Teeth You Can Eat

I just love it when the experts say that something is widespread and common, yet I have just encountered it for the first time in my half-century-plus lifetime.  Such is the case with a couple of fungi I encountered over the weekend.

Another Bizzare Fungus
According to Michael Kuo, “Hericium americanum is North America’s only Hericium species with long spines and a branched fruiting body.”

As I surfed around looking for more information about this one I discovered that it has many common names including Bear’s Head Tooth Fungus, Monkey Head, Lion’s Mane, Pom pon Blanc, and Icicle Mushroom.  I also discovered that the scientific name has changed recently and you might find it listed as Hericium coralloides, a name that has now officially been given to a different species – a coral fungus that used to be called Hericium ramosum.  Yikes, I think I’m glad I’m NOT a mycologist!  (Click here for an interestng article about how and why names change.  It’s not related to this fungus, but the story is illustrative!)

There are several Hericium species in the northeast woods.  Kuo says that H. americanum is sometimes confused with H. erinaceus.  So I began to wonder about this one:Bizzare Fungus

H. americanum is branched, H. erinaceus derives from a single clump.  I dunno.  What do you think?  Is the one above a single clump or branched?  The spines (or teeth) are shorter, but I think it is younger, too.

Both are “toothed” fungi, meaning that spores are produced from elongated spines or teeth, rather than from gills or pores as in some other fungi.

All of the Hericium species in North America are edible, so They say, and several species in this genus are cultivated for consumption.  Indeed, the Hericium species are reported to be quite easy to cultivate.

Have any of you sunk your teeth into these teeth before?  How are they?

Learn more:

P.S.  Seabrooke blogged about fungi, too:  http://themarvelousinnature.wordpress.com/2008/09/29/fungal-growths/

You Still Have Time!

Did you do it yet? You still have time!!! Take a child outside week doesn’t end until September 30th! (Of course, you could take a child outside anytime…)

Click the picture for more information about this cool event.  Take someone outside, then write about your experience.

Don’t know any children?  Then take your inner child outside to play.

NCT: Here I Come!

Blackberries by Tom LeBlanc aka Mon@rchMy family knew that my backpacking trip on the Chautauqua County Westside Overland Trail would either get it out of my system, or whet my appetite.  Actually, I think they knew it would only whet my appetite, but perhaps they hoped it would get it out of my system…

Anyway, last week’s trip made me want more, so this weekend, I checked out another chunk of the North Country Trail.  (I hiked a chunk last September and found the leanto to be in fine shape, nicely placed, pleasant!  Read about here.)  Today’s chunk was just 1.3 miles from Coon Run Road to the Willis Creek Leanto.  I didn’t tote the camera, because it was threatening rain, though in the end there were just a few sprinkles.

Maiden's Hair Fern by Free-to-Be on FlickrThe trail is lovely, and so different from the Overland trail.  It is narrow and bordered on both sides by plenty of understory – ferns, wildflowers, shrubs, brambles.  I saw Maiden’s Hair fern… my favorite, I think.  And we found a large bush of blackberries which we ate and ate and ate…  So sweet and juicy!

One of the highlights of the walk was being startled!  Startled by a pair of Ruffed Grouse.  The first one flew up from our right side, across the path and up into the brush on the left.  The second flew away from us in the opposite direction.

Ruffed Grouse by Tom LeBlanc aka Mon@rch

Anyway, I think this section of the North Country Trail that goes through Allegany State Park is going to be another lovely trail to backpack, with leantos positioned at just the right distance apart, slightly less total distance, but a bit more challenging because of the more mountainous terrain (relatively speaking!) Can’t wait!

I didn’t get permission for any of these photos…  I hope the photographers don’t mind…

Photos “stolen” from:


Pawpaw Range MapEarlier this summer, Sarah got very excited when she noticed that the Pawpaw tree had fruits.  She has been waiting for months for them to ripen.  In the 10 years I have worked at Audubon, I don’t recall it ever having fruits.  In fact, I don’t recall paying much attention to the tree at all…  What a mistake, for it is a lovely tree.

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a native tree of Eastern North America, though it tends to like inland, humid climes, more than the cooler seasides.  The USDA range map for North America is misleading, since entire states are colored even if only a single county holds a specimen.  Look at New York and Florida, for example:

Pawpaw Range Map NYSPawpaw Range Map FL

Also, the USDA only shows places where plants are native or naturalized.  Apparently it is grown in several states for the delicious fruit, which I tasted for the first time yesterday.

