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Posts Tagged ‘Poplar Sunburst Lichen’

1-half-moon-pond

After an extended nice warm January thaw we were brought back to reality by a sleet / freezing rain / snow/ rain storm that immediately froze into concrete like ice, making it treacherous to walk just about anywhere. This was the view across Half Moon Pond in Hancock to Mount Skatutakee, taken by cell phone the next morning. The pond Ice was cold but the air was warm, and that meant fog.

2-monadnock

It wasn’t fog but a cloud that tried to hide the summit of Mount Monadnock at Perkin’s Pond in Troy recently. There is still very little snow on this, the sunny side of the mountain. Every time it snows up there the sun melts it before it snows again, resulting in the least snowy Monadnock summit I’ve seen in a while.

3-puddle-mud

My thoughts turned from the lofty heights of mountaintops to the lowly depths of puddle mud when I found this. I don’t know if the mud froze and made these patterns or if ice on the puddle made them before it melted and then evaporated. Mud puddles can be very interesting things.

4-white-cushion-moss

The white cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) growing on a boulder made me want to reach out and pet it, and so I did. Though it looks like it might be stiff and prickly it’s actually quite soft. White cushion moss gets its common name from the way it turns a whitish color when it dries out so even though it was surrounded by ice this one was very dry. A perfect example of the winter desert when, though there is plenty of snow and ice, it’s too cold for any melt water to benefit plants.

5-crowded-parchment

Crowded parchment fungus (Stereum complicatum) lived up to its name on this log. The complicatum part of its scientific name means “folded back on itself.” This fungus often grows on fallen oak limbs and parasitizes some types of jelly fungi. It causes white rot of the heartwood when it grows on standing trees.

6-milk-white-toothed-polypore

I spoke about finding a very young milk white toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) in my last post. Since then I’ve seen older ones and this is one of them. The “teeth” are actually ragged bits of spore bearing tissue. They start life as tubes or pores and break apart and turn brown as they age. Milk white toothed polypores appear very late in the year and are considered “winter mushrooms.” Look for them in the undersides of tree branches.

7-turkey-tails

I’ve been looking for turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) that were wearing something other than brown all year and I finally found some that looked bluish gray. They were a little dry I think, because of their wilted looking edges, or maybe they were just old. This fungus been used medicinally by the Chinese, Japanese, and Native Americans for thousands of years and the FDA has approved them for trials on cancer patients. They’re found in forests all over the world from Europe to Asia in the US and Russia.

8-unknown-fungi

These mushrooms were well past their prime but I didn’t care because I loved their color and texture and the way they looked as if they had been sculpted and bronzed. In death they were far more beautiful than they had been in life.

9-sumac-berries

Birds aren’t eating staghorn sumac berries but they never seem to in this area until the end of winter. I’ve heard that birds shun them because they’re low in fat, but I wonder if that’s true of all birds because when birds like red winged blackbirds return in spring the berries disappear quickly. It’s a head scratcher because Jerry from the Quiet Solo Pursuits blog in Michigan says that the birds there gobble them up.

10-rose-hips

Birds haven’t eaten these rose hips either but they were as big as grapes, so maybe swallowing them is a problem. Fresh or dried rose hips are higher in vitamin C than citrus fruits and they can be used in many recipes, including a tea that is very soothing for a sore throat. The seeds inside rose hips should always be removed before use though, because they have a hairy covering that can be irritating. They can cost as much as $25.00 per pound in health food stores, which is more than the price of a rose bush, so it is worth growing your own if you have a fondness for them. The best time to harvest rose hips is after the first frost because frost removes some of the tartness. Choose fruit that is firm and has good, deep color. These examples were not firm but they had plenty of color.

11-cherries

These cherries were the size of peas, so it wasn’t size that turned the birds away from them. I think they were chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) which are dark purple / black when ripe, but I wonder if these might have frozen before they had a chance to ripen. Robins, thrushes, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, jays, bluebirds, catbirds, kingbirds, and grouse eat chokecherries, and so do mice, voles, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, foxes, deer, bear, and moose. The inner bark of the chokecherry was used by Native Americans in the smoking mixture known as kinnikinnick to improve the taste of the bearberry leaf, which was the chief ingredient for many tribes.

12-red-elderberry-buds

I don’t see many red elderberry bushes (Sambucus racemosa) but I’m always happy when I do because then I get to see their chubby plum colored buds, which are some of my favorites. Later on the plant will have bright scarlet fruits that birds love. The berries are said to be toxic but they were cooked and eaten by Native Americans so I’m sure they knew how to cook them in such a way as to remove the toxicity. They also used them medicinally. Red elderberry is one of two elderberries native to New Hampshire. The other is the common or black elderberry (Sambucus nigra V. canadensis) which has black berries and isn’t toxic.

13-poplar-sunburst-lichen

I had to go and visit one of my favorite lichens; the poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthomendoza hasseana.) It grows on a tree near a retention pond in Keene, right next to a shopping mall. I’ve visited it off and on for years now and it has never stopped producing spores. The sucker like, cup shaped bits are its fruiting bodies (Apothecia) where the spores are produced. Will it ever stop producing spores? After watching it do so for about 4 years now, I doubt it. In fact, it could go on for millennia:

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 earthly being can be.

