Mushroom, Letharia, and Linnaea

Seeley Lake, MT
September 13, 2014
Robert Niese

 

Mushrooms are those sorts of organisms that are hopeless to identify without taking samples back home to reference later. This little guy was just too perfectly placed for me to have the heart to pick it. Again, late summer in the Larch forests around Seeley Lake has proven to be excellent for mushroom hunting!

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Suillus grevillei “Greville’s Suillus Bolete” Basidiomycota

Seeley Lake, MT
September 13, 2014
Robert Niese

 

Here’s another species of bolete in the easily recognizable Suillus genus that grows in the Larch forests around Seeley Lake. Again, this species of Suillus is an ectomycorrhizal symbiont with Larch. (I should note that not all members of this genus are associated with Larch, but when you’re hunting for mushrooms in a Larch forest, you tend to find Larch symbionts). This species, unlike the others I’ve posted so far, has a slimy or viscid cap. This slime is known to cause gastrointestinal problems for those adventurous enough to attempt to eat these fungi, so be sure to remove the outer layer prior to preparation. Unfortunately, Greville’s Bolete is said to have no flavor and a generally mushy consistency when cooked, so I just wouldn’t recommend it.

Suillus cavipes “Hollow-stemmed Suillus Bolete” Basidiomycota

Seeley Lake, MT
September 13, 2014
Robert Niese

Here’s another bolete from my late summer mushroom-hunting extravaganza in the Larch forests around Seeley Lake. This species, another easily-recognizable bolete in the genus Suillus, is also an ectomycorrhizal symbiont with larch trees (Larix). This species has a dry, very scaly cap that tends to be dark brown in color. Like other members of this genus, it also has angular pores that appear to radiate from the stipe. The best way to confirm the identification of this species, however, is to cut open its stipe and verify that it’s hollow. Unlike other members of this genus, S. cavipes is far more palatable and has a pleasant earthy taste when dried, but, like other Suillus boletes, tends to be slimy when cooked. Here, S. cavipes is growing among Twin-flower (Linnaea borealis), Canadian Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), Prince’s Pine (Chimaphila umbellata), and, of course, Western Larch (Larix occidentalis).

     

Suillus ochraceoroseus pores, by Robert Niese

Suillus ochraceoroseus “Rosy-ochre Suillus Bolete” Basidiomycota

Seeley Lake, MT
September 13, 2014
Robert Niese

I’m only just getting around to identifying the half dozen species of boletes I encountered while camping in Larch forests around Seeley Lake last summer. These fungi are all edible (although not always palatable and often infested with fly larvae) and comparatively easy to ID correctly. This genus is most readily recognized by its angular pores that radiate out from the stipe like cells on a leaf. Nearly all members of this genus are ectomycorrhizal symbionts with conifers here in the PNW. This species in particular is almost always found under Larch trees (Larix) in the late summer and early fall. Its cap is dry and scaly and tends to be rosy in the middle and orange-yellow (ochre) towards the edge. Apparently this species is best when dried, but is not often eaten because of its acrid or bitter taste.

In honor of National Dog Day, get outside and explore with your canine friends!

Hub Lake Trail, Lolo National Forest, St. Regis, MT
August 16, 2015
Robert Niese

We recently adopted Zorro form RezQ Dogs and the Montana Companion Animal Network. Like all puppies, he loves getting outdoors and exploring all the sights and smells of our PNW forests. The gorgeous old growth cedar forests and spruce stands of the Hub Lake region are an especially unique trip for us, since most of the Missoula and Bitterroot Valley are drier, Ponderosa Pinelands. I highly recommend it to any of my followers from the eastern PNW!

Speyeria hydaspe “Hydaspe Fritillary” Nymphalidae
on Agastache urticifolia “Nettle-leaf Giant Hyssop” Lamiaceae

Great Burn, Lolo National Forest, MT
July 10, 2015
Robert Niese

Fritillaries are a common, large butterfly here in the PNW east of the Cascades. There are several species that are regularly found in our area. Learn more about them here. This particular fritillary is feeding on the nectar of a very interesting and quite common local plant. Its Latin name, Agastache, is Greek for “many spikes” and, as you might guess, its inflorescence looks like a giant spike ball. Like many other members of the mint family, giant hyssop is commonly used in herbal teas and poultices for a variety of medicinal purposes. In particular, the leaves can be used to induce sweating and as a vasodilator. This particular species is quite abundant in the PNW east of the Cascades and is a favorite food source for many ungulates like deer, elk, cows, and moose.

Leucoma salicis “Satin Moth” Lymantriidae (now Erebidae)

Clinton, MT
July 25, 2015
Robert Niese

 

Here’s another species from our National Moth Week event

with the Missoula Butterfly House. Satin Moths are native to the Palearctic, from the British Isles to Japan, but was introduced to the US in the 1920s. The moth was originally introduced to the Northeast, but specimens have been collected from the Pacific Northwest quite regularly in the past years, suggesting that a new population may have been introduced here recently. Their larvae eat the leaves of aspen, poplar, and willow until they’re fat enough to overwinter under the bark of their host trees. Adults are nearly pure white and hard to confuse with any other local moth species. And they’re so darn cute!

Leptogaster (coloradensis?) “Colorado Slender Robber Fly” Asilidae

Clinton, MT
July 25, 2015
Robert Niese

 

When we first saw this odd fly on our sheets during our mothlighting event last month, we thought it was a parasitic wasp! Turns out its a Leptogaster robber fly, a group of flies that are very poorly studied. Montana only has records for two species of Leptogaster flies, but it’s possible that several others occur here, and others may still be new to science. Robber flies are the tigers of the insect world and this individual likely joined us at the sheets to partake in a late night snack of gnats and midges.

Lebia viridis (cyanipennis) “Western Colorful Foliage Beetle” Carabidae

Clinton, MT
July 25, 2015
Robert Niese

This awesome carnivorous beetle joined us at the sheets during our Mothlighting event for National Moth Week with the Missoula Butterfly House. These colorful Carabids didn’t come to the light looking for sex though. They were on the hunt! This guy was speedily chasing after gnats and other small insects that we had attracted to our lights. In my opinion, watching these tiny predators was just as exciting as any lion hunt in Africa!