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Posts Tagged ‘Common Greenshield Lichen’

When the snow is piled high and it seems like anything of any interest is buried under it I go to the woods and look at the trees. They’re never buried and they always have something fascinating to show me, like lichens. Lichens will grow on just about anything including glass, but this post is devoted to those I’ve found on trees.

The yellow on the trunk of the tree in the previous photo I believe is made up of fringed candle flame lichens (Candelaria fibrosa) like that seen above, but I’m not a lichenologist and I don’t own a test kit or microscope, so don’t hold me to it. This lichen must like a lot of water because I see it a lot on the lower parts of trees that grow near irrigation systems, with trunks that are almost always wet in warmer months. This lichen always reminds me of scrambled eggs.

What prompted me to do this post was a visit to the doctor’s office. I walked past a tree that had bushy green things all over it and luckily I had my camera with me, so I ran back and took a few quick shots before the appointment. This is the first time I’ve seen anything like this.

It has taken quite a while to figure out what this lichen might be called but its green body (thallus) with flattened strap like branches and white fruiting bodies (apothecia) have led me to finally settle on the tufted ramalina lichen (Ramalina fastigiata.) A lichen guide from 1902 says this lichen is “very common in New England” but I’ve never seen it. It is also apparently very common in the U.K.

This is an odd lichen with large apothecia that look like they just erupt anywhere on the body but also look like they are stalked, depending how you look at them. Some are convex and some concave and some have rims and some don’t. The white apothecia are reproductive structures where the lichen’s spores are produced. This is a very interesting lichen that I hope to see more of without having to visit the doctor.

The doctor’s trees were full of surprises. I almost made myself late taking photos of the tufted ramalina so I went back later and looked the trees over a little more closely. When I did I found another lichen I had never seen; the Eastern speckled shield lichen. According to what I’ve read it grows on the bark of deciduous trees, has a bluish gray body with large brown apothecia, and has brown to black dots (pycnidia) on the surface of the body. This lichen has all of that but what it doesn’t have that I could see are white, grainy bits called psuedocyphellae so I can’t be 100% sure of my identification. If you know more about this or any of the lichens seen here I’d love to hear from you.

Common greenshield lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata) is indeed very common. It’s a large lichen and colonies of them often grow to cover entire trees. Older ones wrinkle like the example seen here. Like many lichens they change color, and go from grayish when dry to yellow green when wet. This example had just been rained on a day or two before I took the photo but was still dry, so it doesn’t take them long to dry out. This lichen also taught me that many lichens prefer growing on the shady side of trees, presumably so the sun doesn’t dry them out quite so fast.

If you saw what looked like blue eyes near the greenshield lichen in the previous photo they were just the apothecia of the star rosette lichen (Physcia stellaris) seen here. The apothecia of this lichen are actually dark brown but they have a powdery wax coating that can cause their color to change depending on the light. Plant parts with this powdery waxy coating are said to be pruinose and a good example of it is the “bloom” on blueberries, grapes, plums, and other fruit. The coating reflects light and protects what it coats from the sun. Depending on the angle of the light these apothecia can appear blue, gray, brown or black. That’s why it pays to visit lichens several times.

I was shocked to find a tree with hammered shield lichens (Parmelia sulcata) all over it, because my experience up to this point has shown it to be on the rare side here. There didn’t seem to be anything special about the deciduous tree they were on, but it was in a sheltered spot. Hammered shield lichen is said to have a large variety of named varieties and forms, so it can be tough to pin down.

Hammered shield lichens are silvery gray and their many sharp ridges and depressions makes them look like they’ve been hammered out of a piece of steel. Fruiting bodies are said to be rare and I’ve never seen them. It is said to have powdery, whitish soredia but I’ve never seen them either. This one had granular bits that looked like soredia on its lobe edges but they were gray, so maybe it’s one of the aforementioned varieties.

Poplar sunburst (Xanthomendoza hasseana) is a very pretty lichen but it isn’t very common, in my experience. It’s a good one to study because it has large apothecia that are almost always present. A close relative of this lichen, the elegant sunburst lichen, was sent into space and exposed to ultraviolet radiation, cosmic radiation, and the vacuum of space for a year and a half.  When it was brought back to earth it grew on as if nothing had happened, and that’s why many believe lichens are virtually indestructible and are therefore as immortal as any earth based life form can be.

Some lichens prefer growing on smooth barked trees but others don’t seem to care and will form themselves to whatever shape the bark they grow on happens to have. What I think is a rosy saucer lichen (Ochrolechia trochophora) had done just that and was bowl shaped, but still happily producing spores.

