The lichen checklist

Lichen Poster A
From upper left going clockwise: Arthonia caesia (the yellow-green crust with blue apothecia) and Lecanora (?) sp. (brown apothecia) on a jack-pine cone, Psilolechia lucida (sulfur dust lichen), Arthonia radiata (asterisk lichen), an unknown blue-gray foliose lichen, Xanthoria fallax (sunburst lichen), and Physconia enteroxantha (frost lichen).


Another checklist this on the lichens identified on my property which as of July 1, 2016 is at 70 species from 44 genera. Besides the species identified there are several specimens of crustose (crust-like) forms identified, some with reservation, to genus only. These are Bacidia, Buellia, Lecidella, Mycobilimbia, and Placynthiella. There is also a large group that I have not yet identified even to genus. The number in this group stands at 40 distinct lichens from crustose to foliose (leaf-like) to fruticose (bushy) types.

Identifying lichens requires careful observation of form (crustose, foliose, fruticose), color (both wet and dry), textures and other characteristics of the upper surface like spots and fissures, characteristics of the lower surface like color, texture, and any outgrowths, color of the interior of the lichen, and presence or absence of any spore producing bodies including their shape, color, and position. Use of a millimeter ruler is also important for measuring widths of various parts of the lichen body.

Many physical characteristics of lichens are best observed under magnification. 10x magnification is usually best unless trying to observe spores in which case a microscope is essential especially for many crustose lichens.

Chemical reagents (chlorine bleach, a potassium hydroxide solution or lye) are used to test for lichen substances which are phenolic compounds produced by many lichen-forming fungi. These compounds are often crucial in separating similar species or genera. Ultraviolet light is also helpful in lichen identification as many lichen substances are fluorescent.

My interest in lichens goes back many years when I was trying to learn certain listed rare species for biodiversity inventory work. It was not until the last 10 or so years that I began a more intensive effort to learn more of them especially the ones growing on my property.

There are an estimated 700 species of lichens in Minnesota. Many are very common and can be found growing in almost every county in the state. Flavoparmelia caperata (green shield lichen) is one such species and grows on coniferous and deciduous tree bark and on rocks. Xanthoria fallax (sunburst lichen) is also common on hardwood trees like aspen and willow. Another common and easily identified species is Physcia millegrana (rosette lichen) which does well on the bark of deciduous and coniferous trees in many environments even in cities.



Some lichen species in Minnesota are uncommon or only known from a handful of sites. These rare species are also usually specialized and require specific rock or tree bark substrates. The pH and chemistry of the substrates may be limiting factors for these species. Some species in the state are rare because they are at their known range limits but may be very common just a few hundred miles away. Only one state-listed rare species is known to occur on my property, Lobaria querzicans, but there may be others especially among the obscure crustose forms. The majority of lichens identified on my property are common or frequent in the state and the Western Great Lakes Region.


Lichen Poster B
From upper left going clockwise: a thin form of Hypogymnia physodes (tube lichen), Ramalina sinensis (fan lichen), Pyxine sorediata (pyxine lichen), and an unknown gray foliose lichen.


A few of the lichens found grow in very old forests and old-growth forests. These include Heterodermia speciosa, Lobaria pulmonaria, L. querzicans, Myelochroa auralenta, Pertusaria velata, and Punctelia appalachensis which have been found in forests on trees 60 or more years old. The growth of these lichens is slow and the trees on which I have found these species grow are all very old. Lobaria pulmonaria, for example, will take ten years from initial colonization as a propagule with its photobionts before it is large enough to produce the first apothecia (spore cups).

Most of my lichen searches have been made in forests but there is a large wetland area in the central part of the property that is vegetated by shrub willows and alders. These might be home to species not found in the forests and will be a focus of future searches. Other habitats to investigate are old concrete walls, soil on the roots of overturned trees, and the tops of trees (available only when they blow over). And I’m going to need to dust off my microscopes to get a better view of the crustose lichens.


