Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Hericium erinaceus Just in time for Halloween: Fungi with TEETH! This pure white mushroom is quite the rock star in the fungus world, being both an edible and medicinal fungus.  It grows on recently downed or wounded hardwood trees, which is exactly where I found these! As a mushroom, Lion’s Mane is just a mass of white spines,…

Golden Aster

Chrysopsis mariana Blooming in late summer, this showy, golden yellow aster grows in barren areas.  These were photographed growing along a steep roadside embankment on Brush Mountain in Southwest Virginia. The leaves are alternate, simple, entire to ever-so-lightly toothed, hairy, with a strong mid-rib. The leaves are larger at the bottom of the plant, growing smaller…

Honey Mushrooms

Armillaria Honeys! Here’s another new mushroom for me! There are two honey mushroom species pictured in this gallery—both are parasitic on hardwood trees.  Armillaria mellea has a distinct ring, or annulus on the stipe and a partial veil when new; the gills are attached; the color is typically honey yellow. Armillaria tabescens is ringless; the…

Purple-stemmed and New York Aster

Aster… I have a limit as to how long I’ll try to key out difficult flowers, and I’ve hit mine with the fall asters! Right now, there are autumn-blooming asters everywhere that bear alternate, lanceolate leaves that lack petioles and clasp the stem. The leaf margin is usually gently toothed. Each flower head has 30 or more ray flowers…

Great Blue Lobelia

Lobelia siphilitica It is a late summer treat to see great blue lobelia in full bloom, often alongside the fabulously red cardinal flower. Sometimes called “blue cardinal flower”, great blue lobelia resembles red cardinal flower, (Lobelia cardinalis), in stature, habitat, and structure. Both of these plants are tall wetland species with colorful flowers borne on terminal racemes. Their…

Spindles, Worms, and Corals: Oh My!

How many shapes can can a mushroom take? Apparently the answer is MANY! The following group of fungi take the form of worms, spindles and corals, and their names reflect the diversity of colors and shapes that are currently unfolding in our local woods. Smokey Worm Corals, Magenta Corals, Beautiful Corals, Orange Spindles…click on any…

Yellow Fringed Orchid

Platanthera ciliaris This magnificent, bright yellow-orange orchid blooms in July and August in our area.  It can be found in open woods, in either dry or wet places, although most of the photos below were taken in boggy places. As you can see, these exotic flowers are borne in a dense cluster at the top…

Late July Mushrooms

Here are a few unusual mushrooms from a recent walk in the Gateway Trail and Pandapas areas around Blacksburg, Virginia.

Blue Vervain

Verbena hastata No need to bend over to see this tall beauty!  Blue vervain grows 2 to 5 feet tall! I found these plants growing on the banks of Pandapas Pond in June and July in Montgomery County, Virginia. The 5-petaled, violet-blue flowers of blue vervain are borne on unique branching spikes. The flowers on…

The Grisette and Tawny Grisette

Amanita vaginata The Grisette is a species in the genus Amanita, a group that contains a number of deadly mushrooms. Unlike most of the other Amanitas, this mushroom lacks a ring on the stem, even though it emerges from a sac-like volva in the ground. Young specimens emerge with an oval cap, which eventually becomes…

The Blusher

Amanita rubescens Here’s a classic mushroom, warts and all. “The Blusher” is a common, colorful mushroom in the genus Amanita that has a prominent ring (and sometimes a full veil) on the stem.  The cap is reddish-brown to yellow-beige and freckled with warts; the stem tends to take on the color of the cap. The…

July Mushroom Foray at Pandapas Pond

So much rain this summer in Southwest Virginia…it is a banner year for fruits and vegetables, and especially for wild mushrooms. Another mushroom foray around the Pandapas Pond area in Montgomery County produced the following fun assortment of wild fungi in our local woods. The best highlight for me was moose antlers ! What we found…

Moose Antlers

Wynnea americana Found July 17th in the Pandapas Pond area of Jefferson National Forest: Moose Antlers! Thanks to John Ford for identifying it right on the spot! From WIKIPEDIA: “Wynnea americana, commonly known as moose antlers or rabbit ears, is a species of fungus in the Sarcoscyphaceae family. This uncommon inedible species is recognizable by…

