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Posts Tagged ‘Golden Moonglow Lichen’

Since I recently did a post about lichens that grow on trees I thought I’d do one on lichens that grow on stone. Though there are lichens that can grow on wood or stone most of the ones I know seem to prefer one or the other. In fact the ones I know seem very fussy about where they grow, even down to the species of tree or stone. The lichen in this first photo is not that fussy though, so it will even grow on sidewalks, and that’s how the name sidewalk firedot lichen (Caloplaca feracissima) came about. Though I’ve seen it on concrete once or twice in the past I almost always see it on lime rich stones. It’s a pretty orange color and it can get quite big. This one is as big as a car tire.

Another lichen that can get quite big is the peppered rock shield lichen (Xanthoparmelia conspersa) but this example must have just gotten started because it was quite small and had few apothecia. This lichen likes to grow on stone in full sun and I find a lot of them on stone walls. They’re a good introduction to lichen study because their brown apothecia, where their spores are produced, are large and easy to see without aid.

Lichens are made up of a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae or cyanobacteria. Technically apothecia are “fungal reproductive structures, in which the fungus reproduces itself through the production of spores” This is not the only way that lichens reproduce, but it is common and the apothecia are often beautiful and well worth watching for. The beautiful brown ones in the photo above belong to the peppered rock shield.

Some lichens are very easy to identify because there aren’t many others that look like them, and the toadskin lichen (Lasallia papulosa) is one of those. Toadskin lichens show color changes when they dry out like many other lichens. When wet it is pliable and pea green and when dry it becomes crisp and ash gray like the above example. Toadskin lichens get their common name from their many “warts.” They attach themselves to stone at a single point that looks like a belly button, and that makes them umbilicate lichens.

This is the very same toadskin lichen as the one in the previous photo. You can easily see the dramatic color change between this day when it was wet and when it was dry in the previous shot.

Rock tripe lichen (Umbilicaria mammulata) is a relative of the toadskin lichen but it doesn’t turn gray when it dries out. Instead it gets brownish and curls up. It is very pliable and rubbery when it’s moist, but once it dries out it becomes crisp like a potato chip. The Umbilicaria part of the scientific name comes from the Latin umbilicus, meaning navel. This is where another common name, navel lichen, comes from and points to how, like the toadskin lichens, they attach themselves to stone with a single attachment point that looks like a navel. It sticks itself to stone by way of this single, navel like attachment point and the rest of the lichen hangs from this central point, much like a rag hanging from a peg.

Here is what rock tripe lichens look like dry. You can see the back of it, which is black and pebble textured. Rock tripe is edible and eating it has saved the lives of people who were lost and starving in the past. Though I imagine they must taste like old rubber, these lichens were a source of emergency food for Native Americans and saved the lives of many an early settler. Even George Washington’s troops are said to have eaten rock tripe to survive the brutal winter at Valley Forge in 1777.

Rock greenshield lichens (Flavoparmelia baltimorensis.) Look like melted candle wax to me. They are very common in this area and are another of those bits of nature that you see so often they no longer register, but when you take the time to look closer you find that they are quite pretty.

If you happen to see a stone that looks like it has sprouted gray hairs you might want to take a closer look, because there’s a good chance you’re seeing a Cladonia lichen.

There are many Cladonia lichens including the well-known pixie cups, but I think these were peg lichens (Cladonia sobolescens.) Peg lichens are also a large group, with split pegs, thatched pegs, powdery pegs, etc., but these seem to fit the description of what the book Lichens of North America calls simply peg lichens. The “peg” is called a podetium and it is topped by brown apothecia.

Here is a closer look at the tiny tan / brown apothecia that sit atop the pegs. These are where the lichen’s spores are produced. They are so small that I wasn’t able to see them but luckily the camera could.

This peg lichen is a squamulose lichen, which means it is scaly, but it is also foliose, or leafy. Squamules are the small leafy, lobed growths that are at the base of the tiny peg shaped podetia. A podetium is an upright secondary thallus in Cladonia lichens. It is a hollow stalk extending from the primary thallus. Podetia can be pointed, club like, cupped, or branched in shape and may or may not contain the ascocarp, which is the fruiting body of the lichen. If the asocarp is bowl shaped it is an apothecium. In this peg lichen the podetia are not branched and the leafy squamules are rounded and grayish green to brown, with white undersides. The quality of these photos isn’t great but the various parts of this lichen are very small. I think they do show enough to make a fairly good identification but if I’m wrong I hope someone will let me know.