14-star-rosette-lichen-physcia-stellaris

As I finished admiring the poplar sunburst lichen my attention was drawn to another lichen that seemed to be winking at me. It was a star rosette lichen (Physcia stellaris), which has dark brown apothecia that are often pruinose. Pruinose refers to a white, waxy, powdery coating like that found on blueberries, plums, and first year black raspberry canes. I’ve noticed by watching smoky eye boulder lichens, which also have pruinose apothecia, that the coating can reflect light in different ways, sometimes appearing gray and at other times more blue. These examples were kind of blue gray but it was a cloudy day.

15-black-birch-witchs-broom

I keep running into black birches (Betula lenta) with what appears to be a deformity in their buds. I wouldn’t call it witches broom but the buds grow in a tightly packed cluster which isn’t normal, judging by the other buds on the trees. I haven’t been able to find out anything about it from any source, so if you happen to know I’d love to hear from you.

16-black-birch-bud

This is what a normal black birch bud looks like. Birch beer was once made from the black birch and so was oil of wintergreen. If you aren’t sure if the tree you see is a black birch just chew a twig. If it’s a black birch it will taste like wintergreen. So many trees were taken to make oil of wintergreen that black birch is still hard to find in many areas today.

17-liverwort

I saw something on a tree that seemed very pale for this time of year. Most mosses are a deep green in winter so this chartreuse color really stood out. After a little research I think it is a liverwort called flat-leaved scalewort (Radula complanata.) I’ve read that it is common on trees and shrubs but I’ve never seen it. Plants are usually flattened, either forming patches like the one seen above or single stems creeping among mosses.

18-liverwort

A closer look at the liverwort shows round, flattened, overlapping leaves which are quite small. Each one is no more than 1/16  of an inch across. The even smaller, darker leaves look to be part of the same plant but I can find very little information on this liverwort. It is said to like sunny, sheltered, moist conditions and will sometimes grow on streamside rocks. Liverworts are epiphytes that take nothing from the trees they grow on. I’ve read that they were the first land plants to evolve about 500,000 million years ago and are the oldest living land plants.

19-twilight

The days are finally getting longer but it’s still too dark to do any serious photography before or after work. I took this shot of ice covered Half Moon Pond in Hancock at 7:30 one recent morning and it looks like the sun was setting rather than rising. The lack of light on weekdays leaves only weekends for taking photos and lately you can barely find the sun, even on a weekend. Our weather predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil just predicted six more weeks of winter (which just happens to coincide with the six weeks of winter left on the calendar) but the days are getting longer and not even old Punxsutawney Phil can stop that. I’m very much looking forward to being able to spend more time in the woods.

The days are short
The sun a spark
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.
 ~John Updike

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1-pink-earth-lichens

As flowers start to fade and leaves begin to fall my thoughts often turn to lichens, mosses and all of the other beautiful things you can still find in nature in the winter. We’ve had two or three days of drizzle; nothing drought busting but enough to perk up the lichens. Lichens like plenty of moisture, and when it doesn’t rain they will simply dry up and wait. Many change color and shape when they dry out and this can cause problems with identification, so serious lichen hunters wait until after a soaking rain to find them. This is when they show their true color and form. The pink fruiting bodies of the pink earth lichen in the above photo for example, might have been shriveled and pale before the rain.

2-pink-earth-lichens

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 lichen than they are on pink earth lichens. Both are very beautiful things that are rarely seen in this area. The whitish thallus, or body of the lichen, grows on soil; usually on dry acidic soil near blueberry and sweet fern plants.

3-poplar-sunburst-lichen

Bright 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.

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.

4-british-soldier-lichens

British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) like to grow on damp wood like rotted stumps and logs, but I’ve found them on buildings, fence posts, and built up forest litter on boulders. At this time of year I don’t pass too many mossy old tree stumps without having a glance for British soldiers.

5-rock-posy

Scattered rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) is both beautiful and unusual with its brain like body (Thallus) and orange fruiting discs (Apothecia.) This one was growing on stone in full sun. It is about as big as a quarter now, but when I first met it years ago it was about the size of a penny.

6-rosy-saucer-lichen

Lichen identification can sometimes be tricky. Though it resembles scattered rock posy I think this is rosy saucer lichen (Ochrolechia trochophora.) It was growing on stone, but even though the book Lichens of North America says that it grows on tree bark a little further research on the website Images of British Lichens shows that it grows on tree bark or stone. Based on that information and the fact that I can’t find a similar saucer lichen that grows in New England, I’m going with rosy saucer lichen. Even though it has rosy in its name its apothecia can range from pink to orange, according to what I’ve read.

7-pixie-cups

It didn’t work out very well but I put a nickel behind these pixie cup lichens (Cladonia asahinae) to give you an idea of how small they are. The photo came out looking like golf tees in front of a full moon. A nickel is .83 inches in diameter and the round cup of the golf tee shaped pixie cup might be .12 inches on a good day. You wouldn’t fit an average pea in the cup, but a BB from an air rifle might sit in one.