Shrubby little beard lichens are fruticose lichens, and fruticose lichens have upright or pendulous branches. I think this one is a bristly beard (Usnea hirta.) Though it grew on the shadier side of a tree it was caught in bright sunlight, and I’d guess that it must get an hour a day. One way beard lichens reproduce is by fragmentation. Pieces break off and are carried by the wind or maybe animal fur to another spot to colonize. There are many of these high up in the trees and they come down, often still attached to the branch they grew on, during a good wind. I’ve found as many on the ground as I have on trees.

This is an extreme close up of a different beard lichen showing its granular soredia, which are another means of reproduction. A soredium is a tiny granular ball of fungal hyphae and algal cells. They can grow on the body of the lichen or on its margins. No matter what living thing you find in nature, it’s always about the continuation of the species, and the drive to survive seems very strong in all of the things I see.

I think this lichen is a powder edged ruffle lichen (Parmotrema stuppeum) because of its uniform gray color, broad rounded lobes with erect edges, and soralia on the lobe edges. Soralia are groups of soredia meant to fall or break off a lichen and are used as a vegetative means of reproduction. They are what makes this lichen’s lobe edges look like they were dipped in powdered sugar. This lichen also has dark brown to black undersides but they aren’t seen in this photo. It was about as big as a penny, or about 3/4 of an inch across.

Some lichens might look like they have little spiders on them, or maybe as if they had been carved with a pocket knife but no, the squiggly lines are the apothecia of the script lichen (Graphis scripta.) This lichen prefers trees with smooth bark and, from what I’ve seen, only produces spores in winter. You can walk right by a tree full of script lichens in summer and see only grayish spots with no apothecia at all. In fact many lichens seem to prefer winter for spore production and I’ve never been able to find out why.

Beautiful in its simplicity is the maple dust lichen (Lecanora thysanophora.) Plain and undressed without the fussiness of other lichens, it makes me think I could just stand and stare at it, warmed by its calm, clean lines. But how does it reproduce? I’ve never seen any reproductive structures of any kind on it so I had to look it up. The answer is that it does have apothecia, but very rarely. It also has “a thin patchy layer of soredia,” though I’ve never noticed it. The white fringe around the outside is called the prothallus and using it is a great way to identify this lichen, because from what I’ve read there isn’t another that has it.

I hope you’ll go out and look at the trees in your neighborhood. You might be very surprised by what you see.

I find myself inspecting little granules as it were on the bark of trees – little shields or apothecia springing from a thallus – such is the mood of my mind – and I call it studying. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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1. Trail

I noticed that people had broken a path through the snow at a local forest that I visit often, so I decided to follow it one cold and cloudy day. The snow was well packed and easy to walk on and squeaked under my boots. For those of you who have never experienced real cold; when it’s really cold the snow squeaks when it’s walked on, and it does that so nature nuts know that it’s too cold to be out walking on it. At least, that’s my theory.

2. Trail

The path was also only 1 person wide and if you stepped off it into the soft snow at the sides you found yourself up to your knees in it. I suspected that would be the case so I thought ahead for a change and wore my knee high gaiters. I seem to be having some hip trouble so snowshoes aren’t a good idea right now.

3. Common Greenshield Lichen

With the gaiters on I was able to plow through the snow without getting soaked below the knees and boots full of snow, so I could get a look at things like this green shield lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata.) It’s not hard to see how it came by its common name; it looks just like a shield. Its dryness reminded me that winter can be as dry as a desert, in spite of all the snow.

4. Stalked Feather Moss aka Brachythecium rutabulum

One of the best things about walking through the woods in winter is seeing those things which we ordinarily wouldn’t see or which wouldn’t register, like moss on a tree trunk. At other times of the year there is so much to see that most of us would pass a small bit of moss by without a second glance.

5. Stalked Feather Moss aka Brachythecium rutabulum

But if we did we’d probably be missing something beautiful and fascinating, like this stalked feather moss (Brachythecium rutabulum.) Though it doesn’t seem to be moving we know that it is because we can read its movements and easily see how it has crawled up and over the bark plates looking for that perfect spot where it will get all the sunshine, water and nutrients that it needs. It seems to pulse with energy and you can sense how full of life it is. Its beautiful green color offers a welcome contrast to the brown, black and white winter landscape.

6. Red Oak Bark

You don’t always have to see something on the bark of a tree though, because often the bark itself is every bit as interesting and beautiful as anything that might grow on it.  As I took off my glove and ran my hand over the beautiful, deeply furrowed bark of this old northern red oak I imagined that I knew how Adam must have felt when he first laid eyes on the garden. Surely the love of creation must have welled up inside of him like a spring bubbling up from the earth.

