Archive for the ‘Sulfur Shelf Fungus’ Tag

Unseen Wet and Dry Daggers   2 comments


Philip Davison Nature Diaries. Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge.

Dry Days, Wet Nights

The rainy season has arrived.  The initial rains were not too heavy but persistent.  Last week there was more or less constant rain all day, but light rain.  This week there have been sunny days with the rain falling at night.  For the past four days there has been only one rainy day and the night time skies have been clear and star filled.

The vegetation looks refreshed having been washed of a dry season’s worth of accumulated dust and dirt.  Verdant green is now the predominant color.  A lot of the trees are flowering and fruiting which is good news for those nectar or fruiting eating creatures.  Many of the non-native tropical ornamental plants found growing around the grounds have been planted for the beautiful floral and foliage displays they produce.  At the moment the Queen’s Crepe Myrtle, (Lagerstroemia speciosa), have the low growing crowns covered in deep lilac blooms.  That produces a sumptuous contrast to the deep green background of the forest.

Queen's Crepe Myrtle. Lythraceae. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Queen’s Crepe Myrtle, (Lagerstroemia speciosa)

The frogs have turned up at the breeding pond in reasonably large numbers.  Whereas in the dry season there are only one or two individuals of one or two species, we are now experiencing the presence of various species that have been noticeable by their absence over the past five months.  As it is only the beginning of the wet season, the intermittent dry days mixed with wet days cause nightly fluctuations in the numbers seen.  Given a few weeks then the amphibian breeding season will really take off and we will start to see large numbers of frog egg masses around the ponds.

Of course, when the number of frogs and frogs eggs increases so will the number of predators that prey upon them.  The number of Cat-eyed Snakes, (Leptodeira septentrionalis), seen around the pond at night has increased many fold.  Last week I found a small Terciopelo, (Bothrops asper), hunting small frogs in the vegetation at the pond edge.  It won’t be long before the large Terciopelos arrive to feed on the larger frogs, more particularly the giant Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog, (Leptodactylus savagei).

There were several Puma, (Puma concolor), and Ocelots, (Leopardis pardalis) caught walking past the trail cameras over the past week.  The cameras allow the lodge to monitor the presence of a great deal of wildlife, mammals more particularly, the roam the trails in the absence of people.

Colored Shelving

Frogs are not the only organism to have been stimulated into action.  The damp conditions have resulted in many fungi mycelia, which ramify throughout the soil and decaying vegetation, to produce fruiting bodies.  Most of them resemble the mushrooms and toadstools that we are familiar with at higher latitudes.  They commonly proliferate through the forests and fields with the oncome of autumn.  Here in the constantly damp conditions of a tropical rain forest you can find fungal fruiting bodies all year round, but at this time of year the sudden increase in humidity encourages a temporary reproductive burst.

Agaricales. Fungi. Costa Rica. Philip Davison

Unidentified Agaric Mushroom

Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge.

Weird and Wonderful Fungal Fruiting Bodies

In Europe and North America there is a great deal of readily available reference material to help identify mushrooms.  Here that is not the case.  But you don’t have to always put a name to something to enjoy the beauty of its color and form.  As they are relatively immobile they also make good photographic subjects.

Leucocoprinus sp

Leucocoprinus sp

Fungi are one of the vitally important constituents of the forest community and help the rain forest to function in the manner that it does.  The constant warm, damp conditions under the canopy provide an excellent incubator for fungal and bacterial action.  Although by no means are these the only two agents of decay and decomposition they are however two vitally important parts of that process.  Dead organic material rots very quickly, leaves as quickly as two weeks and fallen trees sometimes within two years.  The nutrients resulting from this rapid breakdown enter the soil but do not stay for long in the soil.  They are taken up by the vegetation almost as fast as they are produced.  Rain forest soils, apart from the top inch or so, do tend to be very nutrient poor, most the of the nutrients are above ground, locked up as part of the physical makeup of the plant life.

Fungus. Bosque del Cabo

Unidentified Fungal Fruiting Body

Many plants are rather poor at extracting nutrients from the soil.  To that affect the plant roots have a relationship with a fungal mycelium.  Quite often these relationships are specific, a certain plant species only having a relationship with its own species of fungus.  The fungal mycelium is very efficient at taking nutrients from the ground, a certain percentage of which are passed through the tree roots into the plant.  Fungi on the other hand are not photosynthetic and receive sugars produced by the plants in the reverse direction.

