‘Tis the season for summer foraging! June has passed, with its delicious wild strawberries and serviceberries. July is ushered in, bringing wild blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, along with some non-berry foraging opportunities–true Chanterelles (Cantharellus sp.). Start the month here.
by: Julia Pupko
Chanterelles fruit from mid-to-late July until the end of August. Their fruiting body, what most people imagine when they think of a mushroom, persists for several weeks to a month. Many species in this genus are yellowish-orange in color and have a light apricot scent–making them desirable to many foodies, foragers, and chefs. When cut open, the stem is solid and dense (not hollow), with white or yellow flesh. Chanterelles do not have gills on the underside of their cap, rather, they have dense forking ridges. These are called false gills, and they run from the cap down onto their stems. These ridges contain the spore-producing hymenium, the reproductive structures of Chanterelles. These mushrooms form mutualistic relationships with host trees–typically oak, beech, birch, and many coniferous species. Chanterelles form structures called mycorrhizae, meaning “fungus-roots”. This means that the mycelium network of the mushroom grows into the roots of the host tree. The Chanterelle receives energy created by the tree’s photosynthetic process, and in exchange, extends the tree’s root network, assisting with the uptake of minerals and water. Their mycelium are long-lived, existing for decades or more. Therefore, you can find Chanterelle fruiting bodies popping up in the same places, year after year..
As a result of their mutualistic relationship with trees, Chanterelle fruiting bodies grow directly out of the soil, both alone and in small groups. You will never find them growing directly out of decomposing wood, or on logs. This is important to note, because it can help to differentiate them from toxic look-alikes, such as the Jack-o-Lantern mushroom (Omphalotus sp.). Jack-o-Lanterns grow directly out of decomposing wood in large, overlapping clumps. Additionally, Jack-o-Lantern mushrooms have true gills, unlike the forked ridges of Chanterelles. This article is a useful tool for learning the difference between true and false gills, focused on Chanterelles and their look-alikes.
If foraging, be safe! It is always best to consult with an experienced forager before eating any mushrooms you harvest. And remember, harvest sustainably! In the words of Robin Wall Kimmerer, never take the first individual or cluster you find, never take more than half, and help the organism disperse a little if you can!
by: Spencer Hardy
When one imagines a bee, we tend to think of the universal cartoon bee—a round, black-and-yellow striped critter. Obviously, this is a gross oversimplification of the 350 different bee species that call Vermont home. However, it’s likely there is a bee matching that very description in your nearest urban area—and July is a great time to find them! Two species of Woolcarder Bee (genus Anthidium) arrived in the state this century, and are now a common sight in many human-dominated landscapes. These European species can be quite aggressive, defending a patch of flowers from any and all perceived intruders, which makes for some entertaining bee-watching. Two additional introduced species are knocking at our door, and may already be present in Vermont. But don’t assume all these black and yellow bees are foreign, there are also three uncommon native species that are similar and closely related. And the best news is that all of these bees are potentially identifiable from photos! Check out our black and yellow bee guide to learn more about these species. As an added bonus, any latin afficienotos out there might appreciate the creative naming of the various genera in the group, all of which are related to, and resemble the Woolcarder Bees (Anthidium): Anthidium, Anthidiellum, Dianthidium, Paranthidium, and Pseudoanthidium.
by: Julia Pupko
In Vermont, Black Bears (Ursus americanus) mate between June and July. As a long-lived species, Black Bears do not mate for the first several years of their lives. Females don’t reach sexual maturity until they are between two and eight years of age. They will typically give birth to one to four cubs every other year.
During the mating season, males will traverse a territory 10 to 15 miles in diameter, which may include 7 to 15 female territories. Due to the large territory a male maintains during the breeding season, very little time is spent foraging. This results in males losing up to 20 percent of their body weight, on top of the 20 percent they lost over the winter. Females will traverse their territory up to three times more frequently during breeding season, laying down a scent trail. This trail leads males to them, and also serves to mark their territory. Although females are traversing their territories more frequently, they also spend more time foraging than their male counterparts, and lose little weight during this time. Once a male bear has located a potential mate, he follows her to assess her receptiveness. Both males and females are polygamous and have multiple mates.
