4 Weird & Wonderful Fall Fungi in North Vancouver

For some, the Fall season marks the tragic decline of Summer: the temperature drops, leaves fall, and the rains torrent down in full force. But for those in the know, Fall is a wonderland filled with colour and life. Why? Fungi!

Scientists estimate there are over 10,000 species of fungi living in the Pacific Northwest (Northern California to Alaska) and up to 1.5 million species worldwide. Since we don’t have time to cover all 10,000, here are 4 relatively common (and super weird looking) fungi we found right here on Vancouver’s North Shore. We found these mostly in Capilano Canyon and on the Kennedy Falls hiking trail, but many of these can be found on lawns and in gardens even in the city! Let’s dive in with a Super-Mario looking mushroom, the Fly Amanita.

1. Fly Amanita

The Fly Amanita is a cheerful looking fellow, with bright red cap dotted with many white warts on it. The cap can either by round like this one, or convex like a bowl. You can find it pretty much everywhere there are pine, spruce, fir, birch, or aspen trees around between June and November. Danger: this mushroom is dangerous to eat or even touch without gloves so be careful.

fall-fungi-fly-amanita

Why fly in the name? Traditionally, this mushroom has been used in homemade fly traps. People would crumble small pieces of the cap into a bowl of milk – the flies are attracted to a chemical in the mushroom, then are poisoned by it and drown in the milk.

fall-fungi-fly-amanita-man

Fun Fly Amanita Fact: This mushroom was said to be a favourite of the ancient Romans to poison their enemies.

2. Angel Wings

Moving from devilish to delicate, the Angel Wings fungus is easy to spot growing on coniferous nurse logs throughout the forest from September to October. It has a thin, wavy top, usually no stem to speak of, and thin dense gills underneath.

fall-fungi-angel-wings

Be careful when petting the dense gills underneath, as this fungi is fragile.

3. Orange Jelly

Many fungi like the Fly Amanita and Angel Wings have a defined structure to them. Others are alien blobs of goo. That’s the category Orange Jelly fungus falls into…

Orange-Jelly-Fungus

This is definitely the weirdest looking fungus we found in the forest this season, and you can probably go find it as well. It grows from coniferous wood (see our rundown of common BC trees here) from May to November. Moist mountain valleys like Lynn Canyon and Capilano Canyon in North Vancouver, or Paradise Valley (Cheakamus Centre) in Squamish are the best places to look for these.

Fun Jelly Fungus Fact: Jelly Fungus is easiest to spot when the weather has been super rainy – it soaks the moisture up and swells to the size you see in the picture above. When moisture levels drop, the fungus dries up to lay in wait for the next big rainfall.

4. Crested Coral Fungus

While the coral reef isn’t doing too well in the ocean, coral fungi – named for their resemblance of oceangoing coral – are abundant on the forest floor. We think this here is Crested Coral Fungus, but it’s tough to tell between that and Pink Coral Mushroom which happens to be super poisonous.

Regardless, both kinds can be found on the ground underneath coniferous trees like Western Hemlock and Douglas Fir. It isn’t a good idea to eat any kind of Coral Fungus, but they sure are neat to look at and feel with their interesting structure.

Fall Fungus For Everyone

That’s all folks! If you have any weird or wacky fungus you’ve spotted this season, send us a picture at nvosas@gmail.com and we’ll post it for everyone to see. Otherwise, happy fungus hunting friends.

-Mark

 

Photos and Words by:

Mark Tallman

President, NVOSAS

Mark-Tallman-NVOSAS

 

Let’s Start Thinking Green

ANDY1

 

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Globe 2016 Expo at the Vancouver Convention Center where several companies had booths set up to share their efforts in developing sustainable technology. I would like to share a few of the companies and technologies that I enjoyed the most!

 

  1. Enerkem

 

As part of my courses in university, I toured a few industrial plants around Alberta – my favourite being Enerkem, located in Edmonton. I was excited to see that they had a booth at the Globe conference. Enerkem is a company that takes a portion of the non-recyclable municipal wastes to convert it into bio-chemicals that can be used in products or for energy. To me it sounds like magic!

ANDY2

                                   The Enerkem facility in Edmonton

 

Waste contains large amounts of organics which, at a landfill, will naturally break down to produce CO2 and methane. When there is too much waste to be contained, an incinerator will be used to burn it, which will produce a lot of CO2. Enerkem’s technology works by gasifying the organic wastes to make what is called syngas, and this syngas can then be run through a reactor packed with catalysts to reform it into biofuels and chemicals.

ANDY3

                A landfill, definitely not as nice looking as the recycle plant!

 

  1. BioCube Corp

 

I was interested in the BioCube because it takes the already established technology of making biodiesel and making it more accessible and economically feasible.

