Species of the Week: Chicken of the Woods

Our #SpeciesOfTheWeek is Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). Sometimes called the chicken polypore, their scientific name translates to “with bright pores” (Laetiporus) and “the colour of sulphur” (sulphureus). Identifying mushrooms can be a difficult task, but this is arguably one of the easier ones to identify! This mushroom is recognized for its large, overlapping, fan-shaped shelves, and sulphur-yellow to bright orange colour. As they age, these mushrooms fade to a tan or whitish colour. Named after its taste, many people think this mushroom tastes like chicken and has a similar meaty texture. Others think it tastes like crab or lobster, earning it the nickname “Lobster of the Woods”. This species typically fruits from late summer into the fall and is often found on hardwood and conifer trees. Have you ever spotted this bright mushroom on the trails here at Murphys Point?

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Species of the Week: The Ghost Pipe

Photo by Adam Kalab

This week’s #SpeciesOfTheWeek is the Ghost Pipe (Monotropa uniflora). With its waxy white colour, it might be mistaken for a mushroom, but it is actually a perennial plant! However, it does not behave like a normal plant. The white colouration of Ghost Pipes comes from their complete lack of chlorophyll, which means they are unable to generate food from photosynthesis. Instead, this plant is a myco-heterotroph, and part of a complex relationship. Most plants have mycorrhizal fungi, which form a network in the roots and allow plants to exchange carbon and nutrients with other plants. Myco-heterotrophs like Ghost Pipe get their nutrients by parasitizing these mycorrhizal fungi. Ghost Pipe has a small range of host fungi, most of which are associated with beech trees. It is usually found in damp, shaded areas of mature forests. Ghost Pipe has a single flower with 3-8 petals, and it usually flowers during the summer and fall, a few days after rainfall. It only appears above ground when it flowers, and the flowering process lasts just one week. When the flower first opens it points downwards, but it straightens as it matures until it is pointing directly upwards. The plant then turns black, which is where its other name, Corpse Plant, comes from. This plant is highly sought after due to its short visible life cycle, perceived rarity, and uses in herbal medicine. However, it may be toxic to humans, so it is best to avoid picking it. Please remember that it is illegal to pick wild plants in a provincial park. If you wish to pick a plant for use in traditional medicine please contact the park naturalist. 

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Species of the Week: European Frog-bit

Photo by Adam Kalab

This week’s #SpeciesOfTheWeek is the European Frog-bit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae).  European Frog-bit is an aquatic plant native to the old world (Europe, and parts of Asia and Africa). It was brought from Europe to the Experimental Farm in Ottawa in 1932, intending to be used in ornamental ponds. Unfortunately, it escaped and by 1939 was already present in the Rideau Canal. It is now found throughout the Ottawa and Rideau river systems, the Great Lakes, Kawartha Lakes and some American states. European Frog-bit grows rapidly in mats that cover the surface of the water. In the fall it dies and, as it decomposes, it can lead to anoxia (lack of oxygen) in the water. European Frog-bit also reduces the biodiversity of water bodies by crowding native species which hinders their ability to access sunlight and also has a tendency to clog waterways and drainage systems. To counter the spread of European Frog-bit, boaters should reduce their speed when coming near areas infested with European Frog-bit so that the boat’s wake does not dislodge the plant and spread it to new areas. Additionally, boaters should remove any plant that adheres to their boat when moving between bodies of water. At Murphys Point, European Frog-bit has been spotted by the backcountry camping sites on Big Rideau Lake.

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