Lichen Poster C
From upper left going clockwise: Graphis scripta (script lichen), Cladonia cristalla (red crest lichen), Physcia subtilis (rosette lichen), Usnea hirta (beard lichen), Hypogymnia physodes (tube lichen), Tuckermannopsis americana (ruffled lichen).


Lichen Species (69)
Arthonia caesia, Arthonia radiata
Calicium (Mycocalicium) subtile, Calicium glaucellum
Candelaria concolor
Chrysothrix candelari
Cladina mitis
Cladonia cervicornis var. verticillata, Cladonia chlorophaea, Cladonia coniocrae, Cladonia cristalla, Cladonia gracilis ssp. turbinata, Cladonia ochrochlora
Cyphelium tigallare
Evernia mesomorpha
Flavoparmelia caperata
Flavopunctelia soredica
Graphis scripta
Heterodermia speciosa
Hyperphyscia adglutinata
Hypocenomyce scalaris
Hypogymnia physodes
Lecanora allophana, Lecanora symmitica, Lecanora thysanophora
Lepraria caesioalba, Lepraria lobificans
Lobaria pulmonaria, Lobaria quercizans
Melanelia subaurifera
Micarea denigrata
Myelochroa auralenta, Myelochroa galbina
Nephroma parile
Ochrolechia arborea, Ochrolechia trochophora
Opegrapha (Alyxoria) varia
Parmelia flaventior, Parmelia sulcata
Peltigera canina
Pertusaria macounii, Pertusaria ophthalomiza, Pertusaria velata
Phaeophyscia ciliata, Phaeophyscia hirtella, Phaeophyscia pusilloides, Phaeophyscia rubropulchra
Phylctis argena
Physcia adscendens, Physcia aipolia, Physcia millegrana, Physcia subtilis
Physciella chloantha
Physconia detersa, Physconia enteroxantha
Platismatia glauca
Psilochia lucida
Punctelia appalachensis, Punctelia rudecta
Pyxine sorediata
Ramalina americana, Ramalina roesleri, Ramalina sinensis
Strangospora pinicola
Trapeliopsis flexuosa
Tuckermannopsis (Cetraria) americana
Tuckermannopsis fendleri
Usnea hirta
Xanthoria fallax, Xanthoria polycarpa, Xanthoria ulophyllodes

Some helpful resources
The Ways of Enlichenment
Consortium of North American Lichen Herbaria (CNALH)
Mushroom Observer

Bronze shield-backed bug

Bronze shield-backed bug (Homaemus aenifrons) resting on a brown-eyed susan flower.


Summer is heating up and bug season is in full swing here and I don’t mean the mosquitoes. There are an estimated 85,000 species of bugs (Order Hemiptera meaning “half-winged”). Most go about their lives quietly and are seldom or not at all noticed by us. Some do get our attention if they are damaging crop or ornamental plants. This one in the above photo, the bronze shield-backed bug, Homaemus aenifrons, leads a very quiet life among the sedge and rush plants in marshes.

Homaemus aenifrons is a subtly colored northern member of an otherwise very colorful group of bugs known as shield-backed bugs (Family Scutelleridae).

Adult H. aenifrons is about 7 to 9 mm long and ovate in outline. The scutellum, a triangular shield-like segment of the thorax, nearly covers the abdomen. This and the rest of the thorax are dull to pale yellow with dark brown to black variegation. Pits, called punctures, on the lower thorax are fine and not numerous. The front basal corners (humeri) of the wings are round with entire (not toothed) margins. The lower abdomen is pale with irregularly placed coarse black punctures. The head is bronze-black and without pubescence or pale bands along the margin. There are numerous coarse pits on the heads surface.

H. aenifrons typical habitat is in marshes where it feeds on sedge (Carex) and rush (Juncus) but it can also be found in drier habitats of mixed upland prairie grasses. Like many northern species of shield-back bugs it overwinters as an adult.

