Perhaps Parasola plicatilis, the Pleated Inkcap, in Flagler county, Florida; 09 July 2014

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Perhaps Parasola plicatilis, the Pleated inkcap, photographed in Flagler county, Florida (09 July 2014).

The Word For The Day: PLICATE |ˈplīkāt, -kit | adjective Biology & Geology | folded, crumpled, or corrugated.

And that pretty much sums up the delicate, folded, crumpled, and tiny mushrooms featured here. If my identification is correct, this is perhaps Parasola plicatilis, the Pleated inkcap. I’m the first to admit I can’t really identify this fungi with total certainly. Apparently it’s rather hard to do so without collecting and studying spore samples, and that’s somewhat beyond my pay grade. Unlike most vertebrates and a decent number of other animals, fungi species can be wicked difficult to  distinguish from one another and often require spore sample evaluations. Whereas their biodiversity is immensely expansive, their morphological traits are far too often incredibly similar to one another.

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Assuming this is a Pleated inkcap (and I do suspect that it perhaps maybe possibly is), it is a saprophyte fungi, and that brings us to…

The Second Word For The DaySAPROPHYTE |ˈsaprəˌfīt | noun Biology | a plant, fungus, or microorganism that lives on dead or decaying organic matter.

Inkcaps derive their nutrition from rotting, decaying organic matter in loose or grassy soils. They help usher through and recycle deceased organic matter back into the grand system of life. They’re also incredibly lovely to look at.

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I found an impressive number of these yellow-tinted ink caps growing about the trailed grounds surrounding the Daytona State College campus in Flagler / Palm Coast, Florida. They were growing directly from the soil, most often in somewhat open and exposed spaces (though there was admittedly still a bit of canopy overhead). Some were still in their umbrella form (see below), but most were wide open (see above).

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I barely caught sight of a small cluster of these fungi about midway through my little break-hike while at work. I was, of course, looking for larger organisms, namely snakes and lizards… but once I caught sight of these inkcaps, I kept seeing them. In fact, as I walked back to campus, back to work, I spotted quite a few I’d blindly passed by earlier. Yet there they were, hidden in plain sight, these tiny, delicate, and small mushrooms quietly going about the business of life and recycling. Makes me wonder how many beautiful things I walk past each and every day without ever noticing…

If you can either confirm or correct this identification, I’d appreciate the feedback!

Next on Dust Tracks: I’m thinking we may have a frog invasion coming up…

Tubifera ferruginosa, Red Rasberry Slime Mold, in Flagler county, Florida; 09 July 2014

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Tubifera ferruginosa, the Red raspberry slime mold, photographed in Flagler county, Florida (09 July 2014).

One of my favorite things about stumbling through this mortal coil we call “life” is that I’m constantly bumping into stuff I know very little about. Take for instance the red stuff you see featured here. I found these bright red growths atop a fallen, decaying tree trunk in the woods near the Daytona State College Flagler / Palm Coast campus in Flagler county, Florida:

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You might think this is some kind of fungi at first glance, but it’s not. It’s a slime mold. More specifically, and if my identification is correct, it’s the Red raspberry slime mold, Tubifera ferruginosa.

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Slime molds are collected in Phylum Mycetozoa of Kingdom Amoebozoa; they are entirely different than fungi (Kindom Fungi), though they can –at times– resemble the better-known fungi that tend to grow in the same damp, wooden conditions.

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Each little red stem (almost raspberry-bubble-like when seen from above) is actually a sporangia, a spore-bearing structure. The slime mold is held to the surface of its wooden foundation by white strand-like stems. When it matures, the color will darken significantly. Slime molds, in fact, often vary greatly through their respective life cycles. They can appear quite thin and slimy (hence the name) at one stage and look similar to fungi at another.

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Slime molds are certainly somewhat off my radar when it comes to Stuff I Know Something About. I can certainly say that these little clusters of Red raspberry slime molds captured my interest; they were tremendously beautiful. I may need to find myself some sort of Slime Molds For Dummies book. Heh. Any recommendations (other than Wikipedia)?

Next on Dust Tracks: Legitimate fungi action from Palm Coast, Florida!