7. Snow Depth

The woods might seem hushed and quiet but if you stop and listen you’ll find that spring is in the air. When I stopped squeaking the snow I heard a bird singing a beautiful song just above me in the treetops. I couldn’t see it so I don’t know which bird it was but it wasn’t one of the common, often heard songs. In fact I can’t remember ever hearing it before, but I’d love to hear it again.

8. Wind Blown Snow

The trees will tell you which way the wind blew during the last storm.

 9. Red Oak Buds

There are many northern red oaks (Quercus rubra) in these woods and I stopped to admire the buds of another one.  We have a lot of white oak (Quercus albra) as well but their buds aren’t as sharply pointed as these. There was no sign of these swelling just yet.

10. Oak Branch

Sugar maple buds look very similar to red oak buds because of the overlapping bud scales but an easy way to tell the two apart is by their branching habits. Oaks like the one in the photo have alternate branching and maples have opposite branching. If you’d like to be able to identify trees in winter studying their branch structure and winter buds is a great place to start.

11. Black Birch Bud

This bud had me scratching my head for quite a while but the taste test finally told me that it was a black birch (Betula lenta.) Black birch looks so much like cherry that another common name for it is cherry birch, but this bud didn’t look anything like a cherry bud. Actually, it looks a lot like a buckthorn bud but that’s a shrub, not a tree. Chewing a twig revealed a taste of wintergreen and told me immediately what it was. Black birch often fools me because so many were harvested to make oil of wintergreen that I rarely see them unless I go to spots where I know they grow.  Now I know another spot.

12. Hemlock Twig

Eastern hemlock branches aren’t hard to identify; I’ve raked up millions of them.  Hemlocks, much like weeping willows, are a “self-pruning” tree and can be quite messy. The snow in this photo seems to have a strange, luminous quality that I don’t remember seeing in person.

13. Inner Barberry Bark

The yellow inner bark will tell you that you’re seeing a barberry….

14. Barberry Thorn

But in the winter it’s the thorns that will tell you which one. European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and American barberry (Berberis canadensis) both have clusters of 3 or more thorns but since American barberry doesn’t grow in New England it comes down to European or Japanese, and only the very invasive Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) has single thorns.

 15. Sunny Snow Storm

I don’t think I’ve ever seen it snow when the sun was shining as much as I have this year. It’s as if the atmosphere is so full of snow that it can’t even wait for the sun to stop shining before it drops more of it, and what looks like spots and smudges on this photo are just that-more of it.

By walking in a snowy forest you can really forget about this world, and every time you forget about this world you leave this world, and every time you leave this world you gain a very special wisdom that does not exist in this world. ~Mehmet Murat ildan

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1. Barred Windows

I’m forever telling people that they don’t really have to go anywhere to see nature because it’s all around them, so I thought I’d take a wander around town just to see if I knew what I was talking about. Another reason I went to town was because the sidewalks were plowed and I didn’t have to wade through knee deep snow.

I started out at these barred windows because somebody used to grow beautiful heavenly blue morning glories on the bars and I always thought it would make a great photo. Unfortunately when I finally got a decent camera they stopped growing the morning glories. The windows are barred because this used to be a bank and now is a jewelry store. I wonder if the bent bar means someone tried to get in, or out? I also wonder who could be strong enough to do such a thing.

2. Boston Ivy Fruit

Since I can’t see morning glories I’ll just have to settle for the beautiful cornflower blue of Boston ivy berries. We have a lot of brick buildings here in Keene and Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) grows well on them. As I usually do when I talk about Boston ivy, I should say that it isn’t from Boston and isn’t an ivy. It is in the grape family and comes from eastern Asia. In the fall its red leaves are one of the most beautiful things in town but since the vines grow mostly on the rear of buildings few notice them.

3. Blue Spruce

A Colorado blue spruce poked its colorful branches out of the deep snow. Snow won’t hurt this tree any; it was found growing on Pike’s Peak in 1862 up in the high country, so it’s perfectly cold hardy. Its silvery blue color comes from the waxy coating on its needles, which is similar to the bloom on blueberries and plums. This coating helps its needles (actually leaves) to minimize moisture loss in winter when there is little water available to its roots. Some western Native American tribes used the tree medicinally to treat colds and stomach ailments but today its value comes from its popularity as a landscape specimen.

4. Fringed Candleflame Lichens on Crabapple

This crabapple tree was encrusted with what I believe is fringed candle flame lichen (Candelaria fibrosa.) The city of Keene uses in-ground sprinklers in the summer and the spray keeps the trunks of these trees moist to about 5 feet off the ground and that’s just where these water loving lichens grow. Some trees are so covered with them that it looks as if someone painted them bright yellow.

