Fungi of the Sierra Nevada

I took the SFSU field campus class, Mushrooms of the Sierra Nevada, from June 6-11, 2010. We left around 9:30 on Sunday.

We stopped in Auburn for about 1.5 hours, to try to see the Painted Redstart that had shown up there. Surprised at some giant Amazon archers that seemed very out of context while trying to find the location.
We didn’t have luck with the bird, but the site was interesting as there was a “creek” that ran along the road, in a culvert and ditch, in which horsetail and other water plants grew. The house near which the redstart hung around had a nice pond, and various dragonflies visited and oviposited.

Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturata)

We had lunch in Ashford Park. We used a picnic table near a small pool with water vegetation, large fish and bullfrogs. It was warm but pleasant.

Resuming our trip via 49, we arrived around 4:30 and had a little time to unload, unpack and walk around a bit.

After a vegetarian dinner by the new cook at the campus, we had our orientation meeting for the class.

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Steller’s Jay, Warbling Vireo, Cassin’s Vireo, Western Tanager, Mountain Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Western Wood-pewee, Dark-eyed Junco, and others sang in the morning and during the day.

On Monday the 7th, we had breakfast, made our lunches, and had lecture (as we did on all days, from about 8:00-10:30). We then headed across the road up the pine-debris-strewn hill to see what we could find. It was warm and sunny with a few clouds.
Besides mushrooms, we found a few Lycogala slime molds that look like small pink balls. Up near the road and vacation housing development were mushrooms that grow in burn areas.

We brought our collections back and had lab from 3-6:00. We used keys, dissecting and compound microscopes to view fungal basidia, cystidia and spores.

Dinner was another light one, Israeli couscous with salmon mixed in, and we saw a presentation after that.

The night was colder than the previous one. Tuesday the 8th took us to Wildplum Campground, 500’ lower in elevation. This area had a creek nearby, and we found a bonanza under one of the logs near the creek: small pink millipedes, and a crust fungus with slime mold fruiting bodies on it. There was also a small, soft polypore “cupcake”.

Small polypore (Oligoporus leucospongia)

After lunch, we went to Greenacre, across the road from Bassett’s. Dennis saw bear. We found a large custardy-looking slime mold on pine needles (Fuligo). On the way back to campus, we made an ice cream stop at Bassett’s.

Pasta with morels, and baked chicken was a welcome dinner.

The evening presentation was on Hawaiian fungi. Some of the stinkhorn fungi looked like tropical flowers or starfish, not like fungi at all.

On Wednesday, we went to Chapman Creek Campground. There was some snow, with a lot of snow melt. By the car was a large Gyromitra montana. We went up the trail and hill, and found many small, slight bumps in the ground which unearthed mushrooms. I saw something out of the corner of my eye then, and went over to investigate. It was a small pile of bear scat, adorned with orange eyelash fungi, Cheilymenia fimicola!

Cheilymenia fimicola

After our field lunch, we returned to the campus to look for fungi there. KS and I went up past the upper tents to the water tank area. We found some delicate Mycena that smelled like bleach, on a log. While removing some of those, we disturbed a Collembola and a click beetle.

Dinner was tasty, a Mexican-style black bean dish, with garlic-infused pork and salsa.

The evening presentation on fungi of Pohnpei in Micronesia was interesting, in particular the bioluminescent fungi.

Thursday’s morning lecture included spring Ascomycetes. I find those more interesting.

We headed off to a marsh area on Gold Lake Road. There was more water than usual, and I had to watch where I stepped to avoid having the water go into my boots. We were looking for matchstick fungi, but none of us found any. We did find small brown cup fungi beneath corn lilies, Sclerotinia veratri. Later in the lab, I picked off the moss and other plant material to expose the flat, black sclerotium. Looking in another area with moving water, I saw something small and red. Closer examination revealed a very small, colorless club fungus growing on the dead corn lily leaves. I found more. They reminded me of fertile horsetail, and later we found a few. Our Typhula specimens were dried in preparation for the herbarium because these were apparently fresh (sclerotia red instead of brown).

Before we left for Sand Pond and lunch, someone found Puccinia on the other side of the road. This rust causes the plant (Arabis, in this case) to produce a false flower which insects prefer over the real flower.

Mountain Quail could be heard at Sand Pond. I saw a couple of large tadpoles swim away, too fast to see what kind they were, but they were not black.

After lunch, we went partway around the pond trail. We didn’t find a lot, but I found a small cut branch with a lavender-colored crust, and small, black balls on the end, like some slime molds. Under the microscope, chains of spores showed up, and this meant it was a Pyrenomycete.

Dinner was also tasty on this night, consisting of Mahi-Mahi and baked halved yellow squash.

This was the last night, so it was a free night. I decided I’d read over the material, but fell asleep around 9:00. I think that was the coldest night, as I felt a little cold even with the cotton blanket I had over my sleeping bag.

After a blueberry pancake breakfast, we had our 42-question “final”. 23 specimens were laid out in the lab, and we attempted to answer questions related to each.

While on my way back to my tent to get my things together, I found a beetle with red elytra and legs on a stump. Later while pointing it out to PN, I found another on the same stump.

After saying goodbye, we left around 11:30, deciding not to go along on the informal foray. I wanted to visit Antelope Valley again. We only got a few miles in, as the road became very rutted. There were a couple of boards strewn in the road, under which were large black crickets, and a small lizard. We didn’t get to the area I wanted to stop at, but we had lunch among the brittlebush and pines. After lunch, we spent a little time looking at the flora, including the colorful lichens, and whatever insects we could find.

Returning via 80 south of Sierraville, we stopped at a rest stop (the Donner Pass one was closed) and at a truck stop. The gas station there had some surprising things for sale—for example Kettle Chips Spicy Thai, my favorite chips when I eat them, and gummy insects.

We got back to my house around 7:00. The weather here had been warm, but it was pleasant when we returned. I was glad to be home.

Here are some photos.