8-pixie-cup-close

I had to really push my camera to get this shot so I could show you the inside of the cup of a pixie cup lichen. The nearly microscopic red dots on the rim of the cup are this lichen’s fruiting bodies (Apothecia.) The tan colored scales are leafy growths called squamules. A squamule is a lobe of the body of the lichen (Thallus,) and some lichens are squamulose, meaning they’re made up of small, leafy lobes. I’m not sure what the objects in the cup are, but they’re extremely small.

9-powdery-sunburst-lichen-xanthomendoza-ulophyllodes

Powdery sunburst lichen (Xanthomendoza ulophyllodes) was growing on a stone. This foliose lichen is easy to see, even when it’s small, because of its bright orange yellow color. This lichen really likes moisture and is often found growing near channels that carry water on stone or bark. This one was about the size of an average aspirin. Lichens are a good indicator of air quality, so if you aren’t seeing them you might want to check into your local air quality.

10-common-goldspeck-lichen

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 bright yellow 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.

11-maple-dust-lichen

As its name implies maple dust lichen (Lecanora thysanophora) grows on the bark of maple trees, but also on beech, oak, and basswood. One of the easiest ways to identify this lichen is to look for the white fringe around its perimeter. This is one of those lichens that I never saw until I stumbled across it one day, and now I see it everywhere. This example was about 3/4 of an inch in diameter, or about the size of a penny.

12-cumberland-rock-shield-lichen

Cumberland rock shield lichen (Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia) likes to grow on boulders and that’s where I found this one. The body (Thallus) is described as being “yellow-green to sometimes bluish green” and the fruiting discs (Apothecia) are “cinnamon to dark brown.” The body of this lichen always looks like someone dripped candle wax on the stone to me.

13-cumberland-rock-shield-lichen

This is a close up of the apothecia on a Cumberland rock shield lichen. 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.

14-bristly-beard-lichens-on-stone

Beard lichens are common enough; they even fall from the trees on windy days, but this beard lichen is growing on stone and that’s very uncommon, in my experience. I think this example must be bristly beard lichen (Usnea hirta,) which can grow on wood or stone, but I must see a hundred growing on wood for each one growing on stone.

15-fishbone-beard-lichen

There are many different kinds of beard lichens and the differences can be subtle, but the fishbone beard lichen (Usnea filipendula) stands apart because of its resemblance to the backbone of a fish. This lichen seems to prefer growing on spruce but I’ve seen it on other trees as well. Though it isn’t rare I don’t see it often. Lichens in the Usnea genus contain usnic acid and have antiseptic / antibiotic properties. They have been used since ancient times throughout the world to heal wounds.

16-reindeer-lichens

There are places in these woods where reindeer lichens drift like snow, and in colder climates they lie under the snow for months. As their name implies they are an important food source for reindeer, and they paw through the snow to find and eat them. Reindeer lichen is very slow growing at about an eighth to three eighths of an inch per year and if overgrazed or dug up, it can take decades for drifts like the one pictured to reappear. There are two types in this photo; the green star tipped reindeer lichen (Cladonia stellaris,) and the gray reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina.)

17-gray-reindeer-lichen

Gray reindeer lichen in this area is silver gray, almost white, with a main stem and branches much like a tiny tree. Each branch tip is a brownish color with a globe or pear shaped fruiting body called a pycnidium. The Native American Ojibwa tribe were known to bathe newborns in water in which this lichen had been boiled, and other tribes drank tea made from it. It has also been eaten, but if you plan on eating lichens correct preparation is everything, because some can cause serious stomach problems.

18-star-tipped-reindeer-lichen

It’s easy to see how star tipped reindeer lichen comes by its common name; each branch tip ends in a star shaped cluster of four or five branches surrounding a center hole. This lichen seems to be a favorite of reindeer; they will often leave the gray reindeer lichen until last and eat this one first. In Europe this lichen is used in the pharmaceutical industry as an ingredient in antibiotic ointments.

19-smokey-eye-boulder-lichen

One of the most beautiful lichens that I find growing on stone is the smoky eye boulder lichen (Porpidia albocaerulescens) with its blue apothecia. 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. It’s as if pieces of the sky had been sprinkled on the stones when the light is right, but the apothecia 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.

I hope this post has shown how beautiful and interesting lichens are, and how easy they are to find. Lichens grow virtually everywhere including on building facades, sidewalks and rooftops, so they can even be found in cities. 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.

If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

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1. Thistle Seed Head

I wondered during our recent severe cold snap how the birds and animals were getting on. There still seems to be plenty of food for them but they use it up fast in weather that is so cold.  A group of bull thistles (Cirsium vulgare) had been picked over but still had seeds in the seed heads. This European native is considered invasive here but many birds eat its seeds and a group of plants is a good place to see goldfinches and juncos. When in flower hummingbirds and bees do a lot to pollinate the plant and ensure there will be another seed crop.

2. Thistle Prickles

The leaves of the bull thistle might have passed but the many sharp spines live on. Prickles on the leaf surface are a good identifying feature of this thistle. It is also called spear thistle, for good reason.

3. Aster Seed Heads

What I think were aster seed heads had been picked clean of seeds but the bracts remained. We call them dead at this stage, but to me they are as beautiful now as they are when they’re blossoming. Goldfinches, cardinals, chickadees, evening grosbeaks, finches, titmice and other birds and small animals eat aster seeds. Native American tribes burned the flowers and leaves and used the smoke in sweat lodge ceremonies. They also had many medicinal uses for the plant and included parts of it in a smoking mixture they called kinnickkinnick.

