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.
Bluntleaf sandwort (Moehringia lateriflora) is a common but often overlooked perennial forb. It occurs in Asia, northern Europe, and North America. In the United States it is common in the northern tier of states but absent in the south. It is very common in Minnesota. It is found in woodland edges and openings, open woodlands, and gravely riverbanks, and less commonly in meadows and prairies.
Bluntleaf sandwort is a low plant. The stems are much branched, less than 12″ long, and weak. They either curve up from the base or recline on the ground with only the tip ascending. The leaves are opposite, broadly ellipse-shaped, and no more than 1¼″ long. From mid-spring to early summer it produces a few small but showy white flowers.
Bluntleaf sandwort is similar in appearance to chickweeds, but the petals are neither deeply cut nor notched.
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.
Bryophytes are small, seedless, nonvascular plants. Because they lack vascular tissue, they also lack true stems, leaves, flowers, and roots. They grow low to the ground and absorb water by osmosis. The three major groups of bryophytes are mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. Liverworts have prominent gametophytes, which is the sexual phase in the life cycle of plants. Thalloid liverworts consist of a flattened mass of tissue (thallus).
Water liverwort (Marchantia aquatica) is one of the largest thalloid liverworts. It is found across North America and in Europe. It grows on moist or wet soil in swamps, calcareous fens, wet meadows, cliffs, springs, disturbed areas, and recently burned areas. It often forms colonies of overlapping plants, sometimes creating extensive mats. It can be a pest if allowed to invade a greenhouse.
Liverworts reproduce both sexually and asexually. The asexual reproductive structure of water liverwort is a splash cup (gemma cup) that is produced on the upper surface of the thallus. The cups are green, circular, and shallow, and contain a few gemmae. The gemmae are dispersed when they are splashed out by raindrops. Each gemma can produce one or two plants if it lands on soil.
Water liverwort is distinguished from its close look-alikes by a dark, midrib-like furrow on the thallus that is uninterrupted and conspicuous.
Eastern forktail (Ischnura verticalis) is a small, narrow-winged damselfly. It occurs east of the Rocky Mountains from Quebec and Georgia in the east to Manitoba and New Mexico in the west. It is very common in the northeast and Midwest, present but uncommon in the southern tier of states. It is abundant in Minnesota, where it has been reported in 81 of the state’s 87 counties.
Eastern forktail has three color variations. Adult males are mostly black with green eye spots and pale blue shoulder stripes, sides of the thorax, and tip of the abdomen. Adult females are entirely pale powdery blue with larger blue eyespots and few other noticeable markings. Immature females are black with orange markings.
Eastern forktail may be the most common damselfly in our area, as it is reported to be in and around Chicago.
Phyllosticta minima is a common and widespread fungus. It occurs in eastern North America and west to the Great Plains. It causes a disease known as Purple Bordered Leaf Spot on maples. It infects mostly Amur, Japanese, red, and silver maple, but also mountain and sugar maple, and in other areas, Tartarian and sycamore maple.
The infected leaf develops small, round, tan spots with purple or brown margins. Tiny, black, pimple-like fruiting bodies form in each spot. The dead tissue in the middle of the spot sometimes breaks away, leaving a small hole.
Infections are most common in wet years and on the bottom third of the tree. Some infected leaves may eventually turn brown and drop off the tree, but most trees are able to withstand the infection. Control involves removing leaves with spots from the tree, and raking up and removing fallen leaves. That prevents further infections in the current growing season, and reduces the number of infected leaves that will overwinter.
Cylindroiulus caeruleocinctus is a large millipede native to western and northern Europe, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom. Human activities have greatly contributed to the dispersal of this species. Its range continues to expand east and southeast in Europe. It was recently found for the first time in Hungary. It was introduced into North America and now occurs across northern United States and southern Canada.
Adults are worm-like, and cylindrical. They have more than 32 body segments (rings). Each ring is brownish-black with bronze-colored edges. This species is distinguished from similar millipedes by its large size and by the lack of a pointed projection on the last body segment.
Protostelid slime molds are relatively unknown and easily overlooked. They were first recognized in the early 1960s and have been little studied since. There are 36 currently accepted species, and possibly twice that number of undescribed species. Most are microscopic. Only a few are visible to the naked eye.
Honeycomb coral slime mold (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa) is the most commonly encountered protostelid slime mold and may be the most common slime mold of any kind in the world. It occurs on every continent except Greenland and Antarctica. It is found in forests on rotting fallen logs and branches. It can form extensive colonies one meter or more long. It is very short lived, appearing after a soaking rain and disintegrating in just a few days.
Honeycomb coral slime mold first appears as a thin, watery, translucent, mucus-like layer, creeping across the wood, engulfing bacteria, protozoa, and particles of nonliving organic matter. Eventually it fruits, forming clusters of erect, translucent columns. The columns have a frosted or powdery appearance due to a dense covering of tiny, white, spores on long, thread-like stalks.
Gray field slug (Deroceras reticulatum), also known as milky slug, is a common, exotic, terrestrial, smooth land slug. It is native to northern Europe, North Africa, and the Atlantic islands. It was introduced into North America and now occurs across the continent. It is most common in southern Canada and northern United States. It can be a serious crop pest, but is not listed as invasive nationally or in Minnesota. It is usually found above ground but under stones or leaf litter in open areas, especially cultivated areas.
Gray field slug is stout, 1⅜″ to 2″ long and white, cream, gray, or tan. When at rest, the body is contracted and the tentacles are retracted. When traveling, the body is stretched out, the tentacles are extended, and it exudes a clear mucus. When disturbed, it exudes white mucus over its entire body, leading to one of its common names, milky slug.