Milk-white Toothed Polypore (Irpex lacteus) is widespread in Europe and North America. It is very common in the eastern United States to the Midwest, including Minnesota, but rare in the Southwest. It is exceptionally resistant to pollution toxicity. It grows on the bottom and sides of logs and fallen branches of hardwood trees.
The fruiting body is a stiff, dry, flat, spread out patch of spore surface attached directly to a branch or log. When growing on the side of a log or branch it may develop shelf-like, ⅜″ to 1½″ wide caps. The white, off-white, or cream-colored patches often fuse together creating a long row. There are 2 or 3 pores every thirty-second of an inch. The pore walls are thin and disintegrate unevenly. Eventually, only flattened, tooth-like projections less than ¼″ long remain. The flesh is thin and tough. It is not edible.
Photo by Carrie Schunk
Witch’s Hat (Hygrocybe conica) is a small waxcap mushroom. It is common in Minnesota in deciduous and mixed woodlands. It grows on the ground in damp soil, alone, scattered, or in groups under hardwood trees, especially oak. In other areas it is also found under conifers and in grasslands.
When it first appears the cap is sharply cone-shaped and usually bright orange, sometimes bright red. As it ages fades to yellow or orangish and flattens out but retains a pointed raised center. Older caps develop black areas and eventually turn completely black. All parts of the mushroom turn black when bruised. The stalk usually grooved, often twisted, and never slimy.
Witch’s Hat was once considered poisonous due to four reported deaths in China, but those reports are now thought to be mistaken. It may be somewhat psychoactive. Eating it is not recommended.
Photo by Luciearl
Elegant Sunburst Lichen (Xanthoria elegans) is an extremely widespread and very common lichen. It grows on rocks in humid to dry micro climates on all continents except Australia. It is common on rocky shores, especially where bird droppings provide nitrogen for its sustenance. It is very common on the rocky shores of Lake Superior.
Elegant Sunburst Lichen is very long lived and very slow growing: it grows at a consistent rate of 1 ⁄64″ per year for the first hundred years before slowing down a bit. The color of the upper surface varies with the amount of available moisture : in streams it is yellowish-orange, on rocks out of water it is orange, and in dry areas it is dark reddish-orange.
Photo by Luciearl
Eastern Candlewax Lichen (Ahtiana aurescens) is a medium-sized lichen that grows on the bark of cedar and pine trees. In eastern North America it is found in undisturbed old growth forests, where the dense shade, high humidity, and the texture of the substrate (bark), combine to create ideal conditions for its proliferation. In Minnesota it is found only in the Arrowhead region and usually in northern white cedar swamps. Habitat destruction due to logging of old growth forests threatens this species continued survival in Minnesota. For this reason, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has listed this as a Special Concern species.
Eastern Candlewax Lichen is identified by the yellowish-green upper surface that is not powdery, granular, chalky, or “frosted” in appearance; the lower surface that is pale brown, smooth, and shiny; its growth on cedar and pine bark; and its occurrence in the Great Lakes region.
Photo by Alfredo Colon
There are more than 850 species of nomad bee (Nomada sp.) worldwide, more than 280 species in North America. Like other cuckoo bees (subfamily Nomadinae), nomad bees do not construct nests, but lay their eggs in the nests of ground-nesting bees. One to four eggs are laid in the cell wall of the host nest. The larvae have large, outward-facing, scissor-like mandibles. The first larva to emerge destroys all the other eggs, both those of the host and those of its own siblings. It consumes the pollen provisioned by its host, and emerges as an adult the same time as the host adults emerge.
Nomad bees are usually black, black and red, or entirely red, with yellow, white, and/or red markings. Many species have red legs. The genus Nomada includes the only bees in North America that are entirely red. They have short, thin, and inconspicuous hairs on the body and no pollen-collecting hairs (scopa) on the hind legs. They look more like wasps than a bees.
Photo by LizInMpls
Devil’s Stinkhorn (Phallus rubicundus) is native to the subtropical region of northern Africa, Australia, South America, northern Mexico and southern United States. It has spread throughout the eastern United States, probably in wood chip mulch imported from those regions. It is now common east of the Great Plains. It is found from spring through summer in lawns and gardens, especially where wood chip mulch is used. It grows on the ground, in wood chips or sawdust piles, singly or in groups.