4. Cedar Seed Cones

I’ve known about the woody seed cones on the northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) for a long time but I didn’t know which birds ate them until recently. Robins, common redpolls, pine siskins, and dark-eyed juncos eat the seeds and many small birds use the tree to hide in. The Native American Ojibwe tribe thought it was sacred because of its many uses, and maybe it was. They showed 16th century French explorer Jacques Cartier how to cure scurvy with the leaves of this tree and he was so impressed that he named it Arborvitae, which is Latin for Tree of Life. He had trees with him when he returned to Europe, and Thuja occidentalis became the first North American tree to be introduced there.

5. Cedar Seed Cone

Each individual seed cone on the northern white cedar looks as if it was carved out of wood and then polished to a satiny shine. Of course to have fruit on a plant, which is what a cone is, you first have to have a flower. This tree flowers in late May to Early June and the small green, egg shaped female flowers have blue tips on their overlapping scales. They grow in clusters and are easy to find.

6. Cattail Seeds

I solved a year old mystery when I pulled a small tuft of cattail seeds from a seed head and took a photo of it against the black of my glove. I first noticed a long white angle hair like filament with a seed on the end last year. The wind had blown it onto a lichen that grew on tree bark and at the time I thought it was a dandelion seed. Now I know it was a cattail seed. In spring after the male red winged blackbird finds a mate he will line the nest he builds from dried cattail leaves with the plant’s soft seed down.  Man must have learned something by watching the bird because the fluffy seed down was used to stuff mattresses for centuries.

7. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

I thought I’d go and visit a couple of lichen friends recently. This poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthomendoza hasseana) grows on a tree at a local shopping mall and is a favorite of mine. I’ve never seen it growing anywhere else. The odd thing about it this year is how few spore bearing apothecia it had. The apothecia are the little cup shaped objects that look like the suckers on an octopus arm and they are usually much bigger and more numerous than what are seen in this photo. Even so it’s still a very beautiful lichen.

8. Scattered Rock Posy Lichen

Scattered rock posy is another beautiful lichen that I can thank for showing me how fast lichens can grow. When I met this example it could have sat on a dime (.70 inches) but now, about 5 years later, it would take up most of the real estate of a quarter (.95 inches.) Following what I’ve seen in this example I’m guessing that it gains about an inch in diameter every 20 years, so if you found one that was five inches in diameter it would be about 100 years old. Its frilly orange pads are its apothecia, where its spores are produced. The body (thallus) of this lichen is grayish and brain like. It tends to grow in a mound.

9. Orange Wood

The two orange lichens I showed previously aren’t the only orange things I’m seeing this winter; I’m even seeing orange wood. I’m guessing this might be birch, which can sometimes have yellowish wood and reddish heartwood. What made the wood pictured so orange is a mystery. Brazilian satinwood, also called yellow heart, is orange colored but I doubt very much that pieces of it would be lying around in a New Hampshire forest.

10. Oak Leaves

And then there are orange oak leaves, but I think that they’re caused by the sun shining brightly on their normally brownish surface. I’ve also seen pink oak leaves, but I don’t think that their color has anything to do with light. I think pink is a normal for certain oaks.

11. Gouty Oak Gall

While I was admiring oak leaves I saw this gouty oak gall. I wish I’d gotten a better photo of it but at least this one shows the structure fairly well. Gouty oak gall is caused by a wasp called, not surprisingly, the gouty oak gall wasp (Callirhytis quercuspunctata). In spring the wasp lays its eggs in expanding plant tissue and secretes chemicals that will cause the abnormal growth seen in the photo. The gall grows quickly and once the eggs hatch the larvae feed on its tissue. It can take two years or more for the gall wasps to reach adulthood. One adult exits the gall through each hole.

12. Pine Cone Gall on Willow

The parts of the willow that would have once been leaves were converted into a gall when a fly called a gall gnat midge (Rabdophaga strobiloides) laid an egg on its stem. The resulting larva released a chemical that convinced the willow to produce this gall rather than the leaves that it normally would have. The little pink larva rests inside all winter and emerges as an adult when the air temperature warms up in the spring.

13. Pine Cone Gall on Willow

This close-up of the willow pine cone gall shows its overlapping scales, which remind me of shingles. Even original ideas come from somewhere and I wonder if mankind didn’t come up with the idea for shingles by studying something like this.

14. Crab Apples

I saw a crab apple tree that was loaded with crab apples that were about an inch in diameter. I think they were probably too big for a bird to eat but I was surprised that deer and other animals hadn’t eaten them. They had hung on the tree for so long they were turning purple. Though we think the apples we’re eating are native, crab apples are really the only apples native to North America. The apples we know originated in Central Asia, where its wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, is still found today. Apples are thought to be the first cultivated tree and have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe. North American apple cultivation began 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia. Settlers had come prepared with seeds, cuttings, and small plants from the best European stock and the trees grew well here; by the end of the 19th century 14,000 apple varieties were being grown. Many were inferior varieties and for one reason or another fell out of favor and have been lost to the ages. Today 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the U.S. and 7,500 varieties of apples are grown worldwide.

