Sunday, October 16, 2011


What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid tea roses, Russian sage, silver lace vine, red yucca, datura, Sensation cosmos, French marigolds.

Beyond the walls and fences: Indian paintbrush near chamisa, leatherleaf globemallows, blue gilia, narrow-leaved collomia, clammy weed, bindweed, ivy-leaf morning glory, goat’s head, stickleaf, toothed spurge, prostrate knotweed, amaranth, pigweed, chamisa, native sunflowers, snakeweed, gumweed, Hopi tea, áñil del muerto, broom senecio, golden hairy, strap-leaf, purple and heath asters, cockle bur; cottonwoods yellowing.

In my yard, looking east: Winecup mallow, sidalcea, large-leaf soapwort, pink evening primrose, Rose Queen salvia, Shirley and California poppies, Maximilian sunflowers, tansy.

Looking south: Floribunda roses, reseeded and new Crimson Rambler morning glories; sweet alyssum, moss rose and zinnia from seed.

Looking west: Calamintha, sea lavender, Silver King artemisia; lead plant leaves turning red.

Looking north: Golden spur columbine, nasturtium from seed, Mexican hat, chocolate flower, blanket flower, yellow cosmos from seed, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemum.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy, moss rose, nicotiana, impatiens.

Inside: Aptenia, asparagus fern, zonal geranium.

Animal sightings: Harvester and small black ants.

Weather: Early morning temperatures in mid-30's have put everything on notice; last rain 10/07/11; 11:23 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: Perhaps because I first saw mushrooms in fairy rings in the woods at summer camp in southern Michigan, I’m always surprised to see them in this part of New Mexico.

I don’t know now if someone told me or I surmised those fairy rings were toadstools living on the outer edges of dead trees.

When I first saw mushrooms appear here after the rain, I thought of them like the neighboring mosses - dormant spores that sprang to life when they got sufficiently wet. I assumed the spores themselves just blew here, probably from the Jemez.

Douglas Smith says the fungi come out in profusion in the Los Alamos area in early fall for six to eight weeks after the monsoons have begun.

They don’t appear here every year and their appearance changes. I don’t know if that’s a function of species or life cycle. Their fruiting time varies from season to season, but their affinity for moisture is obvious.

I saw one in the gravel drive in 1999, and another flat-topped, whitish one in the garden bed on the north side of the house in mid-June of 2000. In 2001, I saw one by the back fence the end of July.

In 2003, I found two large, flat ones that resembled pancakes in the well in May and another type on the west end of the house in late November. I next saw some in 2007, one with a tall domed, light tan cap in early July and another in early August.

At the end of May of 2009 I saw two next to a hose by the back fence that again had pointed white caps that were slightly flared at their bases. In June I noticed one on the prairie, slightly taller than mine, with a thin, ridged stem. All that remained of the cap was a plate of black fringe.

Later in the summer, in August, the ones were back under the peach tree on the west side of the house. By the time I photographed them, they were tan with caps more spherical than pointed. One had a dark mark in the center of the top.

Last year nothing appeared in my yard until early August when three were growing in the back drip line. However, I saw a colony on the prairie in March that I nearly missed because they still looked a bit like raised pebbles. One had a triangular, whitish grey cap and some darker markings on the stem.

Later in the summer, in early August, I saw one that had had a flat round tan cap that then was splitting to reveal an interior filled with darker, reddish brown matter. It resembled scale on a rusting beam.

This year there was nothing until we finally got some rain in September. They might be the same type I saw last spring. They came up in disturbed land on the prairie where I tend to walk and had the same slightly puffy, slightly rounded white caps. I couldn’t find them the following week: the ATV’s had been through.

Two weeks later I noticed one had survived, but was laying down with a dent in its cap. Last Sunday, after a rainy week, it had revived a bit, and a couple others were growing nearby with some baby Russian thistles.

There are far too few to think of them as a colony. So far, they seem the result of a group of spores caught by the wind and dropped in the same area. They developed some threads underground, the mycelium, that then produce the familiar stem and cap necessary for reproduction. In my yard, none have survived for more than two seasons.

In more favorable conditions the mycelium live a perennial existence underground. Scientists believe fairy rings are caused when fungus grows out from the center like ring muhly grass. As they grow, they exhaust the nutrients so only the outer rings can produce the familiar tan fungi once a year. About 60 species have been identified that grow in this pattern.

Smith, Douglas. “Species of Northern New Mexico (50),” posted 19 August 2008 on the Mushroom Observer website.

Wikipedia entries on Mushrooms and Fairy Rings.

Photograph: Mushroom growing in an ATV path on the prairie, 9 October 2011; it emerged before September 9, after the monsoons, and revived last week after days of clouds led to a night of rain.

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