The fruiting body at first is whitish to pale brown and egg-shaped, and resembles a puffball partially submerged in the ground. Inside the “egg” there is a gelatinous layer, a spore mass, and all of the fully-formed parts of the mature stinkhorn. When conditions are right the “egg” ruptures and expands rapidly. In one or two days it produces a distinctly phallic structure with a stalk and thimble-like head. The rapid expansion is possible because all of the parts are fully formed and compressed inside the “egg”, and because the individual cells elongate, rather than new cells being produced. As the stinkhorn expands the gelatinous layer mixes with the spore mass producing a shiny, putrid slime that covers the cap. The foul-smelling slime is irresistible to flies, which feed on it, lay their eggs in it, and transfer spores when they fly to other stinkhorns.
Photo by Luciearl
Reindeer lichens are the primary source of food in winter for caribou (reindeer), hence the common name Reindeer Lichens. They are long lived, surviving 100 years or more, and they are slow growing. A clump crushed by a footprint may take decades to recover.
Green Reindeer Lichen (Cladonia mitis) is very common in Alaska, throughout Canada, and across the northern United States except in the Pacific northwest. It is especially common in white spruce and black spruce forests. It forms dense mats with other reindeer lichens that can form a continuous carpet on the forest floor. A single clump often contains more than one species of reindeer lichen.
Green Reindeer Lichen is similar in appearance to Gray Reindeer Lichen (Cladonia rangiferina). The terminal branchlets of the former spread in all directions, while those of the latter are swept in one direction.
Photo by Kirk Nelson
Representative Bruce Vento was well-known as a champion for environmental causes in Minnesota and across the nation. During his tenure in Congress, he was chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands for ten years, overseeing the enactment of 300 laws. After his death in 2000, several places in the Metro area were established in his honor: the Vento View Overlook near Cherokee Park, the Bruce Vento Regional Trail in Maplewood and St. Paul, which then leads down through Swede Hollow to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. The 27-acre sanctuary is located just east of downtown St. Paul, tucked in between the railroad tracks along Warner Road and the bluffs below Mounds Park. One cave, called Wakan Tipi (Spirit House), was a significant site for the Native Americans living in the area. In 1853, the North Star Brewery was built here, and they used one of the caves to store beer. Starting in the 1880’s, the area became a railroad and industrial area, later becoming largely abandoned in the 1970’s. In 2001, a coalition of St. Paul residents, neighborhood groups, and the City of St. Paul started work on purchasing the land, and in 2005 it became an official park open to the public. There is an ongoing effort to restore the land’s ecology and native plant communities, though reminders of the industrial history have been left in place. The sanctuary has also become a significant location for birdwatching and for educational opportunities.
— Text and photo by Kirk Nelson
Photo by LMG
Rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) is a medium- to large-sized freshwater crustacean. It is native to Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky. It is used extensively by fishermen as bait, and is sold as an aquarium pet. Unused bait and release of aquarium pets have resulted in the introduction of this species across the United States. It is considered invasive outside of its native range.
Rusty crayfish are extremely aggressive. They out-compete and eventually eliminating native crayfish species when introduced into a new site. Juveniles have a higher metabolic rate, eat twice as much, and develop much faster than native crayfish species of similar size.
Rusty crayfish is identified by a rust-colored spot on each side of its upper shell; a rust-colored stripe on the uppers side of its abdomen; and very large claws with an S-shaped movable finger.
Photo by Scott Leddy
Iowa skipper (Atrytone arogos iowa) is a species of special concern in Minnesota. Its populations are restricted to undisturbed tallgrass and shortgrass prairies in the Great Plains. Massive habitat destruction and excessively frequent prescribed burning on managed prairies are major threats to the subspecies survival. It is declining in the northern parts of its range. It is no longer found in 200 western counties it was once known from. It is estimated that there are over 100 remaining populations, but those are small and scattered. It is considered uncommon to rare wherever it occurs. In Minnesota, it is found mostly in the southwest quarter of the state.
Iowa skipper is a small to medium-sized grass skipper. The wings are yellowish-orange with a broad, dark border. The female has a thin black streak in the center of the forewing, but otherwise the wings are unmarked. When at rest, the forewings are held at a 45° angle and the hindwiings are held horizontal, a configuration that resembles an F-15 Eagle fighter jet.
Iowa skipper is similar in appearance to the Delaware skipper (Anatrytone logan), which is much more common. Iowa skipper is distinguished by the lack of any black veining on the upperside of the wings; lack of a black cell end bar on the forewing; wing undersides not as bright; and the hindwing fringe that is usually white, not tan or orange.