Sarah Searches for PawpawsWe headed out to the Arboretum and Sarah began searching for fruits that were just beginning to show a bit of brown on the otherwise green skin.



The Peterson Guide to Edible Plants says you should pick them when they are green, bring them inside and wait until they are brown to eat them.  We didn’t read the book before going out, so we did it our own way:

Sarah selected one that was nice and soft and began to peel it:Peeling a Pawpaw

She handed it to me so I could take a bite:
Eating a Pawpaw

The fruit is soft, like a cross between a banana and a mango:
Eating a Pawpaw

That was my first taste of Pawpaw and you can bet it won’t be my last!  (I wonder if any more of them will be ripe tomorrow?)

The seeds are large and disk-shaped:
Pawpaws are Yummy and have cool Seeds
Native Americans are credited with spreading the Pawpaw across “the eastern U.S. to eastern Kansas and Texas, and from the Great Lakes almost to the Gulf.” (source)

Pawpaws also produce root suckers a few feet from the tree.  If these are allowed to grow, you will have a Pawpaw patch like the one in the folksong!  Pawpaws are understory trees and don’t reestablish well after a clearcut.

Learn more:


This stuff is wicked good!  Sue and I shared some with a cup of coffee after the long 10-mile stretch of trail!Some of the delightful parts of the hike were planned.  Like the Maya Gold bar: organic, fairly-traded dark chocolate with orange and spices by Green & Black.  Or the visit by some of Concetta’s and Sue’s co-workers.

Other delightful parts of the hike were completely serendipitous.  In fact, there were many moments of serendipity and they seem to filter into my mind at odd times as I remember the hike.

Like Concetta’s godfather is my uncle.  And we share cousins.  I never knew that!

Dogs Lead the WayIt was fun having three dogs accompany us for part of the hike.  They came out of the woods at one of the sections that crosses private land and took a liking to us.  They frolicked and ran ahead, leading the way down the trail as if they had done this a hundred times.  I wonder how many other hikers they have accompanied?

Eventually we got to a major road where two more dogs lived.  These two were much more vocal and not so happy to see us.  They chased two of our companions off, but this gorgeous dog stayed with us.  I named her “Dawg.”


Dawg continued with us all the way to the first leanto where she was content to lay in the sun and enjoy the gorgeous view of the pond:

View from our Bedroom

The only time Dawg got riled up was when five mountain bikers came barreling down the hill at top speed.  Scotish Piper/BikerShe barked at them as they flew by.  Once they had moved on, we all settled down again to snacks, wine, and conversation.  It wasn’t long, though, before the bikers returned, one with a blown tube.  We offered him snacks while he repaired his tire, and to thank us, he piped us a tune. It was so delightful!

Before we would let the guys leave, we forced them to pose for a photo:


This serendipitous encounter with biking lads inspired us to want to be lasses.  And so we named our adventure group L.A.S.S.  It stands for Ladies Adventure and Social Society, of course!

The Westside Overland Trail

There are a lot of reasons why this trail is perfect for beginning backpackers and for teaching youngsters how to backpack.

Our Bedroom Friday Night1-Terrain: Chautauqua County has a “bumpy” landscape, but not a mountainous one. The trail traverses a couple of ravines which means steep down and steep up! But it’s brief. Most of the trail involves gentle inclines.

2-Leantos: If you are trying to minimize weight, what better way than to leave the tent at home. The leantos are well placed along the trail for an easy 3-day hike. We hiked from south to north: 7.5 miles the first day, 10 the second, and finished on Sunday with 6.5 miles. AND – the leantos are pretty accessible. If you want to start a group slowly with only a short walk to camp, there are back roads where you could park so that you have a much shorter hike.

Hand Pump3-Potable Water: There is no potable water at either terminus, but there is potable water at both of the leantos. We each needed to carry only one 32-oz bottle of water. We might have needed more if the weather had been hotter, though.

4-Well Maintained: The Chautauqua County Parks Department does an increcible job of keeping the trails in good shape. Our hike was the week after the leftovers of Hurricane Ike went through. OK, this is not the built-in grate.  It is a found rack.  But you can see the built-in grate right over there...We had to climb over a couple of fallen trees, but the worst of it had already been cleaned up. The leantos and privies are clean (not immaculate, mind you, but as clean as they need to be for camping!). The fire pits are in good shape with sturdy, built-in grates that are hinged and swing out of the way, or quickly into place. And, there are picnic tables!


We were lucky enough to have perfect weather on top of it all. I didn’t even take a raincoat!

