Nature Notes

Please check back periodically for information about our resident animals, wildlife, and other natural phenomenon.

Thanks to Master Naturalist Debbie Satorius for these articles on . . .

Chicken of the Woods Mushroom
Laetiporus sulphureus

Chicken of the Woods is a summer and fall mushroom you might find in our local woods this time of year.  It is a common northeast fungus that is often found in clusters, but occasionally is solitary. It is usually bright orange, but can be more reddish or yellow depending on age and often lightening up in color at the edges.

It is said to be an edible mushroom and a fine chicken substitute as long as you make sure to fully cook the mushroom. But be wary of those that grow on conifers, as they are a different species that can cause poisoning. A good tree can yield 50 pounds of mushrooms.

Chicken of the Woods grows in trees that are either living or  decaying and cause a reddish brown heart-rot of the wood. This  destabilizes the tree by hollowing out its center.

Historically, the former wooden ships of the British Naval Fleet were known to be damaged 
by this fungus.

All Photos by Debbie Satorius

Northern Water Snake       
Nerodia sipedon

    All Photos by Debbie Satorius

·       Averaging at an adult length of 2-4’, this a common snake in Maryland that frequents ponds, streams, lakes and most any wetland habitat.
·       Females are larger than males. Young snakes are born alive from July to September. The litter ranges in size from 4 to 99 offspring. Larger females tend to have larger litters.
·       These snakes are not venomous, but are often mistaken for copperheads or cottonmouths due to their markings.
·       Their colors vary greatly in appearance from gray, tan, buff or brown.  Colors are more vivid in young and wet snakes.
·       They have no heat sensing pits like venomous snakes, their pupils are round  and  their heads are narrow and oval.
·        When threatened they can flatten their bodies and begin to strike and bite furiously while emitting a foul smelling musk.
·        Producing a protein in their saliva that is an anti-coagulant, they can bite and follow the trail of blood to their wounded prey.

Skunk Cabbage
Symplocarpus foetidus

·       A moisture loving forest ephemeral
·       More closely related to Jack-in-the-pulpit than cabbage
·       It gets its name from the pungent odor it gives off when 
      any part of the plant is  broken or damaged
·       Flowers in the winter before leaves emerge, attracting 
      gnats and flies that pollinate the flowers and take 
      refuge within the flower structure. Often flowers 
      in February.
·       Food for snails and slugs as well as ruby tiger 
      moth and cattail borer moth caterpillars
·       Contain crystals of calcium oxalate, making them toxic 
      to most animals, yet hungry snapping turtles and 
      bears have been seen eating the leaves in spring

Photo Credit:  Debbie Satorius

Feeds winter pollinators.

Flowers through the snow.

Spring leaves.

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