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Posts Tagged ‘Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen’

I couldn’t remember the last time I was at Beaver Brook Natural Area in Keene so last weekend I thought I’d take a walk up the old abandoned road to the falls that are at the end of it. As far as I can tell the old road was laid out in the 1700s and was abandoned in the early 1970s when a new highway was built-literally right across the existing road. Nature has been taking back what is hers ever since and the old road slowly gets narrower as the plants and trees grow in toward its middle where the sunlight is. It is kept open to the public as a nature trail and follows Beaver Brook, so named because of the beavers that once thrived here.

It was cold the night before and was still cold when I started out. Below freezing weather had created ice here and there on the brook, mostly in areas that don’t get much sun.

I like to come here because I can find things here that I don’t see anywhere else, like this smoky eye boulder lichen (Porpidia albocaerulescens.) Actually I see this lichen just about everywhere I go but nowhere else are its fruiting bodies (apothecia) so blue. The blue color comes from the way the light falls on the waxy coating that covers the black outlined apothecia and often when the light is just right the stone they grow on appears golden, which makes for a very beautiful scene.  

Plantain leaved sedge (Carex plantaginea.) Is another reason I come here. This is the only place I’ve ever seen it so when I want to see how it changes as it grows I have to come here. Today I discovered that it must be evergreen because we’ve had over a week of real cold weather, with nighttime temperatures sometimes in the single digits, and it was still as green as it is in May.

I like the crepe paper like leaves of this sedge. The prominent midrib, two lateral veins, maroon bases, and puckered look of the leaves are all used as identifying features for plantain leaved sedge. The leaves can be up to a foot long and an inch wide and I can’t think of another sedge that has leaves that look quite like these. I’ve read that it likes cool shady places where the humidity is relatively high. There is a stream just a few feet from where this one grows.

There are calm pools along Beaver Brook and this is one of them. It had a thin skim of ice along the stream banks but it still caught the forest in reflection.

Where the water splashed and dripped, icicles grew in long fingers.

In places the old guard posts and cables survive. These posts used to have to be hand painted black and white, one by one, all the way along this and every other road in the county. Of course it was a lot more open here then, when the forest wasn’t allowed to grow so close to the road.

The guard rails were a necessity on a narrow, two lane road. You didn’t want to drive into the brook because in places the embankment is quite steep. This is a view across the brook to the hillside beyond. There is a boulder fall there and when we get enough rain a stream runs down through and over it. On this day there was only ice.

The utility pole in the distance is broken off at the base and it leans precariously toward the brook. I think it will eventually fall into the brook if something isn’t done. It looks like it might be taking these two poles with it.

I’m not sure what these electric lines power but whoever receives their power from them must be frequently in the dark because every time I come here there are trees on the wires. In fact there are fallen trees all through here.

Here was a huge pine tree in the brook. It had fallen with its top pointing perfectly downstream. Whether or not it will dam up the brook is anyone’s guess but it looked to be about 100 years old and was big enough so I doubt the brook will be able to move it, even in flood.

Beech nuts and their husks littered the old road. There are lots of beech trees here and this seems to be a mast year, so the forest animals will eat well. Native Americans ate beech nuts raw but they contain toxins that can be removed by cooking, and they are said to taste better when roasted.  Early settlers pressed the nuts and used the oil for lamp oil and as a substitute for olive oil.

In this light it was easy to see how the golden birch (Betula alleghaniensis) came by its common name. There are many of them here right alongside the road and they make a beautiful contrast on winter afternoons when the snow is deep blue in the shadows. These trees like it cool and moist and are often found near streams and ponds. They can also stand a lot of shade so a cool, shaded forest is perfect for them. Golden birch is also called yellow birch, and Native Americans tapped this and other birch trees for their sap, which they boiled down into syrup. They also made a medicinal tea from the bark.

We have several vase shaped evergreen ferns and a few species grow here. This one was a little flat but it was still green.

The two rows of spore cases (sori) growing on the underside of the sub-leaflets and the large brown scales on the bases of its stalks told me this was the evergreen wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia.)

Black raspberry leaves (Rubus occidentalis) provided some late fall color.

There was ice on the ledges and it wasn’t a surprise.