Scattered rock posy lichens (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) can be quite small and difficult to see without magnification, but it’s worth looking for them because they almost always have their bright orange apothecia showing. They like to grow on stone, especially granite, in full sun. They don’t seem to change their color when they dry out like many other lichens do. I’ve seen this pretty lichen even on mountain tops.

Here is a closer look at those pretty rock posy apothecia. The ones I’ve seen are never shiny. They always have a kind of matte finish.

Common goldspeck lichens (Candelariella vitellina) are uncommonly beautiful. Look for this bright yellow crustose lichen on stone. especially slate. I see it on older gravestones quite often. It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that, at high magnification, the body of the common goldspeck lichen looks like it’s made up of tiny golden specks. The book Lichens of North America describes the body of this lichen as “little cushions of flattened granules.” This lichen is sometimes sterile, with no fruiting bodies present, but this one had a few. Crustose lichens form crusts that tightly adhere to the substrate that they grow on and usually can’t be removed without damaging it.

The golden moonglow lichens (Dimelaena oreina) that I see are usually about an inch across but they can get much bigger. They grow in full sun on granite and don’t seem to change color when they dry out like many other lichens do. The one in the photo was producing spores and that’s something I don’t see this lichen do very often. If you spend much time in cemeteries you have probably seen this pretty lichen, because it seems to like growing on smooth, polished stone, especially granite. It is a crustose lichen, so removing it from a gravestone would be a challenge. When lichens grow on glass the acids in them can actually etch the glass and this is a problem in the big European cathedrals, especially. I would think the same would be true for polished stone.

Another lichen common to stone walls is the sulfur dust lichen (Chrysothrix chlorina.) It’s a very soft, pale yellow and hides under overhangs so it doesn’t get rained on. At least I think that’s why I always find it tucked away like this, but this is odd behavior for a lichen because they usually like a lot of rain and sunshine.

Dog lichens (Peltigera) are good example of lichens that will grow on soil, rotting wood, or stone as this one was. Dog lichens are associated with mossy areas because the mosses help provide the moisture that they need. It is very thin and pliable. It is also a foliose lichen because it is lobed, or leaf like. The upper part of the body (Thallus) is undulating or veined on this example. This lichen is large and easy to see. It is also probably quite old.

Here is another look at the dog lichen. They’re much bigger than most other lichens. I’d guess this one is about the size of a 45 RPM record, if anyone can remember those.

The underside of a dog lichen is often bright white as this one was. They also have small hairs called rhizines which help them cling to whatever they’re growing on.

Smokey eye boulder lichen is a favorite lichen of mine. The blue color seen in the above photo is caused by the way light reflects off a waxy coating on the fruiting bodies, which is very similar to the “bloom” found on plums, blueberries, and grapes. In addition to blue it can also appear black or gray depending on which direction the light happens to be coming from.  The greenish-gold background color is the color of the body (thallus) of this crustose lichen. It’s a very beautiful thing and I hope you’ll take the time to look for it and all of the other beautiful lichens out there.

There is no absolute scale of size in nature, and the small may be as important, or more so than the great. ~Oliver Heaviside

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As the leaves fall there is much revealed in the forest that was hidden just a short time ago, and lichens are a big part of that revelation. Lichens are all around us but they’re one of those things that are so easy to miss unless we happen to be looking for them. Most people seeing this photo would probably say “Oh yes, I see lichens all over the stones in the stone wall.” But what about the tree? That’s a shagbark hickory tree and they have gray, not white bark. The white is a lichen called, appropriately enough, whitewash lichen (Phlyctis argena.) This lichen is usually found on the bark of hardwood trees and is fairly common. It makes the tree look as if it has been painted white, and that’s where its common name comes from. They can be greenish white, silvery, or bright white.

But you wouldn’t have been wrong in pointing out the lichens on the stone wall because it is covered with them, among them rock greenshield lichens (Flavoparmelia baltimorensis.) This lichen always looks like melted candle wax to me. It is very common in this area and is another of those bits of nature that you see so often they no longer register.

Peppered rock shield lichen (Xanthoparmelia conspersa) likes to grow on stone in full sun and I find a lot of them on stone walls like the one pictured in that first photo. They’re a good introduction to lichen study because their brown apothecia, where their spores are produced, are large and easy to see without aid. Lichens are made up of a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae or cyanobacteria. Technically apothecia are “fungal reproductive structures, in which the fungus reproduces itself through the production of spores” This is not the only way that lichens reproduce, but it is common and the apothecia are often beautiful and well worth watching for.

