Author Archives: John Valo

Ruby Bolete (Hortiboletus rubellus)

Ruby Bolete
Photo by Holly Stanger

Ruby Bolete (Hortiboletus rubellus) is a small, red capped, blue staining mushroom. It occurs in Europe, the United States, southern Canada, and Mexico. It reaches the western extent of one part of its range in eastern Minnesota. It is found in summer and fall in woodlands, parks, and gardens. It grows on the ground near oaks and other hardwood trees.

The cap is small, no more than 2⅜″ in diameter, and is bright but dark pinkish-red. This is the feature that gives the mushroom its common name. It often has a thin yellow or whitish band around the margin. The pore surface on the underside of the cap is yellow. It quickly stains dark blue when bruised. The stalk is up to 2¾″ long, is mostly red, and has many tiny red dots. When cut lengthwise, the flesh of the stem reveals numerous, tiny, bright red or carrot orange dots near the base.

Ruby Bolete is edible but it has a soapy taste, and like other boletes, it is often infested with maggots.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Fungi/Ruby_Bolete.html

Blue stain fungi

blue stain fungi
Photo by Honey Fae (Farah)

There are between 100 and 250 species of sap staining fungi, and they are divided into three groups. One of these groups is known as blue stain fungi. It is an informal grouping of various species of sac fungi (Ascomycota) that cause blue discoloration in the heartwood of trees without destroying the wood. The fungi are from the genera Ceratocystis, Ophiostoma, Ceratocystiopsis, and Grosmannia. They do not form a single taxonomic group because they do not descend from a common ancestor. Not all species in those genera cause blue staining.

Blue stain fungi spores are carried to a living tree on the body of a wood boring beetle. Their thread-like cells (hyphae) produce dark melanin on their walls to protect them from light, drought, and the tree’s own defenses. Blue discoloration spreads from the wound on the outside through the heartwood in a wedge-shaped pattern following the spread of the fungus. Boxelder trees produce a brilliant red stain in the wood as a response to the fungus.

Blue stain fungi damages the living tree by clogging the vascular system, leading to decline and premature death of the tree. The damage caused to the wood is merely aesthetic. The discoloration makes the wood undesirable and less profitable but does not weaken the wood.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Fungi/blue_stain_fungi.html

Orbweavers (Family Araneidae)

Orbweavers (Family Araneidae)
Photo by Margot Avey

Araneidae is a large family of typical spiders known as orbweavers. It is the third largest family of spiders. There are 3,067 currently recognized orbweaver species in 177 genera worldwide, 180 species in North America north of Mexico, and at least 44 species in 16 genera in Minnesota.

Orbweavers are found in woodlands, fields, and caves; on grasses, shrubs, and trees; and on buildings and fences. They are best known for the circular webs, called orbs, that they build. The webs consist of a framework of non-sticky threads (spokes) extending from the edge to the middle, and concentric circles of sticky threads winding to the center.

Orbweavers are very diverse in size, shape, and color. They have eight small eyes in two rows. The lateral eyes are usually well separated from the median eyes. The median ocular area (MOA), the area defined by the middle four eyes, is in the shape of a trapezoid. The front part of the body (carapace) is smaller than the rear part (abdomen). The abdomen is large, rounded, and marked with lines, spots, or zig-zag patterns. The legs are short and spiny. The first and second pairs of legs project forward, the third and fourth pairs project backward. There are three claws at the end of each leg, though these are not visible without magnification. Females are much larger than males.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Arachnids/orbweavers_Araneidae.html

Meal moth (Pyralis farinalis)

meal moth
Photo by Mike Poeppe

Meal moth (Pyralis farinalis) is a small, broad-winged, triangular moth. It is cosmopolitan, occurring around the world, but is most common in Europe and the United States. It is found anywhere grain is processed or stored, including warehouses, barns, and most home pantries. It is not the only moth common to home pantries, nor is it the most common. That distinction belongs to Indian meal moth. Other common pantry moths are Mediterranean flour moth, brown house moth, and white shouldered house moth.

Meal moth larva feed on cereals (plants in the grass family), grains (edible seeds of cereals), and vegetables, including potatoes. Adults do not feed and are short-lived. They mate as soon as possible after emerging, then die after nine or ten days. They rest with their wings spread wide, their abdomen raised at a right angle to the body, and their antennae folded back over the body.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/meal_moth.html

Grimmia dry rock moss (Grimmia laevigata)

grimmia dry rock moss
Grimmia dry rock moss at Rock Ridge Prairie SNA

Grimmia dry rock moss (Grimmia laevigata) is a common and widespread tuft-forming moss. It occurs on all continents except Antarctica. It is mostly restricted to the moderate climate areas of the northern and southern hemispheres. It is less common in Minnesota where it reaches the northern extent of its range. In this state it is found in open areas on rock outcrops. It grows under full sun on exposed acidic rock or on thin soil over rock.