Thank you to Tim Hensley and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for the article A Curious Tale: The Apple in North America, for some of the information used here.

15. Frost Crystals

It is the light that makes frost crystals appear so three dimensional even though they grow flat on glass, so if I were to try to paint them I’d  have to start with a dark canvas. Artists know that there can be no light without darkness, and wise artists know that the same is true in life.

Seeing, in the finest and broadest sense, means using your senses, your intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being. It means looking beyond the labels of things and discovering the remarkable world around you. ~Freeman Patterson

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1. Poplar Sunburst

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.

2. Crab's Eye Lichen

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…

3. Crab's Eye Lichen

…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.

4. Common Goldspeck

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.

5. Pink Earth

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.

6.Pink Earth

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.

7. Scattered Rock Posy

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.

8. Rock Disc

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. Rock Disk

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.

10. Crater Lichen

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.

11. Fence

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.

12. Lichen Garden

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.

13. British Soldier

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.

14. Fishbone Beard Lichen

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.

15. Green Beard Lichen

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.

16. Low Mist

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

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1. The Tree

A few posts ago Jerry from the Quiet Solo Pursuits blog and I were talking about how much there is to see on the bark of trees. Almost like an entire world in one square foot of tree bark, we agreed. Of course that got me thinking that it might be interesting to see what I could actually find on a square foot of tree bark, and the above photo is of the tree I chose. It’s nothing special; just a tree in a local shopping mall, but I’ve had trouble figuring out what it is. Landscape architects have hundreds if not thousands of trees to choose from these days, so it could be from virtually any place on earth. Its bark and shape look a lot like hop hornbeam, but I don’t think that’s what it is. Anyhow, this post isn’t about the tree.

2. Miniature Garden

This post is about the gardens that grow on trees, and this particular specimen had so much growing on it that you could hardly see its bark in places. To give you some idea of the scale of what we’re looking at, that little tuft of moss in the center of the photo is roughly the same diameter as a quarter, or slightly less than an inch (24.26 mm).

At this point I should say that, though many people think that lichens, mosses, and algae growing on a tree will harm the tree, that isn’t true. These growths are epiphytes and take nothing at all from the tree. They are simply looking for a convenient place to perch, much like a bird, and get everything they need from the sun, rain and air. However they do like high humidity and still air and their presence might be a sign that the tree should be in a drier place with better air circulation, but if a tree seems sick we shouldn’t automatically blame what’s growing on it. Instead we should call a certified arborist and find the true cause.

3. Moss

Trees have natural channels in their bark that channel rain water down to their roots, and mosses and lichens often take advantage of that. Both lichens and mosses like lots of water and can usually be found growing along these tiny streams. This photo is a closer look at the moss in the center of the above photo. I’m fairly certain that it’s called Lyell´s bristle-moss (Orthotrichum lyellii.) In this photo it was good and wet.

 4. Moss

It’s hard to believe that this is the same moss that’s in the previous photo, but it is. The difference is this photo shows what it looks like when it dries out. I took these photos over a few days so I could show you the changes that these plants go through between their wet and dry states. This is a good illustration of why serious moss and lichen hunters do so immediately after it rains.

5. Penny on Tree

I finally figured out how to make a penny defy gravity so we could get an even better idea of the scale of some of these lichens. For those of you not familiar with the size of a penny, they are 3/4 of an inch (19.05mm) in diameter. Unfortunately, though I can show you this lichen’s size I can’t tell you its name. There are a few poplar sunburst lichens in this area but I’ve never seen one as flat or as round as this one, so I’m not sure if that is what it is.

6. Unknown Yellow Shield Lichen

Whatever it is it was producing spores, as its tiny round fruiting bodies (apothecia) show. They’re the parts that look like tiny suction cups. For now I think I’ll just call it a yellow shield lichen. I know where it lives so I’ll watch it over time to see how it changes.

7. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

I have no doubt that this lichen is a poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthoria hasseana.) Its growth habit is much different than the flat, round example seen previously. Virtually every photo I’ve seen of this lichen shows the mounded, irregular shape seen here.

8. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

Poplar sunburst is a beautiful lichen and one of my favorites. It seems to never stop producing spores as the many fruiting bodies (apothecia) in this photo shows. You would think that such a prolific lichen would show up just about everywhere, but this is the only place I’ve ever seen it. That makes me wonder about the viability of its spores and how far they really travel on the wind.

9. Star Rosette Lichen

This lichen almost had me fooled into thinking that it was a black eyed rosette lichen (Physcia phaea) but the photo clearly shows that its “eyes” (apothecia) are more bluish gray than black. For that reason I believe that it’s a star rosette lichen (Physcia stellaris), which has dark brown apothecia that are often pruinose. Pruinose refers to a white, waxy, powdery coating like that found on blueberries, plums, and first year black raspberry canes. I’ve noticed by watching smoky eye boulder lichens, which also have pruinose apothecia, that the coating can reflect light in different ways, sometimes appearing gray and at other times more blue.

10. Powder Edged Ruffle Lichen aka Parmotrema stuppem

The uniform pale gray color, broad rounded lobes with erect edges, and soralia on the lobe edges all point towards this being a powder edged ruffle lichen (Parmotrema stuppeum). In this example the soralia are white and granular and make the lichen look like its edges have been dipped in sugar.  Soralia are meant to fall or break off a lichen and are used as a vegetative means of propagation. Another feature used to identify this lichen is its black to brown undersides, which aren’t visible in this photo.

