Northen Tooth Fungus

Northern Tooth Fungus grows 15 or more inches tall and 10 inches wide.

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Q: I saw this fungus growing on several maple trees in Hinsdale. Some grow 2 feet from the ground, others grow quite high up in the trees. They’re quite beautiful. I haven’t been able to identify them online or in any book. Do you have any idea what they are?

Chris, Hinsdale

A: It has been a while since I have seen this and could not recall the name, so I asked a naturalist friend, Rene Wendell, who answered, “I believe that’s a Northern Tooth Fungus.”

And so, it is, and I also recall where I last saw it, on Under Mountain Road in Lenox, near the road up to the reservoirs. It, too, was a way up a tree, and isn’t rare, but because we don’t often look high up in trees — at least higher than we can reach edible fungi, like the white oyster mushroom and orange and yellow chicken of the woods — we might miss it.

DO o not eat it — the books indicate that it isn’t edible, due to a bitter taste. A shame as it sometimes grows 15 or more inches tall and 10 inches wide.

It is a maple tree parasite, especially the sugar maple, that eventually kills the tree causing a disease called “heart rot” as it focuses on the center of the tree.

Q: I really like your column[s]! Good information for us locally.

I have a row of maybe two dozen mature milkweed plants along our dirt road here in Becket. Last year, I counted nearly 50 lovely monarch butterfly caterpillars. I photographed them extensively!

This year, not a single one. I also have not seen any on other milkweeds in the area. Would you comment please?

Nan, Becket

A: I cannot comment about the lack of milkweed in your area, and I have not received many comments regarding numbers of monarchs in general, but I have seen a good number during their migration during early September. In our yard, I saw no more than one monarch (at a time). And, if it was the only one, it stayed for at least a month, but I never saw a single caterpillar. I never (ever) see the eggs, even in good years, when there were several caterpillars of different instars (sizes) on almost all of the swamp milkweed, producing adults. I didn’t keep a count, but did keep a fair number, close to a dozen, in a cage until changing into adults for release, while I kept predators away from the others.

My thought is that the milkweed was infested by insects (small orange or red bugs) and aphids called oregano aphids that deter monarchs.

THE CANARY IN THE MINEWe have all heard of the caged canary brought into coal (and perhaps other) mines to warn miners of dangerous gases. Wild canaries are mostly yellow-green with brown streaks and are finches native to the Canary Islands, the Azores and Madeira. While they are not an endangered species, their captive breeding as a warning to miners, and today for the pet trade have made them famous. And they remind me of the warnings of so many species of our native birds that there is something wrong with our environment. Our air is contaminated by gases like methane and carbon monoxide often called global warming gasses.

Global warming is not fake news!

About two-thirds of America’s birds will be threatened with extinction if global warming rises by 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, according to a report released Thursday from the National Audubon Society, a bird-focused conservation group.

The study went on to report, “About 389 out of 604 species are at risk of extinction from climate change. A few of the imperiled species include state birds such as Minnesota’s common loon, New Jersey’s goldfinch and California’s quail.”

We care not only about birds. In Massachusetts, there are 432 native plant and animal species that are protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (M.G.L. c. 131A) — not only because of global warming.

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal and if the White House refuses to make a move, we must educate ourselves; go to NASA: Climate Change and Global Warming at climate.nasa.gov. NASA’s Global Climate Change website hosts an extensive collection of global warming resources for media, educators, weathercasters and public speakers. Browse by topic and by media type, including videos, social media shareables, infographics, quizzes and interactives.

And for six different videos on climate change, including the science behind climate change by the Royal Society and the National Academies, search: “Climate Change in 60 Seconds”

Other sources that may surprise us:

American Medical Association — “Our AMA ... supports the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report and concurs with the scientific consensus that the Earth is undergoing adverse global climate change and that anthropogenic contributions are significant.” -Global Climate Change and Human Health (2019)

American Chemical Society — “The Earth’s climate is changing in response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and particulate matter in the atmosphere, largely as the result of human activities.” ACS Public Policy Statement: Climate Change (2016-2019)

FALL IS FINALLY WITH USWe watched a large “V” of wild Canada Geese heading south, high in the sky on Saturday, Oct. 3.

Purple finch males arrived Oct. 5; a female has been here for a week.

White-throated sparrows arrived at our (second floor) feeders Oct. 5. (Eagerly awaiting the “snow bird” arrival.)

More woolly bears were spotted in our lawn heading for a winter rest under our deck; six have already been seen over the past week.


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