Black Trumpets

Craterellus cornucopioides Although I’ve heard of edible black trumpet mushrooms before, I was not expecting to find them today. I practically fell over them on my way to pick up a few chanterelles! Once I got a good look at them, I started to find them at just about every spot where I also found…

Mushroom Foray #5

A July 8th mushroom foray with John Ford (can you call a two-person mushroom hunt a “foray”?) resulted in a whole bunch of new species for me.  Here are some of the species we found.  If you can identify some of the “mystery” species, please leave me a comment.  Thanks! Golden-gilled Gerronema And finally, found…

July 4th Mushroom Walk

Here are a few of the interesting fungi I found growing at Pandapas Pond on July 4th.  I know a few of these, but some of them are unidentified. If you know what they are, will you drop me a line?  Thanks! Click on any image in the gallery for a larger view.

Chicory

Cichorium intybus Chicory, blue sailors, wild succory, coffeeweed, or cornflower…whatever you want to call it–how can you not LOVE the bright blue flowers of this tough little wildflower? In a summer field, chicory stands out because of its tall, rigid stems that almost appear woody.  Here and there along the stem appear aster-like flowers in…

Golden Chanterelles

Cantharellus cibarius It’s time to get out in our local forests and maybe find a “pot of gold”: dozens of big, fresh chanterelles crowded into a small patch, yours for the taking. There is not much more to say about this, except “wow, they are mighty fine brushed with olive oil and garlic, and then grilled whole over…

Common Mullein

Verbascum thapsus Common mullein is a large biennial plant that can grow 5 to 6 feet in height.  The distinctive, grayish-green, oval leaves are covered in a downy hair that is very soft to the touch. In the plant’s first year, only a basal rosette of leaves appears. In the second year, a tall flower…

Rattlesnake Weed

Hieracium venosum The leaves of this plant are the real attraction. A basal rosette of oval, bluish green leaves hugs the forest floor. Each leaf is outlined with deep purple veins that form a net-like pattern. From May to September, the plant can be found in bloom in shady, dry forests. The dandelion-like, yellow flower…

Virginia Heartleaf

Hexastylis virginica This is another form of heartleaf ginger.  The plants pictured on this page are sporting new spring leaves: glossy and dark green.  Later they can become frosted with white. The leaves are 2 to 3 inches wide and up to 6 inches tall, and as the name implies, they are heart-shaped.  Unlike little heartleaf,…

Marsh Blue Violets

Viola cucullata Marsh blue violet is a woodland violet with blue flowers that prefers moist places. The heart-shaped leaves grow from the base of the plant (no stem!) on long stalks.  The beautiful blue flowers are held above the leaves on even longer stalks.  The full height of the plant is between 5 and 10…

Gaywings

Fringed Polygala or Gaywings Polygala paucifolia At first glance, the color and texture of this flower call to mind an orchid.  The complicated structure, complete with wing-like sepals, resembles a flying bird or airplane.  Two petals are joined together to make a tube; a third, lower petal is fringed. The rosy pink or purple flowers…

Heartleaf Foamflower

Tiarella cordifolia I have this plant growing in my garden as a woodland ground cover, and right now, in late April, it is beautiful!  Although you can find foamflower for sale in many nurseries, this is indeed a native perennial plant.  The photos here were taken in the forest near White Rocks campground in Giles County….

Mountain Bellwort

Uvularia puberula If you look at the photo above, at first glance, the plant looks a bit like Solomon’s Seal, but it is glossier and the leaflets are more rounded. The stem is different too: it zigzags back and forth at every leaflet, and each stem is branched into two distinct parts. For two years now, I’ve…

Coltsfoot

Tussilago farfara Coltsfoot. This introduced species is a very early spring wildflower. The flowers appear before the leaves are formed, usually in March and April.  Someone informed me that an old-time common name for this plant was “Son Before Father”, because the flower comes up before the leaves fully develop. Gotta love those common names–this one…

Rue Anemone

Anemonella thalictroides Tiny and delicate, the white to pinkish flowers of rue anemone explode in early spring like bright lights on the dark forest floor. The small, three-lobed leaves resemble meadow rue in appearance.  The plant is so dainty that it moves almost constantly in the slightest wind, making it a challenge to photograph!  Note…