11. Rimelia Reticulata Lichen

Here is another example of soralia (aka soredia) on the lobe edges of a lichen but these are much larger and more noticeable than those in the previous photo, and it’s easier to imagine them breaking off when a chipmunk runs over them. I’m fairly certain that this is a netted rimelia lichen (Rimelia reticulata) because of its soralia, but also its black undersides and root like rhizines, which are hard to see in this photo but are there. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this lichen and the previous powder edged ruffle lichen, so I’ve learned a lot from that tree.

12. Hammered Shield Lichen

This lichen I have seen before but only once or twice. Because it looks like its lobes were hammered out of a sheet of steel it has the not so surprising name of hammered shield lichen (Parmelia sulcata). I’m glad that I found so many different gray lichens. At a glance it’s easy to think ho hum, another gray shield lichen, but I hope this post might convince people that it really is worth taking a moment to get a closer look. Even gray lichens can be surprisingly beautiful.

 13. Unknown

Here is something that has had jerry and I scratching our heads and wondering about for over a month now. Jerry first noticed that his lichen photos showed some kind of white, thread like filaments on them and when I went back and looked at my photos I saw that some of the lichens showed the same thing. The fact that they were on moss in this instance almost fooled me, because the club shaped objects in the photo look much like the spore capsules on a moss called puckered tuft moss (Ulota coarctata) and for a short time I thought I had solved the puzzle.

14. Unknown Seed

This photo shows a single tiny club shaped object from the mass in the previous photo. It is so small that I can’t even think of anything to compare it to. Human hair might be best, but the club like end has a greater diameter. It can’t be a moss spore capsule because if it were there would be an opening in the end nearest us for the spores to escape through. Since there is no opening it must be something else. I think that the shiny, hair-like filaments at the far end show that it is a seed of some kind, and those shiny filaments are the seed’s crushed “parachute.” It’s very similar to a dandelion seed but I don’t know if that’s exactly it. There are many other plants with cottony seeds in the area including willows, asters, cattails, milkweed, yellow goat’s beard and others, but none of them are an exact match. If you are reading this and know what plant it came from I’d be very grateful if you filled me in. I’m sure that Jerry would thank you too.

15. 800px-Dandelion_seed_-_May_2012

This excellent photo by Wolfgang Arnold on Wikipedia Commons shows the “parachute” part of a dandelion seed looking like we would expect it to, but what would it look like after being stuck to a tree all winter?  And what happens when the brown seed falls off or degrades? Does it leave a white, club shaped end like we see in the previous photo? As often happens nature brings more questions than answers, but we can learn a lot by solving the riddles that are presented to us. I’m anxious to see dandelions bloom again.

 16. Bristly Beard Lichen aka Usnea hirta

There were some very healthy looking examples of bristly beard lichens (Usnea hirta) on this tree, and If you look closely at the lower right side of this one you’ll see how the white filaments catch on lichens and show up so clearly in photos.

I’m sorry that this post turned out to be so long but that’s what happens sometimes when you stop to look at a tree-whole new worlds open up unexpectedly and you see things that you’ve never seen before. I hope you’ll find that out for yourself one day soon.

Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve. ~Max Planck

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1. Storefronts

In 2003 bulldozers and dump trucks moved onto a local wetland and began tearing it up. After two years had passed what was left was a sprawling 70 acre suburban eyesore, and any trace of what was once a natural wetland was gone. Or so I thought. I’ve been keeping an eye on this place since it was built just to see what kind of an impact it would have on the natural surroundings and I’ve been surprised again and again.

2. Pond

When they built the shopping center they also built a retention basin to manage runoff and hopefully improve the quality of the water that makes it into the Ashuelot River and from there ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean. Retention basins are described as “artificial lakes with vegetation around the perimeter which include a permanent pool of water in their design.”  This is more of a pond than a lake but it is able to hold the runoff from drainage ditches that were dug around the entire perimeter. The pond did come very close to flooding one summer but that was because beavers moved in and immediately dammed the outflow channel. The beavers also began cutting down and feeding on the very expensive ornamental trees that the landscape architects ordered, but they didn’t get far. After they dropped the first thousand dollar Bradford pear they “disappeared” and I haven’t seen a beaver here since.

3. Juniper Berries

For some unknown reason, possibly to keep people from driving into it, they built long mounds of earth called berms all along the edges of the parking lots and roadways near the retention pond. The berms are about 5-6 feet high but apparently that wasn’t enough so they planted evergreens on top of them. They used spruce, balsam fir, white pine and juniper and they do a great job of completely hiding any hint of of water. The junipers here fruit heavier than any I’ve seen and I wanted to get a photo of the beautiful blue berries (actually modified cones). So there I was with my Panasonic Lumix point and shoot that I use for macro photos all warmed up and ready to go when a blackish colored head popped up out of the snow not three feet from where I stood. It saw me and immediately dropped back down into the snow, but just a few seconds later popped up again and stared at me. I felt like I was playing one of those Whack a Mole games. “Well hello there,” I said, “what are you doing here?” A stupid question if there ever was one I know, but it was all I could think of with such short notice.