Another lichen common to stone walls is the sulfur dust lichen (Chrysothrix chlorina.) It’s very yellow and hides under overhangs so it doesn’t get rained on. At least I think that’s why I always find it tucked away like this, but this is odd behavior for a lichen because they usually like a lot of rain and sunshine.

Sulfur dust lichens are kind of granular in texture. If you’re lucky you can sometimes find them with fruiting bodies (apothecia) but more often than not I see them when they aren’t producing spores, like this example.

If you spend time walking along old stone walls eventually you’ll see a stone with a splash of bright orange on it and it will probably be the sidewalk firedot lichen (Caloplaca feracissima,) so called because it is a lime lover and grows on concrete sidewalks, which have lime in them. When you see it in a stone wall it’s a fair bet that the stone it grows on has limestone in it too. This stone looks like granite to me but it is almost completely covered by it.

A closer look at this example of the sidewalk firedot lichen showed it was made up of mostly irregularly shaped fruiting bodies, so it was making plenty of spores. It was raining just a short while before I took this photo so it was also still wet. Lichens are at their best when they are wet because that’s when they’ll show their true colors and size, so that’s when serious lichen hunters look for them. A misty or drizzly day is perfect.

I know of an old stump that has more British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) growing on it than I’ve ever seen in one place. Old rotted logs and stumps are the perfect places to find them and their bright red color makes them relatively easy to spot.

Even I can see this shade of red, and I’m colorblind.

If you see a tree with growths like this on it you really should take a closer look, because there are some amazing things going on here.

One of the things going on in the tree in the previous photo is what is happening on this star rosette lichen (Physcia stellaris.) Its apothecia are a good example of how colors can change, even on the same lichen. This lichen has dark brown apothecia that are often pruinose. Pruinose refers to the white, waxy, powdery coating on the apothecia. You’ve no doubt seen examples of this waxy “bloom” on blueberries and plums. I’ve noticed by watching lichens that have pruinose apothecia that the coating can reflect light in different ways, sometimes appearing gray and at other times more blue, and sometimes even black. The apothecia on this lichen show a range of colors, from brown to light blue. The way the sunlight strikes it has a lot to do with its colors, so sometimes you have to visit a lichen more than once to understand it.

Common goldspeck lichens (Candelariella vitellina) are uncommonly beautiful. Look for this bright yellow crustose lichen on stone, in this case slate. It’s a very artistic lichen and I like the patterns that it makes. I see it on gravestones quite often. It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that, at high magnification, the body of the common goldspeck lichen looks like it’s made up of tiny golden specks. The book Lichens of North America describes the body of this lichen as “little cushions of flattened granules.” This lichen is sometimes sterile, with no fruiting bodies present, as this one appeared to be. Crustose lichens form crusts that tightly adhere to the substrate that they grow on and usually can’t be removed without damaging it.

The golden moonglow lichens (Dimelaena oreina) that I see are usually about an inch across but they can get much bigger. They grow in full sun on granite and don’t seem to change color when they dry out like many other lichens do. The bigger one in the photo was producing spores and that’s something I don’t see this lichen do very often. If you spend much time in cemeteries you have probably seen this pretty lichen, because it seems to like growing on smooth, polished stone, especially granite. It is a another crustose lichen, so removing it from a gravestone would be a challenge. When lichens grow on glass the acids in them can actually etch the glass and this is a problem in the big European cathedrals, especially. I would think the same would be true for polished stone.

Bright yellow-orange poplar sunburst (Xanthomendoza hasseana) is a beautiful lichen with its large disc shaped, sucker like fruiting bodies (apothecia) which are almost always showing. It’s found on tree bark and provides a lot of color in winter when there are no flowers to see. The example shown here was about as big as a penny, or about .75 inches across.

Another sunburst lichen, the elegant sunburst (Xanthoria elegans) was exposed to ultraviolet radiation, cosmic radiation, and the vacuum of space for one and a half years and when it was brought back to earth it grew on as if nothing had happened. Many believe that lichens are virtually indestructible and are therefore as close to immortal as any earth based life form can be.

Pink earth lichen (Dibaeis baeomyces) closely resembles bubblegum lichen (Icmadophila ericetorum.) One of the differences between the two is the length of the stalks that the plump pink apothecia sit on. They are longer on bubblegum lichens than they are on pink earth lichens. Both are very beautiful things that are rarely seen in this area. The whitish or grayish thallus, or body of the lichen, grows on soil; usually on dry acidic soil near blueberry and sweet fern plants. It can sometimes have a bluish cast as well.

