I found this fleshy, flower-like structure growing on Lyonia ferruginea (rusty staggerbush) at Archbold Biological Station (Venus, Florida). Heaths don’t make flowers like this, so I originally thought it might be an insect gall or phytoplasma infection, but I was wrong. After poking around online I think it’s Exobasidium ferrugineae, a Basidiomycetes fungus. Members of the genus grow in between cells of flower and leaf tissue, then in the Spring send hymenial tissue through stomata and other cracks in the epidermis, eventually turning the surface white with spores. I’d never heard of such fungi before. I’ve led a sheltered life.
The above was the largest structure I found (perhaps 3 inches high) but there were dozens of others (see below) at the same location. If you’d like to know more about the species and genus, a good starting point is Kennedy et al. 2012 and references therein. In older literature the fungus was known as Exobasidium vaccinii (Burt 1915), but it seems likely that that species is host specific to Vaccinium vitis-idaea.
Some photographs of me donating blood. The first is, I think, an Asian rock pool mosquito (Ochlerotatus japonicus japonicus; formerly known as Aedes japonicus japonicus). The second is an Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). Introduced to New Jersey in 1998 and Texas in 1985, respectively. Both photographs were taken in Pennsylvania.
Below are some photographs of strange growths on a patch of Asclepias syriaca I visited several weeks ago. From the few publications I’ve found, enations can be caused by viruses (Geminiviridae, Luteoviridae, etc.), and thus could be transmitted to nearby individuals via insect vectors or by the connected roots (milkweeds are clonal). Could be a genetic mutation, too, I suppose — could be spread by seed or via clonal growth. Anyone seen this before?
Photographed at Hildacy Farm Preserve in Media, PA.