Fan-shaped Jelly Fungus

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It has been rather rainy as of late and the ground is soggy, the air is heavy with humidity – these days are good days to look for fungi.

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This decaying tree branch had fallen to the forest floor in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The bright yellow-orange coloration on it caught my eye. Fan-shaped Jelly Fungus enjoys a practically worldwide distribution.

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It has a rubbery texture and lack of gills and is a specialist for growing out of cracks in dead wood, which it feeds on and breaks down into components that can be recycled back into the earth – without this process, wood and other plant matter would not decompose.

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The fruiting bodies are less than 7/8 of an inch tall and grow in clusters or rows along cracks in decaying wood; often the wood has lost its bark. Each fruiting body has a curved fan-like shape, thin in cross-section and widening toward the top. They are translucent and bright in color, and are gelatinous to the touch.

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In our modern-day, decomposition and decay are often viewed quite negatively, yet they are the yin to the yang of growth, and together they form two halves of the whole that is the closed-loop cycle of natural ecosystems. In Chinese culture, it is called literally “sweet osmanthus ear,” referring to its similarity in appearance to that flower.

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Western Mosquitofish

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This a little gray fish with a short body, upturned mouth, and a flattened head. This species is not native to Ohio, but was stocked in western Lucas County in 1947. Mosquitofish are small in comparison to many other freshwater fish, with females reaching an overall length of almost 3 inches and males at a length of 1-1/2 inches.

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The name “Mosquitofish” was given because the food item of this fish often consists of large numbers of mosquito larvae, relative to body size. They eat a variety of other zooplankton, mainly insects and their larva.

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Mosquitofish are livebearers with females carrying an average of 40 young. Because the young are born live they are already able to swim around and feed much like the adults.

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They prefer ponds or very slow flowing streams with clear water and abundant aquatic vegetation. Mosquitofish are often introduced as a biological control for mosquito larvae. As a result they can be found sporadically throughout Ohio.

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The Western Mosquitofish is one of the few commercially available fish that are native to North America. They were originally found in the Mississippi River and in the streams and rivers of Illinois and Indiana. They are a very hardy aquarium inhabitant and do well in a variety of situtaions. I’ve had one for well over a year and a half and it is a neat native species to keep.

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Virgin’s Bower

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Walking along the Cuyahoga River, I frequently see this flowering vine, which belongs to the same genus of a popular garden plant, Climatis, though this wildflower’s petals are much smaller.

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Its flowers are in delicate round clusters and quite intricate. It is one of over a dozen species residing in the eastern United States.

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The leaves of Virgin’s Bower are 3-part and sharply toothed. Its square-stemmed vine is often seen growing over fences or shrubs along riverbanks. This native plant is most often found in damp settings, such as along stream banks or in floodplains.

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Virgin’s Bower is an aggressively growing vine which can climb to heights of 10–20 feet by twisting its leafstalks. After the flowers are polliniated, their feathery plumes look like a work of art.

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Some other common names for this plant are Devil’s Darning Needles, Devil’s Hair, Love Vine, Traveler’s Joy, Wild Hops, and Woodbine. Whatever you call it, it’s a fine wildflower to come across in late Summer and early Fall.

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Sweat Bee

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Sweat bees are the most brightly colored native bees in our area. The shiny, metallic green insects are quite eye-catching.

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Augochlora Sweat Bees nest in the ground, building long vertical nest cavities. Most are solitary nesting, but some species share the same nest entrance, but build their own cavities.

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They are short tongued, so they visit shallow or easily accessible flowers for nectar. They also steal nector collected by plant parasites, like aphids.

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These insects are tiny (less than 1/2 an inch) and are named because of their habit of landing on people and licking the perspiration from the skin in order to obtain salt.

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This brilliant “living jewel” performs the same function as other species bees – they are very important pollinators for many wildflowers and crops.

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Lately fair numbers of them have been visiting my deck garden and I enjoy seeing them every day.

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