Here’s a closer look at the apothecia on the pink earth lichen. You can also see the stalks that support them.

Scattered rock posy lichens (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) can be quite small and difficult to see without magnification, but it’s worth looking for them because they almost always have their bright orange apothecia showing. They like to grow on stone, especially granite, in full sun. They don’t seem to change their color when they dry out like many other lichens do. I’ve seen this pretty lichen even on mountain tops.

Some lichens are very easy to identify because there aren’t many others that look like them, and the toadskin lichen is one of those. Toadskin lichens show color changes like many other lichens. When wet it is pliable and pea green and when dry it becomes crisp and ash gray. This example hadn’t completely dried out but it was on its way, even though it had rained that morning. Toadskin lichens get their common name from their many “warts.” They attach themselves to stone at a single point that looks like a belly button, and that makes them an umbilicate lichen. This toadskin is very special, because it is the only one I’ve ever seen that wasn’t on a hill or mountain top. It grows on a boulder at the very water’s edge of a lake and I’m very happy that I found it now that hill climbing is getting more difficult. Now at least I’ll still be able to see these beautiful little things without having to struggle to reach them, if it comes to that.

Smokey eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) are one of the most beautiful in my opinion, but their beauty is fleeting and it depends on how the light happens to fall on them. If you find one it might not look like this one at all. The pretty golden brown body (thallus) of the lichen is peppered with blue apothecia which again, are colored by the light. Take a look at the next photo to see what a simple change in light can do.

This is the exact same lichen we saw in the previous photo; all that is different is the light, and that’s why if you’re at all interested in lichens you really should visit them at different times of year, as I said when we looked at the star rosette lichen. The previous photo was taken when sunlight was falling on it, and this shot was taken when the lichen was in shade. Not only light but dryness can affect the color of many lichens, so make a note of where you find them and then go back when the weather has changed. I think you’ll be amazed by how much they can change, and also by how beautiful they can be.

There is a low mist in the woods—it is a good day to study lichens. ~Henry David Thoreau

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1. Trail Start

Since the forecast called for snow this week I decided to climb Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard last Saturday, the day after Christmas. It was a beautiful sunny, spring like day and the temperature was just right for climbing. The trail up starts as a dirt road that fire wardens use to reach the tower on the summit. The road doesn’t go all the way to the top but it gets them more than half way there.

2. Leaf

So many times I’ve heard that there is nothing to see in winter. The complaint is usually that the landscape is “all brown.” But it isn’t, and what browns there are can be deep and rich like the leaf in the above photo.

3. Fuzz Cone Slime Mold

Yellow-fuzz cone slime mold (Hemitrichia clavata) grew on a log. This slime mold taught me that slime molds can and do live in winter. Before finding it I always thought slime molds needed the warm, wet weather of summer. This was the first time I’d seen a slime mold of any kind on Pitcher Mountain.

4. Moss

The mosses were so green. They seemed to just throb with life.

5. Pasture

If you had lived in a box for years and were suddenly released from it the world would seem like a very big place indeed, and that’s what seeing a view like this after living in a forest is like. It’s so expansive that I feel a great rushing release, as if a window into infinity has been thrown open and I have been sucked through it. Forest dwellers can lose themselves in the vast openness of such a place, and that’s one of the reasons I climb here.

6. Trail

The road gets rocky after a while so you need to concentrate on the climb.

7. Monadnock

If you take a rest stop and turn to look behind you during this rocky stretch you’ll see a fairly good view of Mount Monadnock over in Jaffrey.

8. Fire Tower

The sun was blinding as it reflected off the tower windows in this, the first glimpse of it.

9. Ranger Cabin

Before you reach the tower you come to the ranger cabin. It was once manned in the summer when fire danger was high, but now it seems abandoned.

10. Ranger Cabin

Some of the cabin’s underpinnings aren’t providing much support.

11. Privy

Someone tore the door off the privy. Take it from someone who has used one of these many times long ago: indoor plumbing is one of the best things mankind ever invented.

12. Tower

Before you know it you’ve reached the tower on the summit. Though I’ve been told it is manned at certain times of year I’ve never seen anyone in it. This metal tower was built after a forest fire in April of 1940 destroyed 27,000 acres of forest, including the original 1915 wooden fire tower and all of the trees on the summit. It was the most destructive fire in the region’s history.