Biodiesel is made from a transesterification process where a triglyceride (Perhaps from a vegetable oil) is reacted with an alcohol. A current major problem with biodiesel is that the process to produce it in a big plant is quite energy intensive and takes a lot of infrastructure and transporting of materials, which is exactly what the BioCube was invented to prevent!

ANDY4

                                     Just some plain ol’ biodiesel

The BioCube is a modified 20 foot shipping container that can be used to produce biodiesel. The idea behind the BioCube is that you can ship it to where biodiesel can be used and a feedstock is present. The first BioCube sold went to DR Congo, which allowed them to no longer rely on shipping in diesel oil for their energy needs which cuts down on costs as well as greenhouse gas emissions!

ANDY5

                     Pongamia seeds, one of the many usable feedstocks

  1. Designergy

 

I am a fan of Designergy for the same reason as the BioCube – they take a technology and make it more accessible. Designergy produces a roofing material that integrates a photovoltaic with the necessary insulation and waterproofing needed to be a construction material. Based in Switzerland, Designergy has been participating in the construction scene for roughly 5 years.

My favourite thing about solar energy is that if someone tells you there has been a solar spill, they really just want to say that it’s a gorgeous day. Jokes aside though, solar energy is a fantastic technology to get behind. It does have difficulties, however – such as efficiency, space, and the materials it takes to make them. Companies such as Designergy really pave the way for investors to get behind solar energy, which will hopefully assist us in tackling some of the issues with solar energy and allow us to see a lot more of it in our future!

ANDY6

                                    The lone ranger, powering our future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Andrew “Rabbit” May
ANDY MAY

NVOSAS Vice President

BC Spiders – Friend, Foe, or Average Arachno?

Fear of spiders is common. Arachnophobia – a very intense fear of spiders – is less common, but still prevalent.

But is it justified?

It’s difficult to pinpoint why people fear spiders, but the best theory has to do with ancestral memory (a fancy way of saying ‘instinct’).  Spiders were probably far more dangerous to our ancestors long long ago, without modern medicine .  This theory hinges on a psychology term called preparedness, which describes our evolutionary predisposition (again, ‘instinct’) to fear things dangerous to us.  It explains many commonplace phobias, including those of snakes, heights, the dark, deep water, etc.

All  those things pose a threat to us, or at least posed a threat to our early human ancestors when we developed the instinct to fear them.

So yes, fear of spiders is definitely justified.

However it’s becoming less and less necessary: modern medicine’s advent has rendered most spider bites a nuisance at best to us.  And yet our instinct to fear spiders, although diminished, has continued to ride our genes down the ancestral highway.

So although it was justifiably developed, our fear of spiders is no longer relevant – at least in BC.  However, if you live in Australia or South America or Africa, maybe keep that fear of spiders closer to your heart.
There are three main spiders commonly feared by residents of BC, and I’m going to tell you the important basics about each of them.  Spoiler Alert: they’re not as bad as they seem.

Wolf Spiders

Have you ever been sitting on your couch, watching TV, reading a book, or just relaxing, when suddenly a large brown blur scurries across the floor and disappears from sight underneath the couch?  You probably just saw a Wolf Spider.  These hairy brown beasts are known for their speed and their unique hunting style among other spiders.  Rather than building a web and waiting for their naïve, juicy prey to come to them, the Wolf Spiders hunts their food and chases them down.  Thanks to their size, they’re able to take on a large menu of other insects to eat, from ants to crickets to other fairly sizeable spiders.  Thankfully, humans are NOT on that list.Wolf_Spider_White_Background

Bites from Wolf Spiders are rare, as they will only do it if backed into a corner and provoked.  That plus there aren’t many situations they come into contact with humans; Wolf Spiders spend most their time in dark, underneath-things places, and are nocturnal so they prowl the open hallways when you’re safely tucked in bed.  But even if they do happen to bite, their venom is not lethal.  It causes swelling, itchiness, and irritation.  However, you should still see a doctor if you’re bitten by one, because research is inconclusive on the extent of the effects of Wolf Spider venom.  While some people have attributed some deaths to Wolf Spider venom, other research has shown otherwise.

But Wolf Spiders are more friend than foe because they play a very important role – they eat the pests and the not-so-nice insects.  They even keep Hobo Spiders away.

It’s best to leave Wolf Spiders to their work because they will do a lot of pest control, however if having one in the house makes you uncomfortable, the best thing to do is put it outside – just don’t kill it.  If you see a Wolfie, just grab a glass and a piece of paper, trap it in the glass and the floor, and slide the paper under.  Pick up the glass, keeping the paper firmly against the opening to keep it trapped, take it outside, and let it go.  Wolf spiders like the warmth of our houses, however, so don’t be surprised if it sneaks back in every now and again.