4. Mink on the Run-3

And then after a few seconds of trying to figure out what I was off it went, bounding over the snow, so I just pointed the Panasonic in its general direction and without even looking through the view finder clicked the shutter as fast as my finger could go. The very poor photo above is the result, but it along with a lot of detective work tells me that this sleek blackish brown animal with white under his chin and a tail that tapers to a point is very probably an American Mink. He was about 2 feet long and his round hairy tail made up about a third of his length.

5. Burrow

This explained how he could pop up out of the snow without having snow all over his face and head. Minks are burrowing animals but they usually take over the burrows of muskrats and other animals in embankments along rivers and ponds instead of digging them themselves. They are carnivores and eat just about anything including frogs, mice and voles, fish, and birds. They also kill and eat muskrats and will go right into their burrows to do so. I haven’t been able to find any information on whether or not they bother beavers but I wondered if minks could be responsible for the mysterious disappearance of the beavers from this pond.

6. MinkTracks

If I understand what I’ve read correctly, one way to tell a mink from other members of the weasel family is by its bounding gait. This one was a real bounder and moved surprisingly fast. Rough measurements with my monopod tell me that there are about 14 inches between these prints. Minks can also climb trees and this one headed right for the evergreens along the top of the berm.

7. Paw Prints

I went back the next day to see if I could get photos of the mink’s tracks but because of the powdery snow he bounded through the tracks were barely visible. The ones in this photo were the best and they aren’t great, but one of them does show claw marks.  I’ve read that minks have paws that are slightly webbed, but nothing like the webbing that otters have. The State Fish and Game website says that minks and other members of the weasel family are very rarely seen, so I feel lucky to have gotten these photos even if they aren’t great.

8. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

After the excitement of seeing the mink died down I decided to visit one of my favorite lichens, the poplar sunburst (Xanthoria hasseana.) These lichens grow on the Bradford pear trees that grow alongside the pond and this is the only place that I’ve ever seen them. I’ve been visiting them for several years and each year they get more beautiful. The parts that look like suction cups are their fruiting bodies (apothecia) where their spores are produced.

 9. Hawthorn Fruit

For the most part the landscaping here seems uninspired and unimaginative, but there are bright spots like the two or three hawthorn (Crataegus) trees planted off in a corner where few ever see them.  They usually fruit quite heavily and the birds snap up the berry-like haws quickly. The haws, botanically speaking, are pomes, like apples and pears.  One odd fact about hawthorns is how their young leaves and flower buds are edible and can be used in salads.

10. Hawthorn Thorn

If the haws and the roundish, bright red buds don’t convince you that you’re looking at a hawthorn then the sharp, inch long thorns probably will.

 11.Spruce

I thought I’d use some of the evergreens that they planted on the berms to show you an easy way to tell a spruce from a fir. One way is by their cones. Spruce cones hang down from the branches.

12. Balsam Fir

And fir cones stand up on the branches like candles. This isn’t a great example but it’s the best I could find. Fir cones break apart as they ripen and the thing that looks like a skinny mushroom over on the upper right is what is left behind. Just a stalk and a few scales at the top. Since cones usually appear high up in the tree and are often only produced in 3-5 year cycles it’s wise to learn how to tell conifers apart by other means. Needle shape, length and color, bark appearance, overall growth habits and fragrance can all be used to identify conifers. Since spruce needles are sharp, stiff and square and fir needles are soft, flexible and flat I would have known these trees even if they hadn’t had cones, but the differences would have been much harder to illustrate here.

13. Meadow

The strip of unbroken snow in the foreground of the above photo is one of the drainage ditches and I come here in summer to take photos of arrowhead, nodding burr marigold and other wetland wildflowers that grow in great abundance here. This is a good spot to photograph them because I can get closer to them than I can when they grow in pond water. In the mini meadow in the background goldenrod, Joe Pye weed, boneset, purple loosestrife and other taller wildflowers create scenes worthy of a Monet painting in late summer.

14. Alder Tounge Gall

Native shrubs in the area include various willows, sumacs, and common alder (Alnus glutinosa). The long strap shaped growths coming out of the female alder cones (strobiles) in the above photo are tongue galls caused by a fungus called Taphrina alni. The fungus causes a chemical reaction that deforms the alder strobiles and produces the tongue like galls. Early in the season when the galls are fresh they’re green but as they age they can become yellow, pink, red, purple or orange. Once they mature they turn brown or black and often stay on the strobiles until the next season. I always seem to miss their younger, more colorful stages.

Note: Julie has correctly pointed out that common Alder is a native of Europe. It also goes by the name of black or European alder and was introduced by the earliest settlers. It has taken well to its new home and is seen everywhere here in New Hampshire along with our native gray or speckled alder (Alnus incana.) It is so common that I think of it as a native, even though I know better. Thanks Julie!

15. Hawk

I happened to glance up and saw this hawk sitting on a light pole. I think it’s the same red tailed hawk that I’ve seen in the general area several times before, but I’m not positive about that identification. It’s a big bird; bigger than a crow-and always sits on the highest point available, watching open fields. I’m sorry again about the poor quality of these photos but I’m pretty sure if I could get a look into this bird’s nest I’d find a Canon Powershot SX40 manual that it reads when it isn’t out hunting, because every time I see him / her it makes sure that it is just beyond what the zoom on my camera can comfortably handle. These shots were taken at what would be the equivalent of about 840mm with a DSLR and I still had to crop them.

