Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ten Wonders In The Woodpile

Slime mold, fungus gnat larvae, globular springtails, and pill bugs...just to name a few. 
   I noticed these wonderful woodpile inhabitants while moving some firewood into a stack last month.  Now I'm burning the wood to heat the house.  So I'm posting a quick overview of these members of my woodpile's ecosystem.
On one of the pieces of wood ...
...was a forest of blue lollipop trees.
Actually, these are extremely small spore-bearing structures (stalked sporangia) of a slime mold.  
The photo below shows what they looked like the next day.

On another log...
... was a candy forest of cherry 'pops.
These orange-colored sporangia weathered a frosty night...hence the flattened, sour-cherry look.  I should have taken the photos sooner.
Encroaching on those "cherry 'pops" (from the bottom side of the picture) is the fruiting body of a fungus.  The picture below shows more of that fungus... Phlebia tremellosa.
The fruiting body of Phlebia tremellosa just spreads over the log like a crust, for the most part. But, in the upper part of the picture you can see it has some little shelves, or folds...almost like it is trying to be a shelf fungus.  Keep in mind the log was turned over so the fungus was not photographed in its natural position.
   Interestingly, when I was looking at the photos, I noticed I missed seeing a whole village of insect larvae on the Phlebia.  Here is a close up... I counted about two dozen larvae (clear-colored), a few pill bug droppings, and one very small beetle in this frame.
Throughout the woodpile, white, branching, fungal hyphae were evident.  Various fungi were beginning the process of digesting the wood.  I liked this nicely radiating mycelial fan.
 When I would lift a piece of wood and look closely among the hyphal strands I would spot many critters.... like the larvae in the photo below.  I believe the clear one is the larva of a fungus gnat.  It is heading toward the left side of the picture.
 The orange grub-like larva had been inside the little "nest" among the fungal hyphae.

I fetched my hand lens to observe this globular springtail.  
With its dark colored body and two white spots, this springtail was easy to see.  Since this springtail wasn't interested in holding still and the lighting wasn't good, I'm hoping to see some another time in order to get better pictures.
While "chasing" the globular springtail, I noticed a variety of colorful fungal growths.  The mixture of colors and textures reminded me of snorkeling on a coral reef.

An iridescent glitter caught my eye.  This humpback, iridescent springtail came by, but wouldn't hold still for its picture.
There were scads of these elongate-bodied springtails.
Springtails (collembola) are an abundant and entertaining lot.
Check out those hairs around the springtail's "neck"...  reminds me of those exaggerated Elizabethan neck ruffs from the late 1500's.

 Pill bugs (Armadillidium) were abundant as well. 
 When I disturbed them they would curl into a ball.  If they were on a sloped surface, they would roll away.
  Pill bug defensive position.

 Below the firewood in the moist ground were a masses of snail or slug eggs.
Slimy things!

Hanging underneath a piece of wood in a sheltered spot was this tussock moth or tiger moth cocoon.  It is covered in the caterpillar's hair
Those hairs probably mean "leave me alone"!

Okay, so maybe that was more like a dozen wonders from the woodpile...and there were plenty more! 
But hey, I was stacking wood and couldn't get too side-tracked.
Hopefully, I can post more details on some of these woodpile wonders another time.


  1. That cocoon acts like a teeny, tiny porcupine.
    Love the shot with of them hairs embedded in your finger tip.

    This post is a marvellous example of a quote I love, Dana.

    "Within walking distance of any spot on Earth, there's probably more than enough mystery to investigate in a lifetime. (Alix Kates Shulman - "Drinking the Rain)

    Happy New Year Dana !

  2. Sybil,
    Thanks for that excellent quote.
    There's a lot of truth to that. In fact, I've considered doing all my posts about nature I encounter on our half acre. I settled for tagging some with "backyard", although I forget to categorize all the pertinent ones...for example; this post.

  3. Hello!

    I would like to use the picture IMGP2705 (of the fungal hyphae on wood) as a metaphor for a network of student chapters of my organization, New Forest Earth. Would that be ok? I will link back to your wonderful blog in the description!

    I'll put it up for now, and will take it down if you don't want me to use it. Please let me know if that is ok.

    Thank you,