Range and Distribution
H. aenifrons is a very common and widespread insect species found from Nova Scotia to Manitoba south to North Carolina and Nebraska. A subspecies, (H. a. ssp. consors), occurs from Alaska to Saskatchewan.

Class: Insecta (Insects)
Order Hemiptera: (True Bugs including Cicadas, Leaf Hoppers, Aphids)
Suborder: Heteroptera (True Bugs)
Infraorder: Pentatomomorpha
Superfamily: Pentatomoidea
Family: Scutelleridae (Shield-backed Bugs)
Subfamily: Pachycorinae
Genus and Species: Homaemus aeneifrons

Next Time
Coming up soon another bug post. This one on the red-crossed shield bug (Elasmostethus cruciatus).

References Consulted
Bug Guide web page on Homaemus aeneifrons

McPherson, J. E. (1982). The Pentatomoidea (Hemiptera) of Northeastern North America. Southern Illinois University Press, 1982

Stoner, D. (1920). The Scutelleroidea of Iowa. University of Iowa Studies in Natural History. Vol. 8, No. 4:1-155.

Tiny snails

A minute terrestrial snail which I think may be in the genus Pupoides but that’s just a guess for now.


I keep a running checklist of the various plant, fungi, and animal species that live on or transit through my property. A list I’ve wanted to start is one on the gastropods (snails and slugs) that live here. There are a few slug species although I don’t have a number yet and only one species is positively identified. Snails are a different matter. Our soils are calcium deficient so big snails won’t live here. Tiny snails, know as “minute terrestrial snails” because they are so small, do live here. These snails are indeed small measuring about 1 to 5 mm in length.

Today, before I went to the garden to plant another row of potatoes, I took a walk in the wind-break where an old clay chimney pipe had lain under the trees for many years. When I lifted up the pipe I found the snail shown above and three other species only one of which I had seen here before. In less than a minute my checklist went from two species to six although at this point identification has only gotten as far as genus and even that is not certain. Snail identification is not easy especially with these tiny ones but once winter comes and if I can sift out enough empty shells from the forest duff I might start to get a handle on them.

The fungus checklist

Mushroom poster
From the upper left going clockwise: Clavulina cristata (coral fungus), Phyllotopsis nidulans (mock oyster mushroom), an unknown bolete, and Bisporella citrina (lemon cups).


As promised many months ago the checklist of fungus species identified so far from my property. The list as of May 11, 2016 stands at 64 species. The genus checklist is at 57 genera now but not all (about 14) are identified to species. Among my photos of fungi are many about which I have only the vaguest of ideas. Fungus species identified include pathogenic, parasitic, and saprobic species, and symbiotic and mutualistic species such as ectomycorrhizal symbionts that colonize tree roots. Not included on the checklist are lichens which are fungi that exist in symbiosis with a photosynthetic algae or bacteria. They are on a separate list which at this point numbers about 65 species.

From May to November last year I identified many species of fungi, both Basidiomycota and Ascomycota, such as Coltricia perrenis, Fuscoboletinus paluster, Bisporella citrina, and Scutellinia scutellata. But the warm weather season is not the only time fungi can be found. While winter and early spring are not usually considered mushrooming time they are a good time to find perennial bracket fungus species on trees and logs. From March to May as winter leaves the cool season sac fungi (Ascomycota) fruit. I added three new polypore bracket species to the list between March 1st and May 1st: Phellinus ignarius, Phellinus tremulae, and Datronia scutellata. I also added four new species of sac fungi: Diplodia tumefaciens, Gyromitra esculenta, Peniofora rufa, and Urnula cratarium.


Mushroom Poster
From the upper left going clockwise: Gyromitra esculenta (false morel), Urnula cratarium (Devil’s urn), Phellinus ignarius (ikmiq), Lactarius thyinos (orange lactarius), and an unknown corticoid fungus.