13. View

The views weren’t great on this day but since I don’t climb for the views I wasn’t disappointed.

14. Windmills

The wind turbines over on Bear Mountain in Lempster, NH were visible and could even be seen turning quite quickly, it seemed. It’s often so hazy that they can’t be seen at all.

15. View

This view was very blue. The sunshine and shadows were playing tag on this day and the views changed quickly.

16. Tie Down

Steel tie-downs tell stories of the strong winds that sometimes blow up here.

17. Golden Moonglow Lichen

In the past I’ve only seen golden moon glow lichens (Dimelaena oreina) growing on polished granite but here was one growing on this rough, exposed stone. I’ve looked at the lichens that grow up here many times, but this is the first time I’ve seen it.

18. Golden Moonglow Lichen

Since the golden moon glow lichen was fruiting I’m guessing it was happy here. The things that look like tiny cups are its fruiting bodies (Apothecia) that produce its spores. Spores released to the wind up here are liable to be blown to just about anywhere.

19. Puddles

Puddles on the stones captured the blue of the sky and made natural bird baths. I’ve looked this way many times but have never seen them before.

20. Christmas Tree

Something else I’ve never seen before is this small spruce, even though I’ve looked off to the nearest hill in the background many times. I’ve even taken several photos of this view but the tree doesn’t appear in any of them, and that illustrates perfectly why I climb the same hills and follow the same trails again and again; there is always something new to see that I’ve missed. In this post alone there are 4 or 5 things that I’ve never seen in this place, even though I’ve climbed here countless times.  So if you’ve been to a place and think you’ve seen all there is to see, even if it’s the woods in your own back yard, you’re fooling yourself. If you return to that place I can guarantee that you’ll see things that you didn’t see before. That’s just the way nature works.

To find new things, take the path you took yesterday. ~John Burroughs

Thanks for coming by. I hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Year!

 

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 1. Common Goldspeck Lichen aka  Candelariella vitellitta

If you visit a place or places day after day, year after year, you get to know what grows in those places, and that is how I have come to know so many lichens-because I visit them regularly. At this time of year people often think that once the leaves fall there isn’t anything colorful left to see, but that simply isn’t true.  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 can’t be removed without damaging it.

2. Bubble Gum Lichen

Bubblegum lichen (Icmadophila ericetorum) gets its name from its bright, bubblegum pink fruiting bodies (apothecia.) I find this crustose lichen growing in large patches on acid, sandy soil in full sun along with blueberries and sweet fern.  It is uncommon and I knew of only two places where it grew. One of those places has been destroyed by logging however, so now there is only one place I know of to find it.

Note: Bob Klips has identified this lichen as Dibaeis baeomyces rather than Icmadophila ericetorum. One of the differences between the two is the length of the stalks that the apothecia sit on. They are longer on Icmadophila ericetorum than they are on Dibaeis baeomyces. Thank you Bob, for the help! If you haven’t visited Bob blog, “Bob’s Brain on Botany,” you should. It’s a real treat and you can find it at bobklips.com

3. Script Lichen

Script lichen looks just like its name suggests but it is a very ancient script, like long forgotten runes. This is another crustose lichen but I find it growing on tree bark rather than stone or soil. The dark “script” characters are its fruiting bodies. There are many script lichen species and each seems to prefer a certain species of tree. I think this example is the common script lichen (Graphis scripta) which prefers smooth barked trees like maple.

4. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

One of my favorite lichens is the poplar sunburst lichen ((Xanthoria hasseana). Its fruiting bodies are disc like structures that remind me of orange octopus suckers. This seems to be a perpetually fruiting lichen which hasn’t stopped since I found it about two years ago. It has grown though, and now a little bigger than a quarter.  I think it is one of our more beautiful lichens found in this area. This is a foliose lichen that grows on tree bark, but I’ve never found it on a poplar. Foliose lichens are lobed and leaf like.

5. Pixie Cup Lichen

Pixie cup lichens (Cladonia pyxidata) look like tiny golf tees or trumpets, and they are also called trumpet lichens. They are common and I almost always find them growing on the sides of rotting tree stumps, often with British soldier and common powder horn lichens (Cladonia coniocraea.) Common powder horn is, curiously, not horn shaped. They are the taller structures in this photo. Pixie cups are squamulose lichens, which means they are scaly, but they are also foliose, or leafy.

