Saturday, August 17, 2019
Photo by Kirstin Ohrt
On the banks of the Millstone River in Kingston, D&R Canal State Park Naturalist Stephanie Fox introduced participants to a teeming, fascinating world of
water critters, and explained how they can be indicators of water quality. With nets, magnifying lenses, and aquatic macroinvertebrate charts, "stompers"
had a cool time in the water!
Photos by Colleen Schantzer:
Photos by Kirstin Ohrt:
KGA ANNUAL MEETING AND PROGRAM ON MUSHROOMS
Wednesday, May 15
Kingston Firehouse, 8 Heathcote Road, Kingston
Jim Barg of the NJ Mycological Association presented “A Brief Introduction to Finding and Identifying Wild Mushrooms,” a look at what mushrooms are, how they
grow, and how beginners can go about starting to identify the mushrooms they find. Jim is a semi-retired graphic designer who is currently employed as a
freelance wild food and mushroom forager for several restaurants in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area. He is a past President of the New Jersey Mycological
Association and is one of their veteran mushroom identifiers. He also serves as art director for the Association’s bimonthly newsletter. In addition, Jim
is a consultant to the New Jersey Poison Control Center, acting as one of several mushroom identifiers who are called in cases of suspected mushroom
poisonings. A short summary of his talk follows.
Jim used the words mushroom and fungi interchangeably in his talk. Fungi cannot make their own food, as plants do, so they rely on their substrate (that on
which they grow) for sustenance. The business end of the mushroom is IN the substrate. What is visible is the fruiting body, which produces spores--like
single-celled seeds. Spores under the right conditions form hyphae, similar to a cotton ball in appearance, which is the way fungi achieve growth. Spores can be
dispersed in a variety of ways. For instance, the dog stinkhorn attracts flies to its viscous spore mass, which then spread its spores when the flies die
Spore prints may be made by placing the mushroom cap on a piece of white paper, covering it with a bowl, and waiting for the spores to drop. The prints can
be beautiful as well as useful in identification, due to their distinctive appearance.
Fungal cells are similar in composition to those of shrimp and crabs, as they are made of chitin, and not lignin. Fungi either assist the growth of plants,
or hasten plants' breakdown by extatcting nutrients. Parasites feed on plants, eventually killing the plants and themselves, making way for the decayers.
But the majority of fungi are mycorrhizals that have a symbiotic relationship with their trees. As the fungi thrive, they serve the vital function of
keeping moisture going into the trees.
Tree identification is an asset in mushroom identification, as most fungi are only able to grow under or near specific trees. For example, the prized morel
is found only under tulip poplar, white ash, dying apple trees, or dead elms. Hen of the woods is a parasite of oak.
In attempting to identify wild mushrooms, it is crucial to be obsessively observant. There are lots of look-alikes. The macro characteristics must be
looked at in detail. These include the general shape or profile or silhouette--cap, stem, and base-- as well as the texture, color, appearance of the bottom,
the underside of the cap, gill formation, odor (fresh specimens only),and the presence of a ring or veil.
Where is it growing? On the ground? On a tree? Under a tree? On another fungus? (The medicinal mushroom cordyceps grows on dead caterpillars!) Is where it's
growing dry or wet, sunny or shady? What is the soil like? What kind of trees are nearby? What season is it? All fungi have their own season. Is it growing
singly, or in groups? Edible chanterelles grow under beech and black birch in summer, and singly--but a close look-alike, Jack-o-Lantern, grows in a mass
attached at the base and is poisonous. (True to its name, it also glows in the dark!)
If there are gills, are they attached to the stem, or not? Does the mushroom change color when stroked or cut? Does it produce "milk"?
The Amanita family of mushrooms all exhibit a swollen base that looks like a cup or vase form which the stem rises. This is a valuable characteristic to
observe because of Amanita's highly toxic nature. A common mushroom in our area, Amanita amerivirescens,or the "Destroying Angel," is considered one of the three deadliest in the world.
There are the "Foolproof Four" edible mushrooms--Puffball, Chicken, Morel, and Inky Cap--but mushroom seekers should heed Jim's advice:
"When in doubt, throw it out!"
Anyone wishing to go deeper should consider getting a mushroom identification guide, and to visit the NJ Mycological Association's web site:
EARTH DAY CLEANUPS
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Our thanks to the volunteers who joined us to celebrate Earth Day by removing garbage from our open spaces, woods, and roadsides. The cleanup of Laurel
Avenue and the environs of Rockingham Historic Site was ably undertaken by the morning crew.
In the afternoon, volunteers collected litter in areas adjacent to Mapleton Road, Division Street, Heathcote Road, Ridge Road, Greenwood Avenue, and Railroad
FALL FOLIAGE WALK
Sunday, October 14, 2018
Despite our best intentions, the new trail in Cook rebuilt by Eagle Scout Marc Gambino and his team was far too wet for an enjoyable walk, so we explored
the Mapleton Preserve instead. As fall foliage color also did not cooperate with our plans, our focus turned to fungi! Our group's sharp eyes noticed many
fantastically different types of mushrooms that walk leader Karen Linder helped identify. We learned about their structures, life cycles, reproduction methods, and
WILDLIFE AMBASSADORS DEMONSTRATION
Sunday, September 16th, 2018
Jane Rakos-Yates gave an excellent program on wildlife and the work of the Mercer County Wildlife Center
An enthusiastic crowd gathered to meet three permanent residents from the Mercer County Wildlife Center, which exists to rehabilitate ill, injured or
displaced wildlife, and release them back into their natural habitats. The animals that visited us are, for various reasons, not releasable back into the
wild, but serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. Our wildlife guests were a saw-whet owl, an Eastern striped skunk, and a red-tail hawk
(read his story here): Red-tail Hawk
Eastern striped skunk
and Red-tail hawk
The Center is a state and federally licensed facility that cares for injured, ill and displaced native wildlife. Last year Mercer County Wildlife Center
treated 2,472 animals of nearly 130 different species. If you have found a wild animal needing help, please call the Wildlife Center at (609) 303-0552.
The animal may not actually need assistance, and removing it from its environment may cause more harm. They will help you decide whether the animal needs
care and, if necessary, ask you to bring it to the Center. Learn about co-existing with wildlife, and lots more about the Wildlife Center at
Wildlife Center Friends
KGA ANNUAL MEETING AND PROGRAM ON TICKS AND TICK-BORNE DISEASES WITH DR. ALVARO TOLEDO
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Dr. Alvaro Toledo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology at Rutgers. His primary focus is to establish a research program on Lyme disease,
ticks and the vector-borne pathogens at the Center for Vector Biology. Ticks are the most important vectors for infectious diseases in the northern
hemisphere, and second after mosquitoes worldwide. Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of different vertebrate species. Typically, ticks have 4
stages (egg, larvae, nymph and adult) that feed on three different hosts in a two-year life cycle. Ticks can transmit different diseases, including Lyme
disease, Human granulocytic anaplasmosis and Babesisis among others. The causative agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is a spirochete and is
transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks (this is the only way one can get Lyme disease). The safest way to remove ticks is by grasping
and pulling them out with tweezers, as close to the skin as possible. Other methods (vaseline, nail polish remover, matches) may stress the tick, and make
it more likely that you could be infected!
Dr. Toledo has kindly provided to KGA a copy of his fascinating and informative presentation, which may be viewed here:
Dr. Toledo's Tick Talk