The groundwater that created the ice in the previous photo is slowly bringing down the ledges, which are weakened and shattered after close to 300 years of freeze / thaw cycles. This big rockfall could have killed anyone standing under it so I don’t get too close to these ledges anymore. Most of the stone here is feldspar, which is why it appears white in the photo. Feldspar is a soft rock when compared to quartz or granite and it can be split with a sledge hammer. When you strike it with a hammer it has a very unusual smell.

Beaver Brook cascades over ledges into a small, shaded pool that was once a popular swimming hole. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information about how high the falls are; I’ve heard everything from 10 feet to 100 feet, but I’d guess that they are closer to 30 to 40 feet and maybe 50 if you include the part that isn’t visible in this photo. They’re big enough to make a roar that can be heard from a distance.

Up above the falls there is a small turn off; I guess you’d call it a rest area, where cars could have pulled off the main road. The guard posts seen in this photo would have stopped a car from tumbling into the falls, but just beyond the last one you could walk right off the edge and fall into them if you weren’t paying attention. That’s probably why I can’t remember my father ever stopping when he drove through here on our way to see relatives. I was what you might call a “handful” when I was a boy and he probably thought he’d have to fish me out of the brook if he let me out of the car. A few years back a teenage boy was fishing up here and fell in and was swept over the falls. He was lucky to come away with only some bruised ribs and a broken arm.

Right before the turnoff is a fairly good side view of the falls when the leaves have fallen. In fact I think just after the leaves fall is the best time to come here because you can see the falls from the old road, and that’s important if you happen to be a little too creaky to slide down the steep embankment to the brook. Soon it will be winter and the roar of Beaver Brook will most likely become a whisper under the ice for a while; some winters even the falls are muffled by the ice.

But for now you can still see the old no-passing lines in the road. I could do 5 posts on this place and still not show you all of the beauty found here, so if you live nearby I do hope you’ll pay it a visit. It isn’t far from the center of town, which makes it a perfect nature spot for anyone living in Keene.

It’s amazing how quickly nature consumes human places after we turn our backs on them. Life is a hungry thing. ~Scott Westerfeld

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Some people think that once the leaves have fallen there is nothing left to see outside until spring, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Lichens for instance, are there year round and unless you live in a place with poor air quality they are everywhere; on trees, on stones, on the ground, and even on buildings, roofs, windows, and sidewalks. They are like small jewels that have been sprinkled throughout nature. Common goldspeck lichens (Candelariella vitellina) for instance, are uncommonly beautiful. Look for this bright yellow crustose lichen on stone. 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 describe the body of this lichen as “little cushions of flattened granules.” This lichen is sometimes sterile, with no fruiting bodies present, but this one appeared to have a few. The bluish color in the background is the slate that it grows on.

This is an odd lichen with large white fruiting bodies (apothecia) that look like they just erupt anywhere on the body (thallus) but also look like they are stalked, depending how you look at them. Some are convex and some concave and some have rims and some don’t. The white apothecia and green body with flattened strap like branches tell me that it’s probably the tufted ramalina lichen (Ramalina fastigiata.) A lichen guide from 1902 says this lichen is “very common in New England” but I know of only one place it grows. It is apparently very sensitive to air pollution as many lichens are. If you live in a place with a lot of lichens, breathe happily.

Bright yellow fringed candle flame lichens (Candelaria fibrosa) will often cover entire tree trunks. It must like a lot of water because I see it a lot on the lower parts of trees that grow near irrigation systems, with trunks that are almost always wet in warmer months. Seen up close this lichen always reminds me of scrambled eggs. I call this the “downtown” lichen because I see it a lot there.

It’s interesting how nature seems to use the same shapes over and over again in different ways. The round fruiting cups, called apothecia, of the Poplar Sunburst Lichen (Xanthoria hasseana) remind me of the suckers on an octopus or squid. Instead of latching onto things however, this lichen uses its cups for spore production. To give you a sense of scale-the largest of those in the photo is about an eighth of an inch across. The entire lichen might have been an inch long.

This example was even smaller at about the size of a penny (.75”) and was more apothecia than thallus. Spore production is what it’s all about because that’s what ensures continuation of the species.

The apothecia on this star rosette lichen (Physcia stellaris) 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. 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 often show a range of colors, from brown to light blue. The way the sunlight strikes it has a lot to do with its colors.