6. Scattered Rock Posy Lichen

When I first found this beautiful little scattered rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) a few years ago it could have sat on a penny with room to spare, but now it has reached quarter size. The orange pad shaped parts are its fruiting bodies (Apothecia,) and the grayish, brain like part is the body (thallus) of this relatively uncommon foliose lichen. By measuring the rate of growth of lichens scientists can get a fairly accurate estimate of how old the rocks are that the lichens grow on. This is known as lichenometry.

7. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Smokey eye boulder lichen is another favorite of mine. The blue color seen in the above photo is caused by the way light reflects off a waxy coating on the fruiting bodies, which is very similar to the “bloom” found on plums, blueberries, and grapes. In addition to blue it can also appear black or gray depending on which direction the light happens to be coming from.  The greenish-gold background color is the color of the body (thallus) of this crustose lichen.

8. Rock Disk 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.

9. Granite Firedot Lichen aka Caloplaca arenaria

Granite firedot lichens (Caloplaca arenaria) have a gray body (Thallus) and dark orange fruiting bodies (Apothecia,) but the fruiting bodies are so crowded that it’s often hard to see the gray thallus. This is another crustose lichen that doesn’t mind growing on granite in full sun.

10. Golden Moonglow Lichen

Golden moonglow lichens (Dimelaena oreina) can get quite big but I usually find them at dime to quarter size. They grow in groups in full sun on granite and often grow quite close together. The examples in the above photo were fruiting, and that is something I don’t see them do very often. Their apothecia are the dark, cup shaped bodies in the centers of the examples shown. I’ve never been able to find out why so many lichens seem to release their spores so late in the year.

 11. Toadskin Lichen

I showed toadskin lichen (Lasallia papulosa) in a recent post and quite a few people seemed interested in it, so I thought I’d show it again here and go into a little more detail.  This lichen is very similar to rock tripe lichen (Umbilicaria mammulata) and if it wasn’t for all of the warts it would look very much like it.  The warts are called pustules and on the back of the lichen there is a corresponding pit for every pustule. When wet the greenish color of the algae that is present comes through on the surface. The black dots are its fruiting bodies. Each lichen is attached to the rock at a single point that looks much like a belly button, so this is an umbilicate lichen.

12. Toadskin Lichen Dry

When wet toadskin lichens are rubbery and pliable and feel much like your ear lobe but when they dry out they are much like a potato chip, and will crack just as easily.  Like many lichens they also change color when they dry out, and turn kind of ashy gray like the example in the above photo. Toadskin lichens are also some of the hardest to find-I’ve only seen them growing on hilltop boulders.

However since most lichens grow on trees, soil, rocks, stumps and logs they’re virtually everywhere you go. Many are quite small though, so you have to walk slowly and look closely to find them. Once you’ve seen a few you’ll start seeing them almost everywhere you go. I know of a few that grow on trees right in the heart of downtown Keene.

The trees are coming into their winter bareness; the only green is the lichen on their branches.
~Verlyn Klinkenborg

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1. Stone Walls

Whitetail deer know if they are to survive in the winter they need to follow the sun and stay on warm, south eastward facing slopes during the day. Not only is it warmer in these places, but the abundant sunshine often means quicker snow melt and plenty of browse. Quite often in winter I follow their lead and on this day I walked along an old stone wall where the overhanging white pines and eastern hemlocks made for light snow cover and the bright sunshine meant it was considerably warmer.

 2. Shingled Rock Shield Lichen aka Xanthoparmelia stenophylla

But sunshine and warmth aren’t the only reasons I come here. Lichens and mosses grow on these stones by the thousands and this old wall has become one of my favorite places to hunt for them in winter. Many of the lichens are in their fruiting stage at this time of year, as the above example of a shingled rock shield lichen (Xanthoparmelia stenophylla) shows. The dark brown, cup shaped growths are the apothecia, or fruiting bodies. These lichens have been here probably for hundreds of years because they are quite large. I’ve seen some that were the size of grapefruit.

3. Rock Greenshield Lichen aka Flavoparmelia baltimorensis

Rock Greenshield Lichens (Flavoparmelia baltimorensis) are also quite large and are very common along this stretch of stone wall. Most foliose lichens seem to prefer growing in the sunshine and these are no different. Foliose means “leaf like” but these lichens always remind me of melted candle wax. In fact there is a lichen known as the eastern candle wax lichen (Ahtiana aurescens), but it grows on tree limbs instead of stone and leans more towards gray than green.

