Tag Archives: identification

Toothed fungus

Toothed fungus emerging from a dead tree in late winter. I really enjoy a tiny fungus that’s just getting started because you can see the small details that are lost in photographs of larger specimens. For this one, it’s all about those yellow-tipped teeth and the translucent, waxy margins. It was growing on a log with hundreds of small, dried brackets so perhaps it’s Steccherinum ochraceum just getting started. But the margins are waxy, not fluffy, so Basidioradulum radula (Schizoporaceae) and Mycoacia fuscoatra (Meruliaceae) might be better ID. Finally, Radulomyces molaris (Pterulaceae) looks similar. And I’m sure there are dozens of other possibilities— there are several million species of fungi.

Colin Purrington Photography: Fungi &emdash; Toothed crust fungus in a bark cave

The above illustrates the flip side of photographing cute, immature fungi … they are hard to ID, especially if you don’t know much about fungi. I’ll have to go back in a few weeks to see what it looks like after some warmer weather. Without spores to examine for shape and size it might be hard to decide, so I really need to invest in a microscope. If you have an opinion on the ID, please leave a comment — I’d be grateful for any tips, even if it’s just a recommendation on a guide book for a newbie.

Colin Purrington Photography: Fungi &emdash; Toothed crust fungus in a bark cave

In trying to learn more about these species, I was struck by how ignored crust fungi are by mycologists and how they are left out of most field guides. The only interesting thing I could find was an article by Dimitrios Floudas lamenting this obscurity:

“The feeling of collecting these fungi is rewarding, but the frequent lack of people to share this excitement is discouraging.” 

Wise words for many taxa, I think.

Here’s a nice guide if you find yourself with an unidentified crust. You never know when that’s going to happen. 

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Distinguishing tobacco and tomato hornworm caterpillars

After agonizing over the identification of hornworm larvae for years, I’ve developed two tricks that I’d like to share. Tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) caterpillars have stripes (seven of them), so remember that by thinking of Lucky Strikes cigarettes. Horn is usually red or red-tipped, like a cigarette. Also, tobacco gives you dark teeth and lungs … and tobacco hornworms have black shadows on their stripes. Tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) have eight chevrons (Vs), which you can remember by thinking of V8 juice, which is primarily tomato juice. Here’s the graphic you can share with friends who might have it wrong:

Photographs of tobacco and tomato hornworm caterpillars

If you can, please spread the word … most of the tens of thousands of tobacco hornworm photographs on the internet are misidentified as tomato hornworms. Even Wikipedia page for tomato hornworm shows tobacco hornworm larvae (I’m working on it …). The problem is that tobacco hornworm eats tomatoes, and people with fancy cameras grow a lot of tomatoes.

For people living in Hawaii, please note that the above doesn’t include Manduca blackburni, which is closely related to tomato hornworm.

Photograph of tomato hornworm from Amanda Hill.

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