Mushrooms in the Middlesex Fells – Identifications!

We recently had some warm weather often extremely frigid conditions between Christmas 2017 and the first week and a half of 2018. Well, it warmed up to about 13 °C / 55 °F on Saturday so I hit up the Middlesex Fells with the dog.

Over Christmas I’ve been reading more and more about fungus and mushrooms and I really wanted to go to a few locations where I had seen mushrooms during the summer and  autumn season last year. So the first place I went was a silver birch tree very close to the east side of Bellevue Pond on South Border Rd, Medford, MA, USA. I had seen these really curious white balls on this live tree in early September and at the time I really didn’t know what they were. They certainly looked fungal/mushroomy but I was expecting to see a more typical mushroom shape and was surprised that if this was a mushroom that it could push through the bark. See the images below:

Fast forward to now and after significant snow melt, the same tree looks like this:

Cool, they did turn into a more typical ‘mushroom’ shape. After some web searches and reference mushroom books I identified this mushroom as the birch polypore (Fomitopsis betulina). One of the lobes/caps had fallen off and was on the ground nearby so I picked it up and flipped it over.

You can see the underside doesn’t have gills but pores. The margin (edge) of the cap rolls over and under the underside, exactly matching the birch polypore description. (I took this sample home!) Below is a closeup on the cap that formed at the bottom of the tree – it was still attached.

It turns out this mushroom is edible but doesn’t taste very good. I didn’t eat this one. It contains a number of compounds that are suppose to be good at killing some intestinal worms and has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Well, research continues.

Another fungus I encountered was as an odd looking jelly-like mushroom. See below:

I wasn’t even sure this thing was a fungus. Some research showed that, yeap it is! And a well known fungus that comes out this time on year (deep winter). Its the amber jelly roll or willow rain (Exidia recisa). Apparently it is edible but does not have an interesting taste, nor is it fowl or bitter.

I have many more photos from last Summer and I may get into some more identifications of those as well. It is amazing how many different kinds of mushrooms are out there, even in the dead of winter.

Eclipse 2017

So Solar Eclipse 2017 has come and gone. I managed to be outside for it – only partial here in Boston unfortunately. I put together a nice little shoebox viewer, which worked quite well. It was virtually impossible to get a good photo of it though, so no pictures. I was up Wright Tower in the Middlesex Fells where lots of others were out with a multitude of various ‘devices’ to see the partial eclipse.

So while I didn’t get a good shot of the sun being blocked, I did come home and hit up a web site with a series of satellite images of the US as the eclipse moved over the country. Below is a gif of the transit:

You can see the sun slowly rising over the western part of the country followed by a dimming of the light over Washington State and Oregon. The white splotch is presumably from the total darkness of the total eclipse area.

Most interesting is watching the speckled ‘cloud’, which looks like rising humidity as the day progresses, around the gulf of Mexico – Texas coast to Florida and up into Arkansas and Tennessee. When the totality of darkness moves through the area, this cloud disappears for a while, only to reform when it passes. Pretty cool effect!

A Walk In The Woods – The Silver Mine in Middlesex Fells

Today I went on a nice little walk in the woods, just me and dog – like I do most weekends. Our favourite haunt is the Middlesex Fells, situated in the northern suburbs area of Boston. We’ve been going for about a year, so I have seen all seasons in the park/forest and know most of the trails quite well.

Oddly enough there is one area where I always seem to get a little lost. Not lost – lost. Just disorientated. In my own head I call this region the ‘Fells Triangle’ because I seem to lose all sense of orientation. Coincidently, this area also contains the site of an old silver mine. I’ve been looking for this mine and it turns out I’ve been looking in the complete wrong area for some time. The map of the area contains references to the old mine with a hill named for it and a path. In the picture below you can see in red the area I’ve been looking.

But it turns out it is located much closer to the reservoir, in the area circled in green. (I originally screwed this up and circled the area in blue – this is the wrong area and more proof this part of the Fells is weird and deserves its name as ‘The Fells Triangle’.) This green area is also where I always seen to get confused about where I am.

The mine is clearly labeled by the park with a sign up on a nearby tree. See below:

The flat depression in the center of this picture is actually a concrete slab that covers what used to be a huge hole dug out of the ground. Historic reports describe how workers used explosives to carve the mine but very little silver if any was ever found. I also recall reading how the miners used lots of water and since the location of the mine is closer to the reservoir waters, this all makes a lot more sense. There are also a number of concrete poles that are erected around it and look like they once carried planks of wood designed to keep people and/or animals out. The concrete slab is square and now well covered by nature’s debris and time:

I can only imagine how they managed to place this here. The concrete is reinforced with steel bars, which can be seen in a small hole that is in the center of the slab. The hole looks like it has been dug out by curious hikers who wanted to see into the remains of the mine:

There seems to be water at the bottom. I dropped some sticks into the hole and after a considerable time I heard it splash. I would estimate the depth to be more than 10 meters or the height of a three story building.

What possessed people to think there was silver here? Or anything of use? When I hit the ‘net’ looking for information on the Silver Mine I could find very little information. Now I’ve found it its tempting to hit google again and see what more I can find out. The whole thing just seems like an odd enterprise.

On the way there and back there was a number of wild flowers out. This time of year is great for hiking. The weather is starting to cool off, and like today the humidity can drop down quite a bit here in New England. But the summer flowers persist and look so much better in the less harsh light this time of year. I’ll post some pictures below. I have no idea what these flowers are or what the plant name is. I’ll try and figure it out and edit this post.

If you know more about the mine in the Middlesex Fells or the names of these flowers, feel free to drop me a line.