I think this is the smallest example of a Cumberland rock shield lichen (Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia) that I’ve ever seen, but even at its tiny 1/2 inch size it was beginning to produce spores in its brown apothecia. This lichen likes to grow on boulders or other stone. 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. This one was very symmetrical but they are usually asymmetrical.

Smokey eye boulder lichen apothecia (Porpidia albocaerulescens) are usually a smoky gray color, which is where their common name comes from, but they can also have a bluish tint because of the way their waxy (pruinose) coating reflects sunlight. In this case the body of the lichen is a grayish color but it can also be a brownish gold color. One of the things that can make lichen identification difficult is the ability of some lichens to change color in different light, and this is one that does that. It can look very different from just a few feet away. This is a crustose lichens and it forms a kind of crust on the substrate that it grows on. The bond between a crustose lichen and its substrate is so strong that it can’t be removed without damaging the substrate.  

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. Their bright red apothecia make them easy to see, even if you’re colorblind.

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

I’ve been trying to identify this beard lichen for years with no luck. Maybe it’s just a different colored example of the bristly beard seen previously?

Common greenshield lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata) is indeed very common. It’s a large lichen and colonies of them often grow big enough to cover entire trees. They often wrinkle like the example seen here. Like many lichens they change color, and go from grayish when dry to yellow green when wet. This example was dry. This lichen also taught me that many lichens prefer growing on the shady side of trees, presumably so the sun doesn’t dry them out quite so fast.

Hammered shield lichens (Parmelia sulcata) are on the rare side here but I see them occasionally, always on trees. There didn’t seem to be anything special about the deciduous tree they were on, this time but it was in a sheltered spot like the last tree I found them on. Hammered shield lichen is said to have a large variety of named varieties and forms, so it can be tough to pin down.

Hammered shield lichens are silvery gray and their many sharp ridges and depressions makes them look like they’ve been hammered out of a piece of steel. Fruiting bodies are said to be rare and I’ve never seen them. It is said to have powdery, whitish soredia but I’ve never seen them either. Soredia are tiny packages of both fungus and alga that break off the lichen. They are simply another means of reproduction.

I find pebbled pixie cup lichens (Cladonia pyxidata) growing on soil or rotting stumps and logs, and occasionally on stone. Pixie cups look like tiny golf tees or trumpets. They are squamulose lichens, and the golf tee shapes arise from leafy growths called squamules. A squamule is a lobe of the body of the lichen (thallus,) and  squamulose lichens have small, leafy lobes like those at the base of this example. The cup is so small even a pea would seem huge in comparison.

Though pixie cup lichens are squamulose they have fruticose fruiting structures called podetia. The parts that look like tiny golf tees are its podetia. “Podetia” describes a stalk like growth which bears the apothecia, or fruiting bodies. This example has some almost microscopic dots around the rim, which are its apothecia. Finally, frucitose means a lichen has a bushy, vertical growth. Since this example has squamules even growing inside the tiny cups it must be a pebbled pixie cup lichen.

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 is almost completely covered by it.

A closer look at this example of the sidewalk firedot lichen showed it was very dry. 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 but we haven’t had one in a while.

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

Next time you find yourself walking outside after a rain I hope you’ll take the time to look a little closer at all those colored spots you’ll see on the trees, stones, soil, and even sidewalks. If you do a whole new world of nature study will open for you.

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

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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

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Half Moon Pond

I’ve been taking photos with my phone off and on since I got it but not seriously. Once in a while I’d snap a landscape because of the phone camera’s wider, almost panoramic format. Then recently I took a close photo of a mushroom and was surprised that it did so well, so I decided to put it through its paces and really see what it could do. This post is made up entirely of photos that I took with the phone, starting off with a foggy, rainy view of Half-Moon Pond in Hancock. The phone camera did about what I’d expect in such gloomy conditions; the scene looks like it was shot in black and white.

2. Crowded Parchment Fungi

This was taken with the phone camera on another rainy day but the colors of the crowded parchment fungi (Stereum complicatum) still came through. One of my mushroom books describes them as orange fading to cream, or cinnamon buff. These are definitely orange fading to cream. Sometimes crowded parchment fungi grow so close together that their edges fuse together, even though there seems to be more than enough room on the branch for all. This fungus grows on fallen deciduous tree branches; usually oak.

