Saturday, June 19, 2010


I am combining the lichens from the fern walk and the Cathedral walk since there aren't so many. Lichens are interesting and I am just now beginning to learn the names of a few. The forest around me are covered with them and I have just taken them for granted and thought they were all the same but on closer inspection I am beginning to see their differences  Now if someone would just come out with a handy pocket field guide for the Applachians. 

Birders are familiar with the hummingbird use of lichen in their nests and a few post back I pictured an insect larva covered with lichen for protection. Other insects, especially moths, make themselve look like lichen so they can hide in plain site from birds. Deer, grouse, squirrels, snails and slugs eat lichen such this deer moss below.

Cladina mitis (Green Reindeer Lichen)

So what is lichen? It is a unique organism composed of a fungus and an alga in a symbiotic or partnership relationship. That is the simplified version of their story.  If you are at all interested I would encourage you to look them up and learn more of the details that are very facinating. I am just beginning to learn myself so I am still not confidant in explaining it on this blog, so in the meantime as I learn I want to share my photos in hopes that you will become curious as well.

Caloplaca sp. (Fire dot lichen) growing on rock.

One of the first things I learned about lichen are the three types. Crustose Lichen looks like it is painted onto the surface of rocks and you can't really scrape it off. It is actually growing into the rock and eventually will help break down the rock to become soil.

Propidia sp. (Concentric boulder lichen) is a crustose lichen.

The next type is Folios lichen that looks leafy and has a stem-like rhizene that attaches it to the surface. Many of these are white underneath.

Peltigera sp. (Dogtooth Lichen)

Here is a close up of the Dog Tooth lichen showing the white underside.

Fruticose lichen are bushy growths with branches and sometimes you will see fruiting bodies on the ends like the British Soliders and Deer lichens.

Cladonia conicraea (Powder Horn Lichen) is a fruticose lichen

That weekend I just learned about Dust Lichen from Sue Studler. I had always wondered what that stuff was on the trees and rocks. I thought it was some sort of disease and now I see it everywhere.

Chrysothrix sp. (Gold Dust Lichen) on a limestone cliff.

Lepraria sp. (Dust Lichen) growing on a tree at Cathedral State Park

When I rubbed my hand on it the dust came off.

Below are some of the other lichen that we saw.

Graphis scripta (Script Lichen) growing at the base of this tree.

Here is a closer view. You can see how it got its common name because it looks a little like script writing.

Graphis scripta (Script Lichen)

Porpidia albocaeralescens (Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen)
 Porpidia albocaeralescens (Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen) close up.

Lasallia papulosa (Toadskin Rock Tripe lichen)

When we first looked at this lichen it was grayish brown, then we poured water onto it and it quickly turned green reminding me of a green frog. It is the symbiotic algae that gives it the green color. Papilosa comes from the Latin meaning "many pimples" which is a good indicator of this species. Most other rock trip in my area are smooth.

Flavoparmelia caperata (Wrinkled Shield Lichen)

I will be looking for more of these intersting plants through out the summer. Winter is also a good time to look for them since a lot of the other vegetation will be dead.


Denise said...

Thank you for such a wonderful post. Lichen is often one of those overlooked parts of nature but to see your macro's, they turn into something really beautiful. We just don't see it as such, most of the time anyhow. You have definitely peaked my interest even further.

An English Girl Rambles

Nature ID said...

Nice post! Do you have any recommended lichen links to share? I'm looking to ID some pics of mine, but am not finding much useful.

squirrel said...

Sorry Nature ID I haven't found much online either. The ones on the blog Professor Studler identified. I have Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski but that is limited.

Nature ID said...

Ok, thanks. I'll keep looking. Btw, I love your Dryocampa rubicunda picture!

Ted C. MacRae said...

Here's a good site for getting into lichens. I have the book - expensive but incredibly thorough and rich with photos.

Ted C. MacRae said...


Nature ID said...

Thanks, Ted.

MyMaracas said...

Wonderful post, as always. We have the shield lichen all over the place here. Having seen your photo, I now know we have the fire dot and dust kinds, too. My introduction to lichen was British soldiers, with their fine bright caps. Amazing little beings, lichen. :-)

squirrel said...

Thanks Ted, I love to see that kind of interaction on blogs. I have been out of town and am just now catching up. I recently bought Lichens of North America, by Irwin M.Brodo and the Sharnoffs but didn't realize there was a web page as well. Thanks