16. Hawk

When I’m around this bird never sits still long enough to even think about getting the camera on a monopod or tripod. As soon as it sees me with a camera it flies off. I wonder what the mink’s chances are now that it has moved into the neighborhood. If I were him I think I’d be just a bit worried.

Surprisingly, as this walk around this strip mall shows, nature seems to be thriving here. In fact if you include the mink and the hawk, I’ve actually seen a greater cross section of nature here than I usually do in the woods. While I was taking these photos and thinking about what I was seeing I had a strong feeling that nature couldn’t wait to reclaim this land.

Nature is what you see plus what you think about it. ~John Sloan

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1. Snowy Road

All of the sudden we’re seeing more sunny days but it’s still cold enough to keep the snow from melting very fast. The word is we’re going to see warmer days next week. A few days above freezing will get the sap flowing in these maples.

 2. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

In spite of the snow the poplar sunburst lichens (Xanthoria hasseana) are looking good. This one has grown quite a bit since the last time I visited it and is now about an inch in diameter. The round fruiting cups, called apothecia, are where this lichen’s spores are produced. This lichen never seems to be affected by the weather.

 3. Foliose Lichen Comparison

These photos are of the same lichen but the photo on the left was taken when it was moist from rain and snow and the photo on the right was taken after it had dried out. This is a good example of why serious lichen hunters look for them after it rains. The color change due to weather conditions can be dramatic.

 4. White Lichen Possibly Diploicia canescens

I thought this white shield lichen was very beautiful, but is it really white or has it changed color because it has dried out? That is the dilemma facing people who enjoy finding lichens. The only example of a white shield lichen I can find is called pleated white lichen (Diploicia canescens), which can be white, bluish white, or grayish white. I don’t know whether or not the one in the photo is that lichen.

 5. Black Jelly Fungus

Jelly fungi also go through drastic changes due to weather conditions. On the left side of the photo are black jelly fungi (Exidia glandulosa) when very dry and on the right side are the same fungi after a good rain. The difference is pretty amazing. When dry they look like black crust fungi and when wet like small black pillows. I find them mostly on alder bark.

 6. Carrion Flower Berries aka Smilax herbacea 

The berries on this smooth carrion flower (Smilax herbacea) vine haven’t been touched by either bird or animal.  This plant gets its common name from the way the flowers smell like decaying meat but even so, it is said that song and game birds, along with raccoons and black bears, eat the berries. Native Americans and early colonists ate the roots, spring shoots and berries-all said to be odorless- but after smelling its flowers I think I’d have a hard time eating any part of this plant.

 7. Cedar Waxwings

I drove by a spot that had several crab apple trees planted in a row and each tree was full of cedar waxwings. This soft, not quite sharp photo was the best I could do out of the window. I thought I probably didn’t have much time and sure enough, just after I came to a stop and took a couple of quick shots they all flew off.

 8. West Street Dam

The cedar waxwings reminded me of last year when I visited this waterfall and inadvertently got between a cedar waxwing and the silky dogwood berries he wanted. He kept flying directly at my face, pulling up at only the last minute.  Some readers suggested that he might have gotten drunk on the fermented berries. There is a lot more ice built up on the rocks at the base of the fall now than there was then!

9. Tire Track

This is a tire print from a large front end loader that was used to move snow. I liked the tread pattern.

10. Horse Chestnut Buds

The buds of the horse chestnut are some that can fool you into thinking that they’re swelling from sap flow, but they stay this way all winter. This tree lives in a local park so I don’t know its name but it has beautiful pink flowers each June.

 11. Tulip Tree Bracts

Across from the horse chestnut is a native yellow, or tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). This photo shows what is left of the seed head once most of the seeds have fallen.

 13. Woodpecker Sawdust

Finding sawdust (bill dust?) like this on the snow can only mean one thing-a woodpecker was here.

 13. Woodpecker Hole

This hole is small and round rather than large and rectangular, and the sawdust on the snow is made up of fine particles rather than large, torn shreds, so I know this wasn’t a pileated woodpecker. One of the smaller ones made this hole and even excavated a chamber that leads down into the heart of this dead tree. Woodpeckers mate from March through May, so this might be an important bit of wood work.

 14. Milk White Toothed Polypore aka Irpex lacteus

This milk white, toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) looked fresh in spite of the snow and below zero temperatures. According to Mushroom Expert.com this is a resupinate mushroom. Resupinate means upside down, but in the case of mushrooms, according to The Journal of Wild Mushrooming, it means it is a “fertile surface with its back attached to or intergrown with the substrate.”  In other words it looks like a crust fungus with teeth.

 15. Milk White Toothed Polypore aka Irpex lacteus Closeup

This is a closer view of the teeth on the milk white, toothed polypore.  I think they were frozen solid. The Irpex part of the scientific name means “a large rake with iron teeth” and lacteus means “milky.”

Commonly we stride through the out-of-doors too swiftly to see more than the most obvious and prominent things. For observing nature, the best pace is a snail’s pace. ~Edward Way Teale

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