Mission Accomplished!

The Westside Overland Trail is about 25 miles long and runs north-south through Chautauqua County.  While I have made day-hikes out of chunks of it, I have long dreamed of hiking the entire distance, sleeping at the two campsites along the way.  Well, I FINALLY did it last weekend!

Concetta and me!  At the beginning of our 3-day hike...
Concetta and me
Point S – The Beginning! (We hiked it backwards – from South to North)

Girl Scout friend Concetta took a personal day from work so that she could join me for the entire trek; others joined at various points along the way.

I imagine I’ll write more blog posts about this trip… but for now, I’m back.  It was fabulous.  I had a feeling that the trip would either “get it out of my system” or whet my appetite for more.  Yeah.  It was the latter.  Can’t wait to go again!

At the end of the hike...
Deb, Me, Micaela, Concetta, Lena, Sue, and Chiara (in front)
Point A – The End!

Now that I’ve hiked the whole thing, I’ll have to get around to updating the page at my Hike Chautauqua blog.  Eventually…  For now… I better go unpack!

Dragonfly Migration

So, yesterday… I went to Bergman Park to appease The Dog.  I didn’t take the camera because I have an enormous number of backlogged photos that I haven’t dealt with yet.

Luckily, however, I DID have an insect net in the trunk of my car.  Because what I saw was soooo… interesting.

Common Green Darner - Female Teneral CloseupThe big mowed field between the road where I park and the woods where I like to walk was quite active with dragonflies…  and they all seemed to be feeding.  There were at least one hundred, if not more.  I wasn’t sure what they were, though I suspected Common Green Darners.  I wondered if they were stoking up calories for their migration…

I stood patiently in the field for quite a long time, much to Lolli’s dismay, trying to net one.  I finally managed to knock one to the ground, then net it.  Indeed!  It WAS a Common Green Darner.

But what was this?  Another dragon flew close enough to me that I could tell it was a Black Saddlebags… Hmm… A mixed “flock” of dragons.  It was so cool to watch them grab insects out of the air to munch on!

Black Saddlebags

This afternoon, I googled a little and found out that there is still much to be learned about dragonfly migration.  While radio transmitters attached to individuals have given some information about migration behaviors, scientists are trying to figure out a way to “tag” big flocks of them, without having to capture individuals and process them one at a time.  Until a method can be found, scientists will continue to wonder where they go, exactly, when they migrate.

Cool fact:  An adult dragonfly may migrate south, breed and die.  It’s offspring will migrate back north again…  Nature never ceases to amaze me…

Learn more:


I have been increasingly dissatisfied with excite.com for my mail.  Stuff isn’t getting delivered:  to me, and from me.  It all seems to have happened when they “improved” their interface.

1 – Do you use excite.com?  If so, are you experiencing recent trouble?

2 – If you don’t use excite.com, what email DO you use and how satisfied are you?

Much as I hate the idea of switching, I’m ready to switch!

Photo Tips

Wow!  Thanks to all the folks who have offered help, photo tips, and book titles.  I appreciate it!

I think I may understand a bit more than I have led you to believe, however.  Check me on this…  First, the photo:

And Now for Dave's ID

I like to take photos in the woods where the light is low.  I don’t like the way most look with flash, so I avoid flash almost always.  Oh, and I hate carrying a tripod!  So…  For this plant, I actually tried a variety of things:

1 – Set the camera on “P”.  This setting selects both aperture and shutter speed for me, given the light conditions.  Result:  The shutter was way too slow for hand-holding.

2 – Set the camera on “Av” – Aperture priority.  This setting allows me to select the Aperture, then selects the best shutter speed for the light conditions.  I opened it up as far as the lens would allow:  2.8.  Result:  The shutter was way too slow for hand-holding.  (Probably the exact same results as option #1, actually.)

3 – Set the camera on “Tv” – Shutter priority.  This setting allows me to select a shutter speed, then will adjust the aperture for the light conditions.  I selected 1/60 of a second, figuring that was fast enough for me to hand hold.  Result:  The widest this lens can open is 2.8.  The camera displays this setting in my view finder – but it is blinking, indicating there is not enough light for the shot.  I take the shot anyway.  When I get home, I use software to brighten it a little.  And I like the results…  It still has the mood of the ambient light…

So, did I say all that stuff right?  Does it make sense.  Does it show I understand?  Or am I still talking camera trash?  (Be honest!  This is how I learn.)

By the way, I did the same thing on this photo:

Zig Zag Goldenrod Patch