Grimmia dry rock moss is extraordinarily drought resistant. Dried herbarium specimens that have been rehydrated after ten years have resumed photosynthetic and metabolic activity. It has adapted to a broad range of environments, yet it shows very little variability throughout its range. Bryologists suggest that a single species cannot be so adaptive, and that Grimmia laevigata must consist of a group of apparently indistinguishable but genetically distinct species.

Grimmia dry rock moss appears as a dense, hoary, dark green to dark brown tuft. The leaves have a long, thin, translucent, hair-like awn at the tip that constitutes almost half the total length of the blade. Spore-producing reproductive structures are rarely produced, and apparently are not produced anywhere in our area.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Plants/grimmia_dry_rock_moss.html

Brickwork woodlouse (Porcellio spinicornis)

brickwork woodlouse
Photo by Greg Watson

Brickwork woodlouse (Porcellio spinicornis) is a large, exotic woodlouse. It is native to Europe, where it is widespread and common. It was introduced into North America, where it now occurs across southern Canada and in the United States from Maine to New Jersey, west to North Dakota and South Dakota. It is not uncommon in Minnesota.

Brickwork woodlouse favors dry areas with limey (calcareous) surfaces. It is found in limestone quarries, on limestone pavement, in loosely mortared walls, and often in human houses. It is active at night, when it can be found on the surface. During the day it remains concealed, often under a rock or log.

Brickwork woodlouse is yellowish with dark brown to almost black mottling, and a dark brown to almost black stripe in the middle bordered on each side by bright yellow markings. One imaginative describer likened the pattern to brickwork, and this is the source of this species’ common name.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Crustaceans/brickwork_woodlouse.html

Apple Blossom Overlook Park

Apple Blossom Overlook Park
Photo by Greg Watson

Apple Blossom Overlook Park is a Winona County park located three miles north of downtown La Crescent, MN on Apple Blossom Drive Scenic Byway. Its 55 acres includes a ridge top overlooking the Upper Mississippi River Valley 580 feet below. A 1.3 mile loop trail has a spur that leads to a spectacular overlook on a narrow promontory. The trail is wide, grassy, and well maintained. It passes through new and old growth hardwood forest, two newly established prairies, and a few small areas of remnant prairie, and by rock outcroppings, steep cliffs, and an historic stone quarry. The park also includes a small depression that is sometimes a small pond but at other times just a wetland.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Destinations/Apple_Blossom_Overlook_Park.html

Say “Goodbye” to an old friend and “Hello” to a new group

Golden Chanterelle
Golden Chanterelle

Until very recently, yellow to yellowish-orange chanterelles in North American hardwood forests were all treated as a single, easily identified species, Golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius). Recent DNA analysis shows that the North American chanterelles are a group of closely related species now known as the Cantharellus cibarius group. The type species of the group, Cantharellus cibarius, is restricted to Europe and does not occur in North America. To date (2022), several new species have been defined, four of them occurring only west of the Rocky Mountains. More species east of the Rockies will almost certainly be described in the coming years.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Fungi/Golden_Chanterelle.html

Springtails (Hypogastrura spp.)

springtails (Hypogastrura spp.)
Photo by Luciearl

Hypogastrura is a genus of springtails. They are sometimes called snow fleas, but this common name is properly applied to just one species, Hypogastrura nivicola. There are at least 159 Hypogastrura species worldwide, at least 89 species in North America, and at least 1 species in Minnesota. They are found in moist areas rich in organic matter. They often appear in in very large numbers.

Hypogastrura springtail has a plump, elongated oval body. It is bluish-black but appears black when viewed against a light background. The legs and antennae are short. Identifying a springtail to the genus Hypogastrura is relatively simple, but identifying one to the species is extremely difficult. It requires microscopic examination of the hairs on the last leg segment.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Springtails/springtails_Hypogastrura.html

White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera)

White-winged Crossbill
Photo by Dan W. Andree

White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera) is a colorful, medium-sized finch. It occurs in the temperate and subpolar regions of the Northern Hemisphere. In Minnesota it is common to uncommon in the northeastern coniferous and mixed forests, occasional to rare in the remainder of the state. Migration is irruptive, with large numbers visiting the state one year and none the following year.

White-winged Crossbill is found mostly in coniferous forests with spruce, tamarack, and eastern hemlock, sometimes in deciduous forests, and sometimes in towns. Adults feed mostly on spruce and tamarack seeds, but also on the seeds of other coniferous trees and deciduous trees, and occasionally on insects.

White-winged Crossbill breeding male is pinkish-red with black wings and tail. There are two bold white wing bars on each wing. This is the feature that gives the species its common name. The tips of the bill are crossed over, an adaptation that helps when extracting seeds from a spruce seed cone. Females are greenish-yellow streaked with brown.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Birds/White-winged_Crossbill.html