Powdered Sunshine Lichen (Vulpicida pinastri) is an easily recognized, widespread, and very common lichen. It occurs in northern forested areas around the globe, including Europe, Asia, and North America. It grows on the bark of conifers and birch. It is usually found no more than chest high, probably protected under snow from desiccation by winter winds.
The vegetative body is leaf-like and divided into lobes. When growing on flat surfaces, the lobes are short, and it forms a flat rosette. When growing on thin branches, the lobes are longer and more erect. The upper side is greenish-yellow or yellowish-green in sunny locations, grayish-green in shaded locations. The margins are densely covered with bright yellow reproductive granules, giving them a powdered look. This is the feature that gives the lichen its common name.
In the early 1990s a huge underground mycelium of Bulbous Honey Fungus (Armillaria gallica) was found covering 37 acres in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Molecular genetics showed the underground part of the fungus (mycelium) to be about 1,500 years old. It came to be known as the “Humongous Fungus”, became a popular tourist attraction, and spawned a annual fungus festival. At the time of its discovery it was thought to be the largest organism on earth, a title formerly held by Pando, the quaking aspen grove in Utah. Since that time, three other organisms have held that title. The current (2022) holder is the marine plant Posidonia australis in Shark Bay, Australia.
Bulbous Honey Fungus is a common, late season, gilled mushroom occurring in Europe, Asia, and North America. It appears in late summer and fall growing on the ground attached to underground roots, on stumps and logs, and on the base of living trees.
The mature cap is broadly convex to almost flat, pinkish-brown or brownish-yellow, and covered with slender fibers. The stalk is thick and expanded at the bottom, appearing club-shaped. The flesh is edible when cooked and has a mild to bitter taste.
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.
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.
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.
Elbowpatch Crust (Fomitiporia punctata) is one of many fungi that cause a disease known as canker rot. Cankers are open wounds or lesions on the trunk or a branch. With this species, the canker is takes the form of a brown “elbow patch.” It spreads flat on the surface of the substrate with no stalk or cap (resupinate). The outer (pore) surface is yellowish-brown or grayish-brown. The margins are yellowish-brown at first, eventually becoming black and cracked.
Elbowpatch Crust is a common and widespread wood decaying fungus. It occurs worldwide on every continent except Antarctica. In North America it occurs east of the Great Plains and in the Pacific Northwest. It is found in deciduous and mixed forests and woodlands. It grows on many hardwood trees and shrubs, including willow, ash, maple, plum, buckthorn, mountain ash, Siberian peashrub, and common lilac. It is usually seen on fallen trees and branches, but will also grow on live trees and shrubs. It causes white rot of sapwood and in some species also of heartwood. It can weaken a tree making it a hazard to buildings and people.
Mossy Maze Polypore (Cerrena unicolor) is a widespread and very common bracket fungi. It occurs in Europe and Asia, and throughout North and Central America. In the United States it is common east of the Great Plains, uncommon in the Pacific northwest, and absent elsewhere. In Minnesota it is very common in the eastern half of the state, uncommon to absent in the western half. It is found year round in deciduous and mixed forests, on dead hardwood stumps and logs.
When growing on the underside of a log it looks like a pore surface that has lost its cap. When on the top or side of a log or stump it produces a semi-circular shelf-like or bracket-like cap. The upper surface is whitish to brownish or dark brown, but is often green due to a covering of algae. It has a broad pale margin and is densely hairy, sometimes velvety.
The pore surface is whitish when young, becoming smoky gray at maturity. The pores are slotted, maze-like. The flesh is leathery, tough and inedible.
Boreal Oakmoss (Evernia mesomorpha) is a common and widespread shrubby lichen. It occurs across the globe in the northern latitudes. In the United States it is restricted to the northern tier of states. In Minnesota it is common in the northern third of the state, very common in the Arrowhead region, with only scattered occurrences south to the Metro region. It is found in sunny sites in forests and woodlands. It grows on the branches of both deciduous and coniferous trees. It is relatively tolerant of pollution, which allows it to survive near urban areas.
The vegetative body is shrub-like. It consists of numerous, loosely hanging, evenly forked branches. It looks something like an antler lichen but has broader branches. The branches are soft when wet, and pliable, not brittle, when dry. The upper and lower surfaces are green, wrinkled, and usually have abundant, coarse, granules. These granules are the main form vegetative reproduction. Sexual reproductive structures are rarely produced.
Boreal Oakmoss is not edible. Handling it may cause severe dermatitis.
Bristly Beard Lichen (Usnea hirta) is a very common shrubby lichen, It occurs throughout Europe and the Americas. It is common in northeast and north-central Minnesota, very common in the Arrowhead region, but completely absent from the remaining two-thirds of the state. It is found in coniferous and mixed forests growing on the bark and twigs of sick or dying coniferous trees, rarely also on birch trees, very rarely also on rock.
Bristly Beard Lichen is pale, grayish-green, yellowish-green, or blackish-gray, and is variable in shape. It may appear as a few long drooping strands; an erect, densely branched, shrub-like tuft; or a combination of the two. The main branches are unequal in length and have numerous short side branches. They are usually short, erect, and stiff when dry, limp when wet. Drooping branches, if present, are long and contorted. All branches are angular, not round, in cross section, are swollen at the base, and are often broadly forked. The base of each branch is the same color as the rest of the branch, not blackened. The surface is dull to shiny and never cracked.
Sinewed Bushy Lichen (Ramalina americana) is widespread and very common. It occurs in the eastern deciduous forests of the United States and southern Canada, and in the mountainous forests of Mexico. In Minnesota it is very common in the north, scattered to absent in the south. It is found on bark of old hardwood trees, usually in full sun, mostly on twigs and branches in the upper canopy but also on the trunk. It is more sensitive to air pollution than most lichens, and is absent from areas with even mild air pollution.
Sinewed Bushy Lichen appears as a short, shrubby, yellowish-green tuft. The branches are narrow, straight-sided, flattened, solid, and strongly ridged and channeled. Yellow, disk-like, spore-producing structures are frequent and large. They appear at or close to the tips of the branches. They are usually flat but often contorted.