Basidiomycota (46 species)
Amanita muscari, Amanita vaginita, Amanita virosa
Bovista pila
Chrysomyxa pirolata
Clavulina cristata, Clavulina pyxidata
Coltricia perrenis
Coprinus comatus, Coprinus macrorhizus
Cronartium ribicola
Daedaleopsis confragosa
Datronia scutellata
Exidia glandulosa
Fomes fomentarius
Fuscoboletinus paluster
Ganoderma applanatum
Gloeophyllum separium
Hericium coralloides, Hericium ramosum
Inonotus obliquus
Lactarius lignyotus, Lactarius thyinos
Lycoperdon perlatum, Lycoperdon pusillum
Melampsorella caryophyllacearum
Paneolus foenescii
Phallus ravenelii
Phaeolus schweinitzii
Phellinus ignarius, Phellinus tremulae
Phyllotopsis nidulans
Pleurotus ostreatus
Plicaturopsis crispa
Puccinia coronata, Puccinia violae
Russela brevipes, Russella emetica
Sparassis radicata
Suillus cravipes, Suillus grevillei
Thelephora anthocephala, Thelephora terrestris
Trametes versicolor
Tremella mesenterica
Ustilago maydis

Ascomyceta (18 species)
Aleuria aurantia
Bisporella citrina
Chlorociboria aeruginascens
Dibotryon morbosum
Diplodia tumefaciens
Gyromitra esculenta
Gyromitra korfii
Hypomyces lactifluorum
Hypoxylon fuscum
Morchella angusticeps, Morchella esculenta
Rhytidiella moriformis
Peniofora rufa
Scutellinia scutellata
Spathularia flavida
Sphaeronaemella helvellae
Taphrina alni
Urnula cratarium

Identified to genus only (14 genera)

White-margined Burrower Bug

Sehirus cinctus White-margined Burrower Bug
Final instar nymphs of Sehirus cinctus, the white-margined burrower bug


This mass of small shiny red and black beetle-like insects are nymphs of the white-margined burrower bug (Sehirus cinctus). They belong to the order Hemiptera or True Bugs and Superfamily Pentatomoidea (Shield Bugs). White-margined burrower bugs are common insects in damp meadows and fields wherever plants in the mint family (Lamiaceae) grow because the nymphs eat the seeds of mints (Mentha) and their relatives and sometimes seeds of stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) which are in the family Urticaceae.

I used to see these bugs in the late summer and early fall on ditch banks in the fens near Hibbing, Minnesota but did not know what they were beyond “stinkbug”. Now it makes sense that there were hundreds of these bugs in the fens since there are many Lamiaceae species growing there. These include bugleweed (Lycopus), wild mint (Mentha), skullcap (Scutellaria), and horse nettle (Galeopsis) which would provide plenty of food for the nymphs to eat. Adults feed on a variety of plants and plant parts including seeds.

Adult female white-margined burrower bugs lay their eggs in the soil with a stash of seeds and protect the eggs while they incubate. After hatching the nymphs live in small colonies for about two weeks. For the first few days the mother will bring seeds to the nymphs until they are large enough to forage on their own. This is a form of insect social behavior that loosely parallels ants, wasps, and bees.

White-margined burrower bugs and other Pentatomoidea feed not by chewing but by piercing the food item with a sharp beak, injecting digestive enzymes, and then sucking in the partially digested food. The process is known as “extra-oral digestion”.

Adults are broadly ovate about 6 mm long, shining, pitch-black or blue-black, head, thorax and wing covers punctate. Along the border of the thorax and abdomen is a thin white line. Usually there are two white dots on the wing tips but sometimes males may not have these. There are short white segments on the outer sides of the tibia.

The nymphs are also oval and shiny but are bright red with three or four black bars across the top of the abdomen and black dots along its margin. The head, thorax and developing wings are black. Nymphs live in groups and tend to move together. After each molt the nymphs will be white or yellow but soon become red and after the fifth molt become adults.