 4. Scattered Rock Posy Lichen aka Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans

I’m going into my third year of visiting this scattered rock posy lichen and if it has changed in that time the change is imperceptible. When I first found it, it was the only one I knew of but over the years I’ve found others. It likes to grow on granite in full sun and is one of the most beautiful lichens, in my opinion. This photo is the closest I’ve ever been able to get to it. The orange disc shaped growths are its fruiting bodies and the grayish, brain like growth is the thallus, or body. The entire lichen is about the size of a penny.

 5. Orange Crust Fungus aka Stereum complicatum

Lichens weren’t the only finds here on this day. This orange, crust like fungus is a parchment fungus called, not surprisingly, orange crust fungus (Stereum complicatum). It was growing a fallen branch. The complicatum part of the scientific name means “folded back on itself.” One of the identifying characteristics of this fungus is the smooth, pore free underside.

 6. Aster Seed Heads

There were plenty of aster seed heads along the wall, waiting for hungry birds.

 7. British Soldier Lichens

British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) grew on an old rotting stump. This lichen was named by someone who thought they resembled the eighteenth century uniform of a  British soldier. It’s very slow growing, and in a good year might grow 2 millimeters. The red parts of this lichen are where its spores are produced and, since they don’t make spores until they reach at least 4 years of age, I know this one has been here awhile. British soldiers and their cousins pixie cups are frutose lichens, which is a lichen that stands upright or hangs down.

8. Rusty Rod in Stone-2

Here and there in this wall there were holes drilled into the stone. In this case a steel rod was held in the hole by an old cut nail. The wire, I think, was probably used to fasten a strand or two of barbed wire to the rod. This gave the stone wall about 2 feet of extra height and probably helped keep the livestock in. Or out, if they had an enclosed vegetable garden.

 9. Hole in Stone

In some cases the rods were gone. The quarter sized holes were most likely done by hand with a star drill and sledge hammer.

10. Hedwigia cillata Moss

Hedwigia cillata moss looked good and healthy. This moss loves to grow on exposed surfaces like stones and cliff faces in sun or shade and is common all over the world. When dry this moss pulls its leaves in tight to the central stem and loses much of its bushy appearance.  Its fruiting bodies (sporophytes) are orange but hide deep among the leaves on short stalks so they aren’t as easy to see as those on other mosses.

11. Moss Covered Boulder

This boulder was covered with carpet mosses and lichens. In her book Gathering Moss author Robin Wall Kimmerer says that lichens pave the way for mosses on stones and other smooth surfaces. Lichens produce acids that slowly etch surfaces just enough to give rootless mosses enough of a purchase to anchor themselves to. The acids in lichens are powerful enough to etch even glass, and they have been known to damage stained glass in some of the great cathedrals of Europe. The yellow square in the above photo shows the area where the following macro photo of moss came from.

12. Brick Carpet Moss aka Bryoerythrophyllum recurvirostrum

This is an extreme close-up of what I believe is brick carpet moss (Bryoerythrophyllum recurvirostrum). There are many different low growing moss species that form carpets and, in my experience, are very hard to identify. These mosses seem to grow in the harshest conditions like on boulders in full sun, but mosses are tough. Robin Wall Kimmerer notes that mosses held dry in herbarium cabinets for 40 years revived in just a few minutes after being given water.

13. Common Goldspeck Lichen aka Candelariella vitellitta

Common goldspeck lichen (Candelariella vitellitta) is uncommonly beautiful. This bright yellow lichen grows on calcium free stones and the examples that I’ve found have always been quite small.  This was the first time that I’ve seen this lichen fruiting. The apothecia or fruiting bodies are disc shaped and slightly darker in color than the granular body, and are so small that I can’t think of anything to compare them to. In fact, I didn’t even see them until I looked at the photo. This one was a real test of the macro capabilities of my camera-all that you see in this photo would easily fit on a dime with room to spare.

14. Golden Moonglow Lichen

Golden moonglow lichen is another small but beautiful, greenish yellow squamulose lichen that grows on stone in full sun. The example in the photo grew on granite and was about the size of a penny, but I’ve seen them larger. This example had quite a lot of dark, disc shaped fruiting bodies showing in its center. A squamulose lichen falls somewhere between the leafy foliose lichens and crusty crustose lichens and has “squamules,” which in this case are the curled lobes around its outer edges.

There is no absolute scale of size in nature, and the small may be as important, or more so than the great. ~Oliver Heaviside

Note: I’m sorry that I don’t remember which of you told me about the Gathering Moss book, but I’d like to thank you for doing so. It’s a great book.

Thanks for coming by.

