Indigo Milk Mushroom

One never knows what a day will bring. Today while I was walking to the mailbox, I noticed a grayish-blue object lying on the lawn. I thought that it was one of the kids’ toys, so I reached down and picked it up. I quickly realized that it wasn’t a plaything- but a mushroom- a mushroom with bright blue gills. It was also unexpectedly heavy. The weight seemed to be due to its thick rubbery cap.

I had found the Lactarius indigo which literally means ‘Milky Blue’. In fact, one of its common names is Indigo Milk Mushroom . It is known as the “milk mushroom” because of its production of a blue latex like liquid when it is cut or harshly bruised. ( source )

The Lactarius indigo isn’t a common mushroom- but it is widespread- it can be found throughout the eastern half of North America growing beneath various oak tree species. The Lactarius indigo that is pictured here is of the one that I found growing in the moss beneath a Post Oak tree on July 30, 2009.

Lactarius indigo mushrooms are edible which makes for a fascinating topic- there are very few naturally occurring blue food products! This mushroom will definitely brighten up a meal. So, how do you cook them? One mushroom expert reported that they are quite good sauteed with butter. Another commented that they are “edible and delicious. One of my favorite edibles.” ( source ) But, as with any mushroom species- be very careful with the identification- as in- be absolutely certain of its identification and edibility.

American Caesar’s Mushroom

My kids discovered this mushroom growing in our front yard on July 29, 2009. Its appearance was so striking that they excitedly ran into the house to describe it to me. I followed them out into the yard and they pointed to two mushrooms that were growing in a mossy, shady area beneath a large Post Oak tree. The mushrooms looked like two very red tomatoes growing atop yellowish, shaggy stalks. The kids had found an American Caesar Mushroom .

This mushroom really is a fungus fit for Caesar. It literally gets its name from the fact that it was reportedly a favorite of the Roman emperors. The American Caesar Mushroom that grows in North America is very similar to the Amanita caesarea that is found in Italy. The scientific names for the two American Caesar variaties are Amanita hemibapha and Amanita jacksonii . ( source )

Although this mushroom is edible- discretion is the better part of valor. Why? Because this mushroom is in the Amanita family of mushrooms- as in a close cousin to the deadly Death Cap ( Amanita phalloides ) and the poisonous Fly Agaric ( Amanita muscaria ). Consider the following advice of a mushroom expert regarding eating this mushroom. Although he was able to distinguish between the edible American Caesar Mushrooms and the deadly members of its amanita family, when asked why he wouldn’t even consider eating an American Caesar Mushroom, his reply was simple: “I don’t eat amanitas.” ( source ) I think that that is probably good advice.

This is perhaps the most beautiful species of mushroom that I have ever seen- and yes- it really was that red!

Dwarf Larkspur

This past spring, I was happy to discover this lovely wildflower from the Buttercup family growing in the woods near my home. I had never seen a wild Delphinium before and this one is known as the Dwarf Larkspur. Its scientific name is Delphiniu m tricorne .

Are you having problems with Japanese Beetles? Maybe planting a bunch of Dwarf Larkspur will help- Japanese Beetles have been documented dying shortly after feeding on this wildflower. ( source )

So, yes, this plant is toxic. As with many other plants in the Buttercup family, the entire plant is toxic, especially the young seeds and leaves.

Despite this wildflower’s high toxicity- it is second only to Locoweed in being responsible for cattle death in the American Southwest ( source )- it was used during the United States Civil War for helping to close wounds. It was also used as an insecticide for the killing of parasites and lice. ( source ) The Cherokee Indians are documented as having used an infusion of the Dwarf Larkspur as a heart medicine. The Cherokee also used it as a poison- noting that this plant “made cows drunk and kills them.” (source: Native American Ethnobotany ; Moerman, Daniel E.)

The Dwarf Larkspur is found throughout the Southeastern portion of the United States and blooms from early to late Spring.

Portraits of Nature – Water Scavenger Beetle

Water Scavenger Beetle (Hydrophilus)

Comparison of Long-eared Sunfish and Redbreast Sunfish

Comparison of the Long-eared Sunfish and the Redbreast Sunfish.  Both fish were caught in Cypress Creek near Florence, AL in July 2009.  They are both extremely colorful and beautiful fish.

Long-eared Sunfish ( Lepomis megalotis )

Redbreast Sunfish ( Lepomis auritus )

Portraits of Nature – Scissor Grinder Cicada

Photos on Scissor Grinder Cicada ( Tibicen auletes ) that emerged on 7/11/2009. It had transformed into the dark form by a day later- 7/12/2009.

A few quick facts about Cicadas from Wikipedia :

  • The name Cicada is latin for “buzzer”
  • Many people around the world eat cicadas- with the female cicadas being the most valued because they are “meatier”.
  • There are more than 2,500 species of cicadas in the world.
  • Cicadas do their loudest “singing” during the hottest part of the day.
  • Some cicadas can produce sounds up to 120db and are one of the loudest insects

Scenes from Cypress Creek

My 11 year old son, Sebastian, and I kayaked and camped a night along Cypress Creek on July 14-15th.  We just slept on the ground out in the open- the stars were beautiful.  I was able to show him the Scorpio constellation for the first time.  We also learned that small fish like to sleep near the shoreline.  We were able to catch a catfish hatchling as well as a couple of mudpuppies.  Sebastian was thrilled with each catch- he had been searching for mudpuppies for the past 3 years.

Heading Out about 8:00pm

Sleeping out in the open

Red Bellied Sunfish ( Lepomis auritus)

Spider Flower ( Cleome)

Portraits of Nature – Banded Net-Wing

Banded Net-Wing ( Calopteron reticulatum )

Portraits of Nature – Common Musk Turtle

Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

Portraits of Nature – Dwarf American Toad

Dwarf American Toad ( Bufo americanus charlesmithi )

Scenes from Cypress Creek

Video of section of Cypress Creek near the weir located about 1,000 feet of the Cox Creek Parkway Bridge going over the creek. There is a nice little Cypress Tree bog near the weir. This video was taken between 7:30pm and 8:00pm- you can hear the Green Tree Frogs clearly.

Portraits of Nature – Green June Bug

Green June Bug ( Cotinis nitida )

Portraits of Nature – Speckled Sharpshooter

Speckled Sharpshooter ( Paraulacizes irrorata )

Portraits of Nature – Common True Katydid

Common True Katydid ( Pterophylla camellifolia )
The brown patch between the shoulder blades indicates that this is a male- only the males have that brown area.

Purple Fringeless Orchid

Purple Fringeless Orchid ( Habenaria peramoena )

I was very excited to locate this beautiful wild orchid, the Purple Fringeless Orchid , growing in a meadow near the banks of Cypress Creek in North Alabama. This was the first wild orchid that I have ever found.

This wildflower’s scientific name of Habenaria means “rein” or “strapped” which is thought to refer to the large “tongue” on the plant. Peramoena is latin for “beautiful”.

This is a rather rare orchid in much of its range. In fact, this plant had been placed for review for being added to the endangered species list- but the request was later withdrawn when more of these wildflowers were discovered in other locations. ( source )

It was interesting for me to read that as far back as 1896, this orchid was noted to be right where I found it:

For comparison- I took the photo of this plant on July 2nd, 2009, in Lauderdale County, in a “low damp meadow”. Somehow or another I am reassured by these little connections to the past. Life continues to find a way- even these rare little orchids.