Class: Insecta (Insects)
Order: Hemiptera (Bugs)
Suborder: Heteroptera (True Bugs)
Infraorder: Pentatomomorpha (Stink Bugs, Flat Bugs, Seed Bugs)
Superfamily: Pentatomoidea (Shield Bugs, Chust Bugs, and Stink Bugs)
Family: Cydnidae (Burrower Bugs)
Subfamily: Sehirinae (A Subfamily of Burrower Bugs)
Genus and species: Sehirus cinctus (White-margined Burrower Bug)

Range and distribution
White-margined burrower bug occurs over much of Canada, the United States and Mexico.

References Consulted

Boieiro, M. R. C. (2014). Spatio-Temporal Variation in Seed Production in Three Euphorbia Species and the Role of Animals on Seed Fate. PhD Thesis in Biological Sciences, University of Madeira, Portugal.

Kölliker, M.; Chuckalovcak, J. P.; Brodie III, E. D. (2005). Offspring chemical cues affect maternal food provisioning in burrower bugs, Sehirus cinctus. Animal Behaviour, 69: 959–966.

Kölliker, M.; Chuckalovcak, J. P.; Haynes, K. F.; Brodie III, E. D. (2006). Maternal food provisioning in relation to condition-dependent offspring odours in burrower bugs (Sehirus cinctus). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 273(1593): 1523–1528.

Mas, F; and Kölliker, M. (2008). Maternal care and offspring begging in social insects: chemical signalling, hormonal regulation and evolution. Animal Behaviour, 76: 1121-1131.

Soyelu, O. L.; Akingbohungbe, A. E.; and Okonji, R. E. (2007). Salivary glands and their digestive enzymes in pod-sucking bugs (Hemiptera: Coreoidea) associated with cowpea Vigna unguiculata ssp. unguiculata in Nigeria. International Journal of Tropical Insect Science, 27 (1): 40–47.

Stoner, D. (1920). The Scutelleroidea of Iowa. University of Iowa Studies, 7(4):1-164.

Infected Mushroom

Lobster Claw Mushroom
Lobster Fungus infecting a mushroom


Documenting Local Biodivesity: Lobster Fungus

The orange coating on the mushroom above is a parasitic ascomycete named Hypomyces lactifluorum and commonly called “lobster fungus” because its reddish-orange color resembles a boiled lobster. It is infecting a species of Lactarius or Russula but the lobster fungus has completely covered its host and identification is not so simple. In the immediate area I saw Russula emetica, R. brevipes, and a Clitocybe species.

The fungus Hypomyces lactifluorum parasitizes Lactaria and Russula species, reportedly only white ones, covering the entire mushroom with a red coating of thousands of tiny bumps which are the spore producing bodies. The mushrooms normally have round and flat to slightly convex caps but when infected become deformed and twisted. Even the gills are deformed and all that remains are thick smooth ridges. As the parasite also infects the interior of the mushroom the texture is changed from brittle to solid.

The flavor of the mushroom also changes and is reported to be nutty or even like bacon. I have not tried this fungus infected mushroom and do not recommend eating it because the host species are members of the genera Russula and Lactarius which have both edible and poisonous species. When completely engulfed by the lobster fungus it becomes difficult to identify the host species.


Russula brevipes, one of the host species to lobster fungus
Russula brevipes, one of the host species to lobster fungus


Species of Lactarius and Russula are ectomycorrhizal fungi growing in association with trees such as pines, spruces, and oaks. Hypomyces lactifluorum parasitizes these mushrooms and is thus an indirect parasite on the trees although no species of Hypomyces are known to infect trees. In this way the lobster fungus behaves like some flowering plants such as ghost pipe (Monotropa uniflora) and coral-root orchids (Corallorhiza spp.). These plants engage in myco-heterotrophy and obtain all products of photosynthesis by parasitizing the ectomycorrhizal fungi that grow in association with the roots of trees. Interestingly, Monotropa and Corallorhiza associate with Russula and Lactarius fungus species.

References consulted

Agerer, R. (2001). Exploration types of ectomycorrhizae. Mycorrhiza 11:107–114.

