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.
Purple Jellydisc (Ascocoryne sarcoides or Ascocoryne cylichnium) is a widespread and common fungus. It occurs from Maine to Minnesota, south to Illinois and Georgia, on the West Coast, and in adjacent Canadian provinces. It is uncommon in Minnesota, where it is at the western edge of its range. It is found in the fall grouped or clustered in deciduous forests and woodlands on well-rotted hardwood stumps and logs.
When young, Purple Jellydisc is a lumpy, irregular, gelatinous, purple or wine-red mass up to 8″ across. It appears brain-like and looks like a jelly fungus. As it ages the lobes flatten out into 3 ⁄16″ to ⅞″ (5 to 22 mm) wide disc-shaped or cup-shaped fruiting bodies. When mature, it looks like a disc fungus. There is no stem but there is sometimes a short, poorly-defined, stem-like base.
Some authors claim that Ascocoryne cylichnium is more often disc-like than Ascocoryne sarcoides. Most authors agree that the two species can only be differentiated with certainty by examining the spores microscopically. Both species have been reported in Minnesota.
Eyelash Cup (Scutellinia scutellata) is a small, common, very widespread, cup fungus. It is small for a fungus but large for a Scutellinia. It has a worldwide distribution, occurring on every continent except Greenland. It is common in Minnesota. It is easy to recognize but easily overlooked due to its small size. It is found from spring through fall, in small groups or larger clusters, usually soon after a rain. It grows on well rotted wood.
When it first appears it is nearly spherical and bright red to scarlet or orange. As it grows it spreads out into a shallow cup. Mature specimens are flat, disk-like, and up to ⅝″ in diameter. Around the margin there is a fringe of dark, eyelash-like hairs. The underside is covered with shorter dark hairs. It is edible but too small and insubstantial to bother with collecting.
Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) is one of the most common large polypores in coniferous forests throughout North America. It is used to prepare fabric dyes of various colors, but is also a significant pest to the timber industry in western United States.
The fruiting body is a large, bracket-shaped polypore (conk). It usually appears on the ground as a rosette or an overlapping tier of brackets at or near the base of a large coniferous tree. In Minnesota it is most common on white pine. It attacks the living roots and the heartwood of older trees, causing the disease called red-brown butt rot. The lower 10 to 20 feet of the trunk, the most valuable part for the timber industry, is weakened or hollowed, making the tree susceptible to falling over. On young trees the fungus causes root rot which is also fatal.
The cap is 2″ to 12″ wide and circular when growing on the ground, semicircular or fan-shaped when on a trunk. When young it is soft, spongy, light brownish-yellow to orange, and densely covered with velvety hairs. As it ages it becomes hard, less hairy, and turns dark brown from the center outwards. Older specimens are brittle and dark brown or black, looking something like a cow pie. It is probably poisonous.
Hexagonal-pored Polypore (Neofavolus alveolaris) is one of the first mushrooms to appear in woodlands in the spring. It occurs in Europe, Japan, and North America east of the Rocky Mountains. In the United States it is especially common east of the Great Plains. It first appears in May, the same time as morels, and persists through November. It grows on fallen branches and small logs of hardwoods.
The fruiting body is a semicircular to kidney-shaped, shelf-like bracket. When it first appears in late spring it is orange or orangish. It is at this stage that it is most easily recognized. The upper surface is covered with minute scales or delicate fibers. As the season progresses it fades to yellowish or nearly white. It usually has a short, stubby laterally positioned stalk. The pore surface is white to pale yellowish and is covered with conspicuous, large, diamond-shaped or six-sided pores. The pores are not all hexagonal, as the bracket’s common name suggests.
Hexagonal-pored Polypore is not poisonous but the bracket is too small and the flesh is too tough to be edible.
Hooded Sunburst Lichen (Oxneria fallax) is a widespread and very common lichen. It occurs throughout Europe and across North America, and is very common in Minnesota. It grows on bark on the trunks of hardwood trees in humid to moderately dry conditions. It forms rosettes up to 1½″ in diameter that often fuse together into large colonies.
Hooded Sunburst Lichen is leaf-like and divided into small lobes. It is deep orange where exposed to the sun, orangish-red to reddish-orange in partially shaded areas, and pale greenish-yellow in deep shade. Tiny, crescent-shaped slits, are formed on the margins at the tips of the lobes. Within the slits powdery, greenish-yellow clusters of cells are produced. The cell clusters are dispersed by wind and rain, and can form new rosettes when they land on a suitable surface.
Disk-like, spore-producing structures are rarely produced. When present, the disks are stalked, orange, up to ⅛″ in diameter, and shaped like a plate. Each disk has a ring of tissue around it that resembles the tissue of the lobes.
Devil’s Urn (Urnula craterium) is one of the first mushrooms to appear in forests and woodlands in the east. It occurs in the United States east of the Great Plains, and also in Washington State. It is common in Minnesota but often overlooked due to its dark color and its somewhat leaf-like appearance. In addition, it is often buried or half-buried in the duff. It appears in the spring usually in groups, sometimes singly. It grows on or next to decaying logs, on twigs, or on the ground attached to buried wood.
The mature mushroom is 1¼″ to 4¼″ high and ¾″ to 2¾″ in diameter. The fruiting body is a closed orb at first, and looks a lot like Dead Man’s Fingers. It soon opens at the top becoming deeply cup-shaped. The margins are curved inward, toothed, and appear torn. The sterile outer surface is rough and pinkish-gray or dark brown at first, becoming smooth and black to brownish-black with age. The fertile inner surface is smooth and brownish-black to black. There is usually a distinct narrow stalk at the base. The flesh is tough and leathery or fibrous. It is probably not poisonous but is too tough to be worth eating.