3. Lemon Drops

The phone camera seems to handle color and high contrast quite well, as the yellow lemon drop fungi (Bisporella citrina) on a dark log show.

4. Lemon Drops

Lemon drops are very small but even when cropped the phone photo still holds plenty of detail.  The smaller examples in this shot are about the size of a period made by a pencil on paper. These tiny disc shaped sac fungi actually have a stalk but it’s too small to be seen by me.

5. Milk White Toothed Polypore Crust Fungus

Milk white toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) is a crust fungus with “teeth” that are actually tubes or pores in the spore bearing surface which break apart with age and become tooth-like as the above photo shows. As they age these “teeth” turn brown as they have here. I wasn’t sure if the phone camera could pick them out but it did a fairly good job of it. This crust fungus is common on the undersides of fallen branches and rotting logs.

6. Half Moon Pond 3

I’m not sure what happened to make the hill lit by the rising sun in this photo so red / brown. Since I didn’t look at the photo until a few days after I took it I can’t say if the colors were enhanced by the phone or not, but do know that I’ve seen the early morning sun do some very strange things here at Half-Moon Pond in Hancock.

7. Black Raspberry

The phone camera has a macro function so of course I had to try it, but I ended up not liking it. Either I was doing something wrong or it has trouble focusing in macro mode. When I zoom in on the photo of the bud on this black raspberry cane (Rubus occidentalis) I can see that it isn’t in sharp focus at all. It seems like the camera actually does better with close up shots when it’s in normal shooting mode.

8. Black Locust

It did okay with these black locust thorns (Robinia pseudoacacia) as far as focus goes but there is kind of a garish look to this photo, as if it was done in high dynamic range imaging (HDRI) that wasn’t set quite right.

9. Bitersweet Berries

The phone camera picked up the pucker on these oriental bittersweet berries (Celastrus orbiculatus) with no problems and also did well on the color. Red can be a tough color for some cameras, especially in bright sunlight as these examples were.

10. Hazel Leaves

The strangest thing about witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) to me is how its leaves always seem more colorful after their fall color has left them. They turn yellow in the fall but it isn’t the blazing yellow of beech and maple. It isn’t that it’s a drab color; it’s just not very exciting. Then the leaves go from yellow to brown, but it isn’t just any old brown. It’s a beautiful, vibrant and rich orange-brown that always makes me stop for a closer look, and sometimes a photo or two. I think the phone camera did a good job with the color. Even though I’m colorblind I can still see certain colors, and I can see that this one is very different from the pink brown of an oak leaf, or the red brown of iron oxide on stone. This brown is warm and alive, and on a cold winter day it can warm your perspective.

11. Moss on Quartz

Now that I see these phone photos I wish I had also taken the same photo with a different camera so I could compare the two. I’m fairly certain that either one of my other cameras would have seen the brightness of the quartz in this scene and darkened the shot considerably to compensate. But the cell phone didn’t and I really didn’t have to fiddle around much with this shot. The broom moss (Dicranum scoparium) looks more alive than just about any other photo of moss that I’ve taken, and it’s very beautiful against the milky white of the quartz.

12. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

The spore bearing apothecial disks of the smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) look blue in the right light. They have a waxy coating that reflects light much like the whitish bloom on blueberries and that makes them appear blue. The black border on each disk makes them really stand out from the body of the lichen which can be brown or the grayish white color seen here. They’re very small and I was surprised that the phone camera picked them out so well.

13. Feather

I wanted to see how the phone camera did on stop action shots and what could be a better subject for that than a feather blowing in the wind? The camera failed miserably but I think that’s because I didn’t have the settings adjusted the way they should have been. I really don’t use it enough to know what’s best.

14. Half Moon Pond

This simple shot of water plants on a foggy morning is my favorite shot to come out of the phone because it speaks of serenity, solitude and bliss; all things that I find regularly in these New Hampshire woods.

What I hope this post shows is that you don’t need anything more than a phone camera to record what you see in nature, and I hope it will inspire more people to get out there and give it a go. As I’ve said here before, if you photograph what you love that love will burn brightly in your photos and it will be very apparent to others. I don’t think the brand of camera you use matters as much as how you feel when you use it. If the subject and the photo please you they will please others as well. If you’d like to see a daily blog done solely with a cellphone you should take a peek at Marie’s blog, called I Walk Alone. She’s been writing a blog for several years now and uses nothing more than a phone camera, and her photos are often stunning.

Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself. ~Annie Leibovitz

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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. Abandoned Road

Recently I was contacted by Sean Hurley, playwright and frequent contributor to New Hampshire Public Radio. Mr. Hurley had read the blog post that I did last year about an old abandoned road and was interested in also doing a story about it. We talked back and forth for a few days, trying to find a common space where we both would have time to meet on the old road. In the end due to my time constraints and his three day’s hence deadline we never did get to meet face to face, but the telephone solved the problem and he called to interview me late one afternoon. He had a radio voice that was deep and smooth, and his words sounded more like they were being poured than spoken.

2. Beaver Brook Falls

He had explored the old road earlier and had lots of questions so we quickly got down to business. We started by talking about the place in general and what I thought of it. I told him that I thought it was great that it was so close to downtown Keene and so easily accessible. People have a place where they can go to experience nature up close and personal and can also see a great waterfall.

3. Beaver Brook Garnets

Native garnets are good for use in the abrasive industry, but not much else.

We talked about rocks; about what kind there were there. I told him that there was a lot of feldspar in the area and how I used to go there to find garnets colored such a deep blood red that they  looked almost black, and which had formed way back when the molten feldspar slowly cooled. In fact there are so many garnets in places that it looks like they were shot out of a shotgun. And they are just about the size of shotgun shot, too-quite small.

4. No Passing Lines

No Passing Zone

“What about the double yellow lines on the road?” he asked. “The grass growing up through them must mean something.” He was hoping that nature boy would come up with something deep and metaphorical, but all I could think of was how it was sunnier where the lines were, and how nature was doing all it could to fill that sunny spot with leaf surface so not a drop of sunshine was wasted. I told him that nature was slowly healing the scar that man had made. He was less than impressed, I could tell. It was only later that I thought about how ironic it was that the yellow lines meant “no passing” when everything about this place speaks of the passage of time.

5. Beaver Brook  Ice

Beaver Brook in winter

He asked if the road ever changed. Thinking like a photographer I told him about how the light changed from day to day, and even from morning through afternoon. Once again he was looking for something more-something deeper-and it was only later that I thought about how beautiful the place is when the leaves are falling, and how silent it becomes in winter when the brook wears a blanket and the roar of the falls is muffled by gigantic, gleaming columns of ice.

6. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

We talked about the plants that grow there and I told him about trillium and Jack in the pulpit, about dog lichens and Solomon’s seal and red elderberry. He answered yes, he had noticed the poison ivy growing thickly along both sides of the road, and then asked about any rare plants that I’d found there. I told him about rose moss and blue stemmed goldenrod but forgot about several others, like the smoky eye boulder lichens so amazingly blue that it looks like the sky itself has been broken into pieces and sprinkled over the stones.

7. Star Drill Hole Through Feldspar

Hole through feldspar boulder drilled by hand with a star drill sometime in the 1800s.

We talked about history, and I told him how my search for the exact dates of when the old road was closed and when the new highway was built had been frustrated at every turn. Can it really be possible that everyone has forgotten? Aren’t things like that written down somewhere? I told him that I had friends who remember driving on it, and how I could remember traveling on it as a boy with my father.

8. Beaver Brook Bridge 2

As soon as I mentioned my father I found myself wishing he were here, because he’d know all about this old place, and I wondered why he never told me about the waterfall that we passed each time we drove through here. And then I wondered if maybe he had told me and I just didn’t listen. Hearing is different than listening and I was a headstrong youth who often heard but rarely listened.

9. Dad

And that’s how, much like the old road itself with all of its twists and turns, this became a father’s day post-so I could I urge those of you who are lucky enough to still have fathers to listen-really listen-to their stories. I can say with certainty that you won’t regret it if you do, but you might regret it one day if you don’t.

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom. ~Umberto Eco

If you’d like to listen to Sean Hurley’s radio piece and read a transcript about the abandoned road just click here.

If you’d like to read the 2 part blog post that started all of this, just click here.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there. Thanks for coming by.

 

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