Marx, D. H. (1969). Ectomycorrhizae as Biological Deterrents to Pathogenic Root Infections in Proceedings of the First North American Conference on Mycorrhizae, April 1969. Misc. Publication 1189. U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forest Service.

Miller, O. K. (1981). Mushrooms of North America. E. P. Dutton, New York, Chanticleer Press Edition.

Rochon, C. (2007). Ecophysiology of the Chanterelle and the Lobster Mushroom in Eastern Canadian Jack Pine Forests. Presentation at the 10th North American Congress of Agroforestry, Quebec.

Rochon, C.; Paré, D.; Khasa, D.P.; Fortin, J.A. (2009). Ecology and management of the lobster mushroom in an eastern Canadian jack pine stand. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 39(11): 2080-2091.

Tedersoo, L.; May, T. W.; and Smith, W. E. (2010). Ectomycorrhizal lifestyle in fungi: global diversity, distribution, and evolution of phylogenetic lineages. Mycorrhiza 20:217–263.

Yang, S. and Pfister, D. H. (2006). Monotropa uniflora plants of eastern Massachusetts form mycorrhizae with a diversity of russulacean fungi. Mycologia. 98:535–540.

Zimmer, K.; Meyer, C.; Gebauer, G. (2008). The ectomycorrhizal specialist orchid Corallorhiza trifida is a partial myco-heterotroph. New Phytologist 178:395–400.

Another fly in the garden

Ocyptamus fascipennis landing on a cluster of grain amaranth flowers and scattering pollen as it does.
Ocyptamus fascipennis, the banded-winged hover-fly, landing on a cluster of grain amaranth flowers and scattering pollen as it does.


Another fly in the garden, two really and they are pretending to be ichneumon wasps. The flies are syrphids (Family Syrphidae) but very different from the bee-fly species. It is named banded-wing hover-fly (Ocyptamus fascipennis). The species epithet “fascipennis” is from two Latin words, fascia (band) and penna (feather, wing) and means “banded feather” in reference to the dark band across the wings.

Range and Description

A Nearctic ecozone species, banded-wing hover-fly ranges from Manitoba to Quebec, south to Texas and Florida. There are 10 to 17 species of Ocyptamus in the US and Canada and many more in tropical regions from Mexico to South America.

The banded-winged hover-fly measures 9 to 13.5 mm long. Its wings are marked by a dark band across the middle. The long, thin abdominal section of the fly is dark brown to black with lighter brown and buff bands at each segment border. The fly looks like a small ichneumon wasp but can be told apart from them by its large compound eyes that nearly meet in the middle of the head and by its two full-sized wings and two stub-like wings (halteres) whereas wasps have compound eyes well separated on each side of the head, four full-sized wings, and no halteres.

A Friend in the Garden

Banded-wing hover-flies eat pollen as adults but the larva prey upon scale insects and aphids. The larvae of some tropical species of Ocyptamus have been discovered to prey upon flies that eat the honeydew secreted by white-fly nymphs, which are not true flies but aphid relatives. The Ocyptamus larvae live among the white-fly nymphs and trap the honeydew feeding flies with a sticky venomous liquid that they spray onto the fly. The larvae also eat white-fly nymphs but cannot grow to maturity on them alone so predation on flies is obligatory.



References consulted

BugGuide Genus Ocyptamus

Davis, J. J. (1915). The Pea Aphis With Relation to Forage Crops. United States Department of Agriculture Bulletin No. 276.

Miranda, G. F. G., Young, A. D, Locke, M. M., Marshall, S. A., Skevington, J. H., Thompson, F. C. (2013). Key to the Genera of Nearctic Syrphidae. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification No. 23.

Udvardi, M. D. F. (1975). A Classification of the Biological Provinces of the World. International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Occasional Paper No. 18. Prepared for UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme Project No. 8.

Ureña, O., Hanson P. (2010). A fly larva (Syrphidae: Ocyptamus) that preys on adult flies. Revista de Biologico Tropical. 58(4):1157-63.