5. Fringed Candleflame Lichen Fruiting

My book Lichens of North America says that fruiting bodies (Apothecia) are commonly seen on fringed candle flame lichens, but this is the first time I’ve seen them.  They are the cup shaped parts, which were extremely small and difficult to get a good photo of. I think the largest one seen in this photo was probably only 1/16 of an inch across. This lichen is said to be very sensitive to air pollution, so seeing it is a good sign that our air quality is good.

 6. Star Rosette Lichen

What I believe were star rosette lichens (Physcia stellaris) grew among the fringed candle flame lichens.  Star rosette lichen gets its common name from the way its lobes radiate outward like a star. This photo doesn’t show that feature well though, because I was trying to get a shot of the Apothecia, which I’ve never seen on this lichen either. I was excited to see so many lichens fruiting, but it made me realize that the reason I haven’t seen them fruiting before was because I was looking at them in the summer. Does anyone know why so many lichens (and mosses) produce spores in winter? It seems an odd time for a plant to want to reproduce and I’m not sure what the advantages would be.

7. Crabapple

I’ve read that there are fruits, especially those that grow on imported plants, that birds will simply refuse to eat and apparently these crab apples are one of them. Birds won’t eat other crab apple varieties until they have frozen and thawed several times, but those pictured must have done that many times this cold winter. This tree was absolutely loaded with fruit and not a single piece had been eaten. It seems a shame that a more bird friendly variety couldn’t have been planted.

8. Common Green Shield Lichen

There are shield lichens, starburst lichens, candle wax lichens, and ruffle lichens and they all look very similar, but I think this one might be a common green shield lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata.) This is a good example of a lichen which can reproduce itself vegetatively; the granular looking bits toward its center are called soredia. Soredia are meant to fall off and start new lichens, and many lichens use this method of reproduction in addition to producing spores. If you look to the upper left corner of this lichen you will be able to see the size difference between it and the fringed candle flame lichen shown previously.

9. Jumanji Sign

Anyone who has seen the film Jumanji with Robin Williams has seen downtown Keene but they probably didn’t even know it. Many of the exterior scenes, including the animal stampede on Main Street, were filmed here. The film crew painted this sign for a business that never existed on the wall of a downtown building and after Robin Williams died a large memorial covered the entire sidewalk for a few weeks. He was a nice guy who truly enjoyed meeting people, and he became friends with some of our local residents. Next time you watch the movie watch for this sign and you’ll know that you’re seeing downtown Keene.

10. Old Coke Sign

I wonder if the film crew got the idea for their make believe sign from this one, which is the real thing. There is another similar one on the side of another building and both have been here for at least as long as I have. This building housed a well-known drug store for many years and when I was a boy I used to save up my money and buy my grandmother a box of Russell Stover chocolates from them on Valentine’s Day. Of course she would always share them with me and that usually meant that I’d get to eat three to her one. I always looked forward to Valentine’s Day back then.

 11. Ice Cairns

Someone had some time on their hands. And probably gloves, too.

 12. Rose of Sharon Seed Pod

This rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) was loaded with seed pods. I wonder if their seeds are viable; I can’t remember ever finding a seedling. This shrub is in the mallow family and its flowers resemble those of hibiscus, hollyhocks, and mallows. I always think of it as a hardy hibiscus, probably because I pruned hundreds of hibiscus when I worked as a gardener in Florida. That’s probably also why you won’t find a rose of Sharon growing in my yard.

13. Magnolia Buds-2

The magnolias had their winter fur coats on. They are of course bud scales that protect the tender bud within from the cold.  Though some people think that shrubs and trees grow buds in the spring the buds are actually set during the previous year’s growth and only swell up and open in spring.

14. Barberry Fruit

I thought the red of these barberry berries (Berberis) would be appropriate for Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure which plant it is but I am sure that it’s an ornamental rather than an invasive species.  Birds had eaten most of the fruit but there were a few left.

All of the plants and lichens in this post (and many more) grow in plain sight on the streets of Keene, but I doubt that most of the hundreds of people who pass them by every day even know that they’re there.

The most beautiful things in life go un-noticed. ~Omar Hickman

Thanks for stopping in. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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Even in winter there is still plenty to see in the woods. These are a few of the things I’ve seen lately that didn’t fit into other posts.

