Monday, October 24, 2016

The Laugher or Marbled Tuffet Moth

The Laugher

     I love the names we give creatures sometimes. Take this caterpillar I found today. It is commonly called The Laugher, the larva of of what is sometimes also called the Marbled Tuffet Moth Charadera deridens. The name is derived according to stories from the adult moth having what looks like eyes and a smiling face on its wings. Others say that the caterpillar shows some vaguely grinning faces that change as the caterpillar matures, the grin growing smaller each time as the head capsule gets blacker. Even it's scientific epithet deridens comes from the French for "to deride, mock, or laugh at." 

     The Laugher is a hairy caterpillar with long setae (hairs) that are clumped together and emerge from each wart on its body. It's head capsule is very dark black when mature, but much lighter the younger it is, with 3 triangular tooth looking marks before it pupates. It can vary a bit in color, but is generally pale colored.
     This species usually has two broods or generations around here. It is adapted to being able to eat tough old deciduous leaves of trees, especially beech and oak, which most caterpillars often can't feed on. That's why you can find them often in the Fall when many other caterpillars have wrapped up their life cycles. This Noctuid moth overwinters as a lightly wrapped cocoon. 
     I've actually wanted to find The Laugher for quite a while. Even though its quite common, the most common of the 5 species in its Genus Charadera, I had never found one. That is until today. No joking, I was quite happy to finally find The Laugher, as was evident by the smile on my own face when I found it.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Lion's Mane, Satyr's Beard, and Bearded Hedgehogs, Oh My...

Lion's Mane (Satyr's Beard) on a dying tree

     Fall rains often bring an explosion of mushrooms. One of my favorites is a distinctive one that goes by a variety of names: Lion's Mane, Satyr's Beard, Bearded Tooth Mushroom, Pom Pom Mushroom, and Bearded Hedgehog Mushroom among many others. In Japan it goes by the name Yamabushitake and is used in many Asian dishes.

The soft toothy projections that disperse the spores are fairly evident here

     Toothed Mushrooms disperse their spores by dropping them below their toothy fringes. It is considered edible, as I mentioned before, particularly in Asian vegetarian dishes. It is supposed to taste like seafood and substitute for it. I wouldn't go that far. I think it absorbs the flavors of what's around it and can add consistency and act as a soup thickener though. It shows up for sale sometimes in specialty shops and farmers markets. 

Diced and sliced

     It can come in various sizes. Our urban forester Vincent Verweij once found a huge one weighing several pounds in a tree that had to come down for safety reasons. That meant there was plenty for all of to share. My whole family agreed that it was delicious! Now it's something I hope to find every Fall.

Some sizzles in a pan in my kitchen

     Interestingly, some people are investigating it for supposed medicinal values. So far it is showing remarkable promise, some studies showing it can help improve memory, help with nerve damage, and improve other memory issues. Regardless of all that, I found it an interesting thing and tasty treat for my family.

Our urban forester Vincent Verweij with just a portion of a huge Lion's Mane from a tree that had to be taken down.
A small Satyr's Beard, with a Leopard Slug ready to feast on it too