Hobo Spider

Ah, the Hobo Spider.  Notorious for being an introduced species1, having deathly venom, and having a kinda funny name.  Also generally thought of as aggressive spiders (often called an ‘aggressive house spider’), partly thanks to a misinterpretation of a part of their Latin name, agrestis, which was misinterpreted as aggressive, but really translates to ‘field.’  These spiders come from Europe, where they’re considered non-aggressive spiders, and, you guessed it, live in fields!  They tend to pop up in human habitats, but not as much as you might think.BC_spider_hand

Now everything above is true except for them having deathly venom: that is a misconception.  Many cases of spider bites that have been considered medically important have been attributed to Hobo Spiders, but without sufficient evidence to back it up (the sample spider that did the deed was not found or provided).  There are no verified cases of Hobo Spider envenomations in people.  The jury is still out on the extent of damage a Hobo Spider bite can cause someone, and that’s mainly due to the extremely low occurrence of bites in the first place.

Hobo Spiders spend most of their life on a web close to the ground, out of sight.  They don’t do much except wait around for bugs to land in their web, and they definitely do not seek out human flesh.  It is only in the fall – when the male Hobo Spiders leave their web to search out a female to mate with – that it might be more common to see one scurrying across the floor, or – better yet – trapped in a sink or bathtub and unable to climb out.

These arachnids are no reason to cause alarm, however if you think you may have been bitten by one, it’s best to keep an eye on the bite and see a doctor.

If you’re wondering about “introduced species,” that’s just a term given to any species that originates in one area and then spreads to a new habitat it previously didn’t inhabit – usually through human involvement. too!  The Hobo Spider managed to cross the ocean by riding barges transporting crops.

Black Widow

The Black Widow is probably the most dangerous spider in North America, having venom potent enough to kill the young and elderly; however, only a very nominal percentage of reported bites have been proven to be fatal.  Young children less than 40 lbs and elderly with immune disorders are most susceptible to the venom.  In adults, however, the venom is far less than fatal.

spider_finger_venom

Black widows are, so far, the only spider of concern on this list, and although they may not be fatal to adults, their bites can cause a lot of pain.  If you suspect a bite from a Black Widow, immediately seek treatment from a doctor.

Following the trend of the spiders so far, Black Widow bites are far less common than most people think.  They aren’t aggressive; they will only bite in self defense when backed into a corner, provoked, or squished.

Black Widows stick to dark places, wooded areas, small crevices, etc, and many bites are purported to occur from people grabbing wood from a woodpile without proper preparation.  Wearing gloves usually eliminates that risk.

Honourable Mention:

Brown Recluse Spider

This guy’s name is often spoken with a hint of fear and awe at the power of his venom.  Well, surprisingly, just like with most spiders, there are actually a lot of misconceptions around him.  These non-aggressive spiders are less venomous than the Black Widow spider, yet probably feared more.  News and media often perpetuate false myths about these guys by showing swollen, blackened hands, or something similar to that, and attributing it to the Brown Recluse Spider.  As such, there is so much more danger associated with them than they deserve.

As with all the spiders so far, they are timid and actively avoid contact with humans, unless pinned down in which case they can bite.

But none of that matters.  The absolute kicker about these spiders is: they don’t actually live in Canada at all.  They’re entirely restricted to the southern US.  People all over Canada claim to have been bitten by them, and yet there have been no verified, proven identifications of the spider north of the American border.

So if you live in British Columbia and still think spiders are fearsome creatures, well, hopefully some of these facts can put your mind at ease.  Their main source of food is the bugs that actually bother us.  They have proven themselves to be far more helpful than detrimental to us, and cause no need for concern.

Final Fun Facts:

   Medically significant events are caused by dogs at more than 60 times the amount of medically significant events caused by spiders

   There’s an urban myth that’s something like “people swallow seven spiders a year in their sleep,” and that is entirely bogus

   Spiders are everywhere.  There’s some truth to the adage that you’re never more than 3 feet away from a spider at any given time.  While not entirely true, it captures the idea that spiders are far more abundant than you think!

 

 

Solid Sources for your Continued Education:

http://ibis.geog.ubc.ca/biodiversity/efauna/spiders.html

http://www.royalalbertamuseum.ca/research/lifeSciences/invertebrateZoology/dangerousSpiders.cfm

Sources of Photos:

Wolf: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Patrick_Edwin_Moran

Hobo: http://biodiversitybc.blogspot.ca/2013/03/ask-expert-brown-recluse-spiders-in-bc.html

Black Widow: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/family-finds-black-widow-spider-in-bag-of-grapes-1.991572