Monthly Archives: October 2019

Sinewed Bushy Lichen (Ramalina americana)

Sinewed Bushy Lichen
Photo by Luciearl

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.

Nightcrawler (Lumbricus terrestris)

Photo by Alfredo Colon

Earthworms are not native to Minnesota. If they ever were, they did not survive the last period of glaciation that ended 11,700 years ago. We do not know if they ever occurred in Minnesota because, having neither an internal skeleton nor an exoskeleton, their bodies do not fossilize. There are at least fifteen species of earthworms found in Minnesota. All of them were imported from Europe and Asia.

Nightcrawler (Lumbricus terrestris) is a common, large earthworm. It is native to western Europe but is now widely distributed throughout the temperate and mildly boreal regions of the world. It is considered invasive outside of its native range, including in Minnesota. Its spread is attributed to human activities, including the movement of soil as ship’s ballast, importation of exotic plants, and disposal of fish bait. It is not the most abundant earthworm in Minnesota but it is the most often encountered.

Nightcrawler is identified by the large size, up to 8″ long; the stout body, often as thick as a pencil; the broad, flattened posterior; the well-developed “saddle”; and the color, dark in front and light behind the saddle.

Purple Jellydisc (Ascocoryne sarcoides or Ascocoryne cylichnium)

Purple Jellydisc
Photo by Luciearl

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.

Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica)


Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica), also called elliptic shinleaf, is a common and widespread, up to 10½″ tall woodland wildflower. It occurs across northern United States and southern Canada, and in Arizona and New Mexico. It is common in Minnesota. It grows under dappled shade in acidic, nutrient-poor, well-drained soil in moist areas of upland forests and woodlands. Because it grows in nutrient poor areas, shinleaf depends in mycorrhizal fungi on its roots for nutrients. It cannot survive in the absence of this fungi.

Shinleaf appears as a single, unbranched, flowering stalk with a cluster of leaves at the base. The leaves appear basal but are actually alternate and very closely spaced at the base of the stem. Up to 21 white flowers bloom at the top of the stem from June to August. The flowers hang downward and have a conspicuous, curved, pale green style hanging below.

Shinleaf is distinguished by elliptic or oblong leaves without whitened veins; the cluster of up to 21 flowers; the white to greenish-white petals; and the long, curved, protruding style.

Eyelash Cup (Scutellinia scutellata)

Eyelash Cup
Photo by Luciearl

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.

American dagger moth (Acronicta americana)

American dagger moth
Photo by Alfredo Colon

Dagger Moths (genus Acronicta) is a large genus with about 150 species worldwide, more than 73 species in North America north of Mexico. At least 28 species have been reported in Minnesota. The common name refers to a black, dagger-like dash on the forewings of many of the species. Most are gray with darker gray markings, and are difficult to identify.

American dagger moth (Acronicta americana) is the largest dagger moth in eastern United States. The adult is up to 1½″ long and has a wingspan of up to 2½″. It is gray or brownish-gray with dark markings and a black “dagger”. It is found in deciduous woodlands and forests across the United States and southern Canada. It is common and sometimes abundant east of the Great Plains, common in Minnesota.

The caterpillar is large and is covered with yellow or white hairs. It has two pairs of long black lashes near the front of the abdomen and a single thicker lash near the end. The lashes are tight groups of bristles. When the caterpillar is handled the bristles break off and embed in the skin of the handler. They contain a toxin which causes stinging and burning and can develop into a rash.

Lily-leaved twayblade (Liparis liliifolia)

Lily-leaved twayblade

Lily-leaved twayblade (Liparis liliifolia), a common orchid in eastern United States, is scattered to rare in Minnesota. It is found from the driftless area in the southeast to just north of the St. Cloud area, with isolated populations in Itasca and Watonwan Counties. It grows in open woodlands, small woodland openings, and along woodland trails, where it gets partial sun or light shade. It is declining in Minnesota due to loss of habitat and to forest management practices. It has been recorded historically, but is no longer found, in Wright, Sherburne, and Anoka Counties. It may be decreasing in part due to fire suppression and forest succession, as oak forest is overtaken by maples and basswood, becoming more densely shaded.

Lily-leaved twayblade has two large, lily-like leaves at the base; a single, leafless, 10″ tall, flowering stem; and a loose, unbranched cluster of up to 31 flowers. The flowers are brownish-purple and have a spidery appearance. The sepals are green, long, and very narrow. The side petals are long, very narrow to thread-like, and hang downward. During development the flower twists 180° so that, when mature, the upper petal (lip) appears to be the lower. The lip is brownish-purple and more or less flat. After the flowers drop off in late summer the cluster of erect, green, seed capsules at the end of a bare green stem rising from persistent green basal leaves is distinctive.