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Have you heard about Punxsutawney Phil, the weather predicting ground hog? He has been indicted in Ohio for fraud because of his “misrepresentation of spring.” The indictment alleges that he acted with “prior calculation and design” to cause people to believe that spring would arrive early.

Of course, his handlers claim that poor Phil is being railroaded. “There are several defenses,” they claim, including the fact that, since Feb. 2, “there have been spring like temperature spikes. “

Exactly-spring like temperature spikes followed by winter like temperature dips. Or, two steps backward for every step forward. Historically, the rodent’s predictions are accurate only 30% of the time, so we have only ourselves to blame if we jumped for joy at his early spring prediction this year.

Cincinnati prosecutor Mike Gmoser doesn’t see it that way though, and is calling for the death penalty, citing “aggravating circumstances.”  Here is a man who is obviously very sick of winter! I wonder what he’ll do about the National Climatic Data Center and the National Weather Service-who also called for an early spring.

 1. Asuelot River on 3-17-13

This is what the Ashuelot River looked like on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th.  Nice and spring-like.

 2. River Waves

The river was so happy to see some sunshine that it was chuckling and pretending to be the ocean.

 3. Asuelot River on 3-19-13

Here is what the river looked like 2 days later on Tuesday, March 19th after about 9 inches of snow fell.  (This shot is in color.) Oh well, the temperature is above freezing each day so it is all melting away again, slowly. Fortunately, I had spent some time in the woods before it snowed.

4. Foam Flower Leaves

The dusty rose-pink leaves of our native heart leaf foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) will soon turn green, but for now they really stand out among the brown leaves and snow on the forest floor. This plant loses its green color in the fall when other leaves are changing, but it hangs on to its leaves all winter, green or not. It gets its common name from the shape of its leaves and from the many small white flowers that look like foam.

 5. Brocade Moss  aka Hypnum imponens

Brocade Moss (Hypnum imponens) forms extensive mats and looks as if it has been embroidered on what it is growing on. This moss is easy to spot due to its greenish golden color along with yellow and orange highlights and rust colored stems. A close look at the small, overlapping leaves shows that they look like they have been braided along the stem. This moss likes moist areas.

6. Common Goldspeck Lichen

Common gold speck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) grows just about anywhere, but I usually find it growing on parts of stones that don’t receive any direct rain. Some say its color resembles egg yolks and others say powdered mustard. It looks pale, sulfur yellow to me, and sometimes looks a little green.  This is a crustose lichen which grows like a crust on its substrate.

7. Common Goldspec Lichen on Stone Wall

Common gold speck lichen is easy to spot growing on stone walls. This picture shows how it grows in sheltered places that aren’t likely to receive any direct rain.

8. Golden Moonglow Lichen aka Dimelaena oreina

I found this golden moon glow lichen (Dimelaena oreina) growing on polished granite in full sun. It was small-no bigger than a dime-but noticeable because of the way the dark, disc shaped fruiting bodies (Apothecia) in the center shade into the greenish yellow outer edges. One unusual aspect of this lichen is its squamulose form. A squamulose lichen falls somewhere between the leafy foliose lichens and crusty crustose lichens and has “squamules,” which in this case are the tiny, curled lobes around its outer edges.

 9. Blue Flag Iris Shoots

Native blue flag iris (Iris versicolor) shoots were green and growing along the river bank before the snow fell.  This is a tough plant so it’s doubtful that snow will hurt it. The flowers have 3 sepals and 3 petals and are deep blue (sometimes purple) and showy with yellow or white highlights at the base of the sepals. This plant was very valuable medicinally to Native Americans and it is said that many tribes grew it close to their villages.

10. Pattern in Red Maple Tree Bark

Last year I saw a maple tree with this circular pattern repeated in the bark all up and down the trunk. This year I found the same pattern on a different tree. After a year of searching books and websites I finally found a naturalist who identifies these circular patterns as normal markings on young red maple trees (Acer rubrum.) As the tree ages the circles are obscured by other lines and ridges.  My question is: After decades of roaming in the forest why have I only seen this twice?

11. Honey Locust Thorn

When it comes to thorns the honey locust tree (Gleditsia triacanthos) has to be king of the forest in this area. The three pronged thorns on these trees are hard enough to pierce before they break off. They can be 6 inches long or more under optimal conditions and are very sharp. During the Civil War Confederate soldiers used the thorns to hold their uniforms together, which led to the common name of Confederate pin tree.

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. ~ Carl Sagan

Thanks for coming by.

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