When the flowers fade and the leaves have all fallen many think that there’s nothing with any color left to see, but that isn’t true. There’s still a lot of color out there even in winter, but it comes in smaller packages and you have to look a little closer to find it. Some of the best colors can be found on lichens like the beautiful poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthomendoza hasseana) in the above photo. This lichen is found on tree bark and is almost always fruiting, which the sucker like, disc shaped fruiting bodies (apothecia) show.
Chances are good that if you go looking for lichens you’ll see many gray crustose lichens that don’t appear to be very exciting at first glance…
…but when you give them a closer look you’ll find that even lichens that seem drab and boring will often have some color and might be very interesting. I think the one with the tan fruiting bodies in the above photo might be the crab’s eye lichen (Ochrolechia tartarea.) One of the best identifying characteristics of this lichen is the notched rims around its apothecia. I’ve never seen another lichen with them.
Lichens like the common goldspeck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) in the above photo are here year round for us to enjoy, and once the leaves fall many lichens become even easier to see. Look for this crustose lichen on stone. Crustose lichens form crusts that tightly adhere to the substrate that they grow on and usually can’t be removed without damaging it.
Pink earth lichen (Dibaeis baeomyces) looks a lot like bubble gum lichen (Icmadophila ericetorum.) One of the differences between the two is the length of the stalks that the pink apothecia sit on. They are longer on pink earth lichen than they are on bubble gum lichen. Other than that they look much the same.
Pink earth lichen is an interesting crustose lichen that I find growing in large patches on acid, sandy soil in full sun along with blueberries and sweet fern. It is uncommon and I know of only one or two places where it grows.
This beautiful little scattered rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) taught me how fast lichens can grow. A few years ago it could have sat on a penny with room to spare, but now it is more than quarter size. The orange pad like parts are its fruiting bodies (apothecia) and the grayish, brain like part is the body (thallus) of this foliose lichen.
Crustose rock disk lichens (Lecidella stigmatea) look a lot like tile lichens (Lecidea tessellate,) but tile lichens have black fruiting bodies that are sunken, or concave, and rock disk lichens have black fruiting bodies that are raised or flat. These lichens are very common on rocks of all kinds and grow in full sun.
This photo shows how the black apothecia stand slightly proud of the body (Thallus) of the lichen. This is an important identifying characteristic when looking at gray lichens with black apothecia, so you need to get in close with a good loupe or macro lens.
Noting whether or not the lichen’s fruiting bodies (apothecia) have rims is important when trying to identify lichens. I think this gray crustose lichen with rimmed black apothecia might be a crater lichen (Diploschistes scruposus.) It grew on stone. A similar lichen is the cowpie lichen (Diploschistes muscorum,) but it grows on soil.
One of the things I like about lichens is how they grow virtually everywhere, so you don’t have to search for them. This post and rail fence had them all over it.
This lichen garden was on the top of one of the posts. It had common powder horn lichens and red British soldiers growing in it.
This is a closer look at a British soldier lichen (Cladonia cristatella). It’s about the size of a wooden matchstick. I wish I had seen the white lichen with black apothecia to the left but I didn’t see it until I looked at this photo. British soldier lichen gets its common name from the British redcoats who fought in the revolutionary war.
There were many examples of beard lichens on the fence. This one is a fishbone beard lichen (Usnea filipendula,) named for the way its branches resemble the backbone of a fish.
I’ve tried for several years to identify this green beard lichen but I still don’t know its name. I’m fairly sure that it’s in the Usnea family of lichens but I’m not sure which one. It grew on the fence right alongside other gray Usnea lichens.
There is a low mist in the woods—it is a good day to study lichens. ~Henry David Thoreau
Thanks for stopping in.