As the leaves continue to fall more lichens are becoming visible, including some that are fruiting and some that I’ve never seen before. A pine tree had fallen and taken this Beard Lichen (Usnea scabrata) with it. It is called old man’s beard and I picked it up off the ground and hung it on another tree so we could see it in all its glory. It was the longest beard lichen-probably 6 inches or more-that I’ve seen. These lichens have been used medicinally for centuries. This is also a beard lichen called bristly beard (Usnea hirta.) many lichens grow so slowly that they can take decades to grow a fraction of an inch. They are thought to be among the oldest living things on earth.
According to my lichen book moose hair lichen (Bryoria trichodes) is also called pine moss or horsehair lichen. Beard and hair lichens are extremely sensitive to air pollution and will only grow where the air quality is high. Deer, moose and squirrels eat this lichen and there are stories of deer rushing out of the forest and eating it out of the tops of felled spruce trees while loggers with chainsaws were still cutting the trees up. This one grew on a white pine trunk and it’s the first time I’ve seen it.
These British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) grew on an old stump in full sun. The very bright red color at the end of branched stalks makes these easy to identify. The red tips are where spores are produced. They are also why this lichen is called “British soldier.”
If I understand what I have read correctly, the chief difference between the British soldier lichens shown previously and the lipstick powderhorn lichens (Cladonia macilenta) in this photo is that British soldiers branch and lipstick powderhorns do not. They both have the same red spore producing tips and otherwise look identical to me. I just noticed that the pine needles in the background have a reddish cast to them, so I wonder if this lichen’s released spores are red. Common powderhorn lichens (Cladonia coniocraea) look just like lipstick powderhorns, but without the red tip. The spores are released from the pointed tip. These were also growing on a decaying log.
Mealy Pixie Cup (Cladonia chlorophaea) lichen look like little trumpets from the side but from the top they look like tiny cups. The cups are where the spores form and this lichen relies on raindrops falling in them to disperse its spores. This lichen is called “mealy” because of the grainy reproductive structures (soredia) covering its outside surface.
Trumpet lichens (Cladonia fimbriata) have much finer and smaller reproductive structures (soredia) than the mealy pixie cup lichen (Cladonia chlorophaea.) The splash cups of mealy pixie cups are also slightly larger than those of trumpet lichens. This is the first time I’ve seen either of these trumpet shaped lichens.
I’m not sure what this foliose lichen’s name is, but it was a pleasure to see. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another one so white. This leaf like (foliose) lichen always reminds me of leaf lettuce. I think it is a fringed wrinkle lichen (Tuckermannopsis Americana.) Its colors are unusual. Rock Foam (Stereocaulon saxatile) grew directly on stone in full sun. It is a fragile looking lichen which caribou will eat if they can’t find reindeer lichen. These lichens are often used as a prospecting tool because a simple lab test will show what type of rock they grow on and what minerals, like copper or magnesium, are present.
I’m not positive about this lichen’s identity but it might be the sulphur firedot (Caloplaca flavovirescens.) Sulphur firedot lichen grows on rock with high calcium content and on unpainted concrete and leans toward orange-yellow in color. It could also be common goldspeck (Candelariella vitellina,) which is much more yellow than orange. In this area yellow lichens aren’t often seen.
I found this very large grayish tan crustose lichen growing on a boulder on the lake shore in full sun. The cup shaped formations are apothecia, or fruiting bodies, and they are where the spores are produced. I couldn’t see these tiny cups until I looked at the picture because they were too small.
A witches broom on a plant is a deformation which forms a very dense, compacted cluster of branches. The witches broom in the photo was high up on a white pine (Pinus strobus) and was absolutely covered with lichens of many kinds.
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. ~ Albert Einstein
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