepals), and petals. What is now defined as inland serviceberry may be hybrid swarm involving smooth serviceberry, low serviceberry, and/or roundleaf serviceberry.
Inland serviceberry is identified by the leaves, which are densely hairy below in the spring and become nearly hairless at maturity; the margins of the larger leaves, which have at least 27 teeth per side; and the ovary, which is densely hairy at the top.