Black Bears have delayed implantation, meaning that the fertilized egg does not implant in a female’s uterus for six months. This means that cubs are born around eight months after mating, even though embryonic development only takes about two months. This mechanism is beneficial to the female’s health. If she is not well enough, or does not have enough body fat left to support cubs, the fertilized egg will not implant and she will not have cubs that year.
Be sure to report any sightings of Black Bears to iNaturalist. Remember, you can report scat, claw marks, or tracks as well!
by: Spencer Hardy
Continuing on last month’s theme of neat but destructive garden insects, we now introduce the Squash Vine Borer Moth (Melittia cucurbitae). Finding larvae may induce cursing and frustration, but finding an adult will stop you in your tracks for a moment of awe. This native, day-flying moth is the size of your pinky finger, and excessively gaudy. However, it spells bad news for squash-lovers. Emerging in late June or early July, the adults lay their eggs at the base of a squash vine, where the larva quickly hatch and start devouring the inside of the stem. Eventually the entire plant wilts and dies–unless you have the time and visual prowess to notice the small hole and frass at the base of the squash vine and manually remove the caterpillar. Another option is to take a year or two off from planting pumpkins, hubbard, and summer squash–the most vulnerable crops to these moths. Just be thankful we don’t live further south, where this moth manages two generations per summer and squash is that much harder to grow. Also, be on the lookout for the squash bee later this summer.
by: Julia Pupko
There are over 17 different species of native mussel found in Vermont, making Vermont the most diverse mussel region in all of New England. Mussels spend the majority of their lives in one spot, glued to substrate on the bottom of a river channel or other body of water. The majority of mussels use a host fish to disperse in their larval stage, growing in the fish’s gills until they drop off to live the remainder of their lives wherever they land. Since they are so sedentary, mussels are great indicators of water quality–highly sensitive to pollutants and increased amounts of sediment in the water column (think mud runoff from agricultural fields). Mussels improve to water quality by filtering the water through their shell, feeding on micronutrients and algae that pass through.
July is a great time to look for mussels, since so many of us are spending time in and around Vermont’s rivers and lakes. The Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist only has 268 Research Grade observations of native mussels, so be sure to report any observations to iNaturalist!
by: Julia Pupko
As you walk across Vermont this month, you’ll see many beautiful flowers in bloom. Picture yourself wandering through a natural area, just before dusk. You are strolling near a wetland, and come across a bush, 6 to12 feet tall, filled with globe-like white flowers. You have discovered a Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). Their white or pinkish flowers give way to a rounded mass of nutlets, which can persist well into the winter. While edible to birds, this shrub is highly toxic to humans if consumed!
After walking past the wetland, you enter a small woodland that leads to a field. A warm breeze rustles past you, and the distant sound of crickets fills the air. Wild Sarsaparilla ( flowers greet you under the trees–small, white flowers extending from long stalks stretch upwards. As you continue through the woodland, you see some groups of small plants that appear bleached. The whole plant is under a foot tall, and pinkish white in color. You are looking at a One Flowered Ghost Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), a plant that doesn’t photosynthesize, and instead invades mycorrhizal trees (those with symbiotic fungal relationships) to attain its nutrients. If you approach, you may find the flowers have pinkish hues , and gray tips on their petals, creating a striking contrast to their bright yellow pollen.
You carry on, soon entering the meadow. The cricket symphony swells, and fireflies have begun to blink, signaling to one another. Pale-spiked Lobelia (Lobelia spicata) waves hello with the breeze, whitish-purple flowers peeking out from the stalk. Lawn-daisies (Bellis perennis) show off their flowers nearby, white petals appearing as a halo around a golden dome in the dimming light. You continue on, soon swallowed up by the growing darkness.
by: Julia Pupko
Around dusk, you may begin to hear a melodic song: Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will! It is none other than the Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus). This Robin-sized bird remains motionless throughout the day, brown plumage camouflaging it against bark and dead leaves. When dusk arrives, the bird springs to life, singing its namesake, and chasing down insects on the wing. Whip-poor-wills can fly nearly straight upwards in close pursuit of a meal. They typically only feed at dusk and dawn, but will feast all night when the moon is full. In fact, Eastern Whip-poor-wills lay their eggs “in phase with the lunar cycle,” so eggs will hatch about 10 days before a full moon. This allows new parents to forage all night long, thereby providing well for their freshly hatched offspring.