Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Orange poo and red hats

It's officially a winter day where I live – it's raining. My backyard has turned into a monster mud pit. The sky is gray and everything else ranges from muddy green to brown. But, there is some colour – you just need to look closely. Close to home, the holly bush over my black fence is sporting a few red berries. In the forest there is other colourful natural stuff to be found, even this time of year. Looking through my photos of last winter I found these two colourful gems.

One of my favorites is what I always called 'orange poo'. I remember finding it the woods where I grew up and thinking it was poo of some magical creature. Anyway, by consulting my 'Common Mushrooms of the Northwest' book, I've found it called 'orange jelly' or Dacrymyces palmatus. It's a fungi and apparently edible but not too tasty – I'm not going to confirm this as I have a general policy of not eating wild mushrooms and this particular on is associated with poo in my mind.

If you look closely at a rotting log, you might find a tiny hit of red from the British Soldier lichen or Cladonia floerkeanna (this one I found in my 'Mosses, Lichens and Ferns of the Northwest North America' book). To me this lichen looks like a match.

In general, a lichen is a fungi that is living symbiotically with some sort of alga. Lichens can survive in all sorts of extreme places – some even survived being exposed to outer space for over two weeks (yes, an experiment was conducted on this). Reading the introduction section of my the lichen section of my book it says lichens are used to dye cloth, ferment beer, and in perfumes, lotions and toothpaste – some can even be eaten.

Even on a winter walk, if you observe carefully, there are all sorts of interesting colourful things to see.

I took both photos while on walks last winter

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