The Snake Did Not Kick My Ass; The Frog Did.

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Pantherophis alleghaniensis, the Yellow rat snake, photographed in Lake county, Florida (13 July 2014).

THE PROLOGUE: This should be a fun post to write, and I hope it’ll be a fun one to read — despite its length. I’m happy to finally be getting to it. I’ve taken this past week off from writing for a number of reasons. The short version, and somewhat to the point, is this: I’ve been sick and tired. Not sick and tired of the blog, mind you. I’ve just been sick and really, really tired. I haven’t had much energy or inclination to dance my fingers about on the keyboard during this past week, but I believe I’m starting to pull out of my funk. I think. We’ll wax on about health and human biology later, but right now I’ve got to tell you this story. It’s the story of a 40 year old man getting his ass handed to him during his five year old daughter’s early birthday party in Mount Dora, Florida. The story involves a rather tough snake, a fairly robust frog, and, of course, a 40 year old dude. You might think it was the snake who kicked the 40 year old dude’s ass, but it wasn’t. It was the frog. A frog kicked the 40 year old’s ass. My ass. Mine. Kicked solidly by a frog.

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On the Gopher Tortoise in July of 2014: Inhumanity and Violence

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Gopherus polyphemus, the Gopher tortoise, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (23 May 2014).

Originally, this post was slotted to feature a rather rowdy and rambunctious encounter with a Yellow rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) and a Cuban treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) in Mount Dora, Florida. As Wednesday 16 July trudged ever-onward, however, an incredibly horrific and offensive story emerged from Orange Park, Florida and spread its tendrils across social media and the internet. This is a long post, and I apologize for that, but it’s weighing very heavily on my heart.

Truly, the story took like brushfire in certain channels of social media, evoking harsh and dramatic calls of violence against two young students at Ridgeview High School who had –for reasons utterly beyond my comprehension– decided it would be awesome to record themselves torturing and killing a young Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) and to then post those videos on Facebook. I saw those videos. Both of them. And they were truly horrific for many reasons.

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Storeria victa, the Florida Brown Snake, in Mount Dora, Florida; 13 July 2014

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Storeria victa, the Florida brown snake, photographed in Lake county, Florida (13 July 2014).

On Sunday 13 July, we headed inland to Mount Dora, Florida for an early birthday party with Kid A and her grandparents, my mother and father. Though cake, gifts, and burgers on the grill were the top orders of the day, I –of course– had to duck out to the parents’ backyard to look for snakes when we first arrived. Their property has a long history of being somewhat snake friendly; this day was no exception. Within a few minutes of searching the backyard, I found this lovely Florida brown snake (Storeria victa) bunkered beneath a small concrete plate on the side of the house:

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Coluber constrictor priapus, the Southern Black Racer, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 11 July 2014

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Coluber constrictor priapus, the Southern black racer, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (11 July 2014).

It was a fun week on the snake front beginning with this Southern black racer, Coluber constrictor priapus, caught in my backyard on the 11th of July. It wasn’t too long ago, about three months actually, that I got my ass served by an elusive and overly clever racer in the very same backyard. That missed-racer served as a humiliating defeat in my long legacy of interacting with the fast and agile species. Fortunately, I was able to make up for some of that defeat with this individual and its respective catch. I like to think this was exact same snake who foiled me in April, heh. Anyhow, here’s the story…

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Volusia County Katydids

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Likely Belocephalus subapterus, the Half-winged Conehead katydid, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (03 July 2014).

We’re wrapping up our tiny, little katydid run on Dust Tracks with a plethora of katydid shots and a big, fat taxonomic list of katydids likely found in Volusia county. Let’s start with the katydid featured on this post.

This is likely a Half-winged conehead katydid (Belocephalus subapterus). The identification is backed up a bit by the bugguide.net folks, though there’s a chance it could be another similar species of the same genus: the Palmetto conehead katydid, Belocephalus sabalis. At the moment, I lean more toward B. subapterus; the lower hook beneath the head, not to mention body posture, seems more subapterus than sabalis to me. Still, the identification should be considered tentative at the species level.

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words and images by Janson Jones