Sulfur shelf Fungus. Bosque del Cabo.

Sulfur Shelf Fungus, (Laetiporus sulphureus)

Not all fungi produce the familiar mushroom.  Take a close look and you will see a huge variety of other forms in the forest such as bracket fungi, cup fungi or cauliflower fungi.  They are all fascinating, not only in their life histories, but also in terms of their aesthetic qualities.

Bracket Fungus. Philip Davison.

Mysterious Bracket Fungus

Once Seen, Not Forgotten

There are some butterflies that I see throughout the year.  There are some butterflies that are seasonal.  Then there are those butterflies I only see occasionally.  Finally there are butterflies I have only ever seen once and then never again.  Many butterflies spend their adult days at the top of the canopy.  Forest edges are always a good location to find butterflies as are nectar plants in gardens.  Some butterflies are secretive and won’t venture out into the open, preferring dark secluded, undisturbed areas within the forest.

Last week I managed to find two of the occasionally seen butterflies on the same day and in the less visited areas of the forest.  Over the course of 17 years living in the area I have only found one or two individuals of these species.  I have not been able to take a decent photograph of either of them.  Last week that changed.

While walking along a forest trail, I noticed a small butterfly flitting back and forth from one plant to the next, always landing beneath the leaf, stopping for a few seconds and then taking flight once more.  I knew I had no chance of taking a photo if it continued in this manner.  I stayed still, camera ready in hand, and waited to see if it would rest for a longer period of time.  My patience was rewarded as it flew beneath a leaf in front of me and stopped.  I slowly lifted the camera to my eye and hoped that I would not disturb it.  My luck was in and it remained in position despite the flash firing so I finally managed to take a reasonable picture.

Callicore lyca. Biblidinae. Nymphalidae. Lepidoptera.

Aegina Numberwing, (Callicore lyca)

This butterfly is an Aegina Numberwing, (Callicore lyca).  The genus Callicore is restricted to Mexico, down through Central America and into South America.  They are generally found in the upper layers of the forest, typically in the subcanopy, and rarely venture down to ground level, only doing so to feed on rotten fruit.  I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to find this individual making a sortie to low levels.

Not so far along the trail a bright blue creature with a texture resembling velvet flashed past me.  By the time I noticed and looked to see what it might be, it had gone.  I continued walking and it seemed that this was to be a lucky day.  The creature, which I could now see as a butterfly, had crossed in front of me and flew over the top of low growing vegetation just a foot or so above the ground.  Once again it would not settle so I stood and watched its wandering path.  Unlike the last species, this one was briefly landing on top of the leaves.  Finally it stopped for a few moments not too far from where I was standing and I managed to capture the image.

Theorema eumenia. Theclinae. Lycaenidae. Lepidoptera.

Pale-tipped Cycadian, (Theorema eumenia)

The butterfly was a beautiful Pale-tipped Cycadian, (Theorema eumenia).  The cycadians belong in the family: Lycaenidae along with the hairstreaks.  They tend to be small butterflies and are quite often overlooked.  Had it not been for the sumptuous blue of the upper wing surfaces then I may have missed this individual.  When perched the wings are closed and the undersurface is black with pale v-shaped spots, shot through here and there with metallic blue.

One final butterfly that I managed to take a photograph of was one of the daggerwings.  This time I was out in the open in bright sunny conditions.  The gravel path was still damp from the previous night’s rain and in several spots there were rapidly drying puddles.  Many butterflies like to visit damp ground to engage in mudpuddling where they imbibe nutrient rich moisture.  That does not happen much in this area but one group of butterflies I do see indulging themselves in this way are the daggerwings of the genus Marpesia.

Marpesia alcibiades. Biblidinae. Nymphalidae. Lepidoptera.

Alcibiades Daggerwing, (Maresia alcibiades)

There are six species of Marpesia I find here, some more frequently than others.  The name reveals the distinctive feature, the tip of the hindwing has a long drawn out dagger-like extension.  Daggerwings are found in North, Central and South America as well as the Caribbean Islands.  This species is Marpesia alcibiades.  It is rarely recorded in the wild but that may be due to the fact that it is easily mistaken for several other similar looking species.  Here I found myself faced with a choice of five individuals at my feet.  I ended up on my belly lying prone on the ground to get the shot.  That fills another blank space in the collection.

Philip Davison Is a Biologist, Writer and Photographer Based in Costa Rica