1. Foliose Lichen On Birch

I don’t know the name of this beautiful foliose lichen but I found it in a birch tree that I’ve visited many times.  I thought I had examined every lichen  within reach in that tree but I was obviously mistaken. My failure to see it even after so many visits helps illustrate the difference between seeing a thing and knowing it. I would have told you that I knew this birch tree like the back of my hand, but now I wonder what else I’ve missed.

2. Blackberry Thorns

Another illustration. This one shows why it’s best to wear old clothes when picking blackberries.

3. Motherwort Seed Head

The tiny pink flowers of motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) grow in circular tufts spaced up the length of the stem. Each flower produces 4 triangular brown nutlets, and in this instance the birds have eaten almost all of them. The scientific name cardiaca means “for the heart” and motherwort was once used to remedy nervousness and dizziness.  Whether it has any medicinal effect on birds is anyone’s guess.  The male black capped chickadees seem very excited this year so it doesn’t seem to be calming them down any.

 4. Purple Coneflower Seed Head

Birds have also been after the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) seeds.  This is one reason I let plants go through their natural cycle and don’t cut them back until spring. Another reason is plain old laziness, which I’m sure the birds appreciate.

 5. Squirrel Tracks

If the question is “Does a squirrel slip in the woods?” the answer has to be yes.

6. Black Sooty Mold from Beech Wooly Aphid

Wooly aphids are sap sucking insects that secrete sweet honeydew on branches and leaves of plants. The honeydew attracts a fungus called black sooty mold. Since the mold only grows on the aphid honeydew and not the plant, it doesn’t harm plants. In fact, the aphids will do far more harm. This mold feels hard and brittle when dry and soft and pliable after a rain. The example in the above photo was growing on alder, but it can also be found on beech, magnolia, maple, oak, elm, basswood, willow, walnut, white pine and hemlock.

7. Barberry Fruit

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is native to Japan. In 1875 seeds imported from Russia were planted at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts. Birds helped it escape and now it has become a very invasive shrub that forms dense thickets and chokes out native plants. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, recently “barberry has been implicated in the spread of Lyme disease. Researchers have noted higher densities of adult deer ticks and white-footed deer mice under barberry than under native shrubs. Deer mice, the larval host, have higher levels of larval tick infestation and more of the adult ticks are infected with Lyme disease. When barberry is controlled, fewer mice and ticks are present and infection rates drop.”

8. Foliose Lichen

I think this might be a tube lichen (Hypogymnia physodes) but I find that these gray / green lichens are one of the hardest to identify. Identification is made even more difficult by their habit of changing color between their wet and dry state. When wet the algae in some lichens (known as chlorolichens) “bloom” and turn the body of the lichen green. The algae are the photobiont part of the fungal and algal symbiotic pair that makes up a lichen, which means that the algae do all the photosynthesizing.

9. Green Shield Lichen

This common green shield lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata) lives on an old hemlock tree just outside my back door, so I know it well.  The recent rain and snow have got it looking just about as good as it ever does so I thought I’d take its photo. Lichens have several ways of reproducing and one of them is vegetatively.  The granular bits in the center of this lichen are called soredia, and are made up of intertwined fungi and algae granules. They will eventually fall to the ground and will be blown or carried to another place where, if all goes well, another lichen will grow.

In the book Gathering Moss author Robin Wall Kimmerer mentions an experiment that showed that many mosses spread by sticking to the bottoms of the tiny feet of chipmunks. I wouldn’t be surprised if lichens were spread in the same way.

10. Honey Locust Seed Pods

The ground beneath an old honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) was littered with thousands of long, flat seed pods. Considering that each one of these was once a flower, this tree must have been very beautiful last June. The reason I was surprised enough by these to take a photo is because the seed pods when fresh contain sweet pulp that is loved by animals, including livestock. Native Americans used the pulp for food as well. Some say it is very sweet and tastes like the fig in a Fig Newton cookie. You do not want to just go munching on seed pods to find out though-black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) seed pods are very toxic.

 11. Honey Locust Seed Pod

Honey locust seed pods look a lot like giant flat string bean about 9-12 inches long and often curled. Some of them look like polished mahogany and others can be purple.

12. Unusual Jelly Fungus

I’ve seen two red jelly fungi in my life and this is one of them. I should say red-ish, my color finding software sees salmon pink, dark salmon, rose, orange, rosy brown, and chocolate brown. I think it might be a purple jelly disc (Ascocoryne sarcoides) but I’m not completely sure. Whatever it is, it is rare here.

 13. Snow Cone

Here is a question to ponder: How does the wind sculpt a perfectly circular feature in the snow? Wouldn’t it have to blow from every direction